"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Arne's Assistant

Below is a short article about Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education. You'll notice her connections to a number of philanthropic organizations - Broad, Stupski, Annenberg. She also remembers the time she spent in leveled reading groups as a young child. Leveled reading is part of the standardization crap, the "you can't read that book because you're only a level 15 reader" bullshit that passes as literacy in many of our nation's classrooms. We don't have full-service libraries with librarians in our schools; we don't give teachers the financial resources to stock their room with books; we don't make reading fun for our children - we just give them more testing, more basal readers, more Scott Foresman textbooks, and more DIBELS testing.
I hope Thelma talks to Arne about her horrible experience in a leveled reading group. Arne says he wants kids to love reading. They're not going to love reading when they're stigmatized and drilled, endlessly tested and DIBELed; they'll love reading when they can choose the books they read and find power from the materials they choose to explore. For all the talk about school choice, there's very little dialogue about allowing children to choose their own reading materials.
Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education: Who Is Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana?
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Matt Bewig

The new chief federal official for K-12 education empathizes easily with students who face difficulties in school. Born in 1958 to Mexican immigrants, Dr. Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana arrived at kindergarten unable to speak or read English, and found the daunting task of learning her new language complicated by ostracism from her Anglo classmates. Although her kindergarten teacher was helpful and sympathetic, Meléndez de Santa Ana later recalled a humiliating first grade experience, when a teacher placed her in the slowest group of readers. “They called us ‘the buzzards,’ and all we did was recite the alphabet over and over and over again.” Later, Meléndez de Santa Ana was told by a high school counselor she had no chance of going to UCLA. Proving that counselor wrong, she earned a B.A. in Sociology from UCLA in 1981 and a Ph.D. in language, literacy and learning from the Rossier School of Education at USC in 1995. She was confirmed for her new position on July 24, 2009.

Meléndez de Santa Ana has spent her entire career in Southern California. She worked in the Montebello Unified School District as a bilingual classroom teacher, middle school assistant principal for curriculum and instruction, and elementary school principal. For the Pasadena Unified School District, she was director of instruction for elementary and middle schools. From 1997 to 1999, she was Director of the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project, a $53 million school reform project that worked to improve Los Angeles schools, but had mixed early results. Returning to school administration, she served as Deputy Superintendant and Chief Academic Officer at the Pomona Unified School District from 1999 to 2005. Lured back to the nonprofit world, she worked for a year and a half as Program Manager for the Stupski Foundation, a San Francisco-based non-profit focused on district-level reform, from early 2005 through June 2006. Returning to Pomona in July 2006, Meléndez de Santa Ana served as superintendant of the district, which has more than 40 schools serving more than 33,000 students in Pomona and parts of Diamond Bar, until July 2009, when her nomination to the Department of Education was confirmed by the Senate.
Meléndez is also associated with The Broad Foundation, a Los Angeles-based venture philanthropic organization established by Eli Broad. In 2006 she was among 18 business executives, military leaders, and career educators who were selected by The Eli Broad Center for the Management of School Systems to participate in the Broad Superintendents Academy, a 10-month executive management program to train working CEOs to lead urban public school systems.

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