Easy Money for California Schools, No Strings Attached
Sent to the Long Beach Star Telegram, October 11, 2010
I wonder if the new coalition to win Race to the Top funding knows what will happen if they succeed ("LBUSD joins other districts on education reform," Oct. 11).
Acceptance of the money gives the federal government a huge say in how schools are run. This will include a tremendous amount of unnecessary and unjustified testing, far more than we had with No Child Left Behind, at a time when children are already over-tested. It will also cost billions, at a time when schools are facing severe budget cuts. There is no scientific evidence showing that increasing testing increases student learning.
If California is interested in the $700 million Race to the Top money there is an easier way. Also, instead of a single payment, California would save $600 million dollars every year forever, a move that by itself would take care of about 5% of the total budget shortfall.
All we have to do is drop the high school exit exam: According to analyst Jo Ann Behm, the exit exam costs the state about $600 million per year. Studies of high school exit exams show that they are useless: They do not lead to higher employment, higher earnings, or improved academic achievement. In fact, researchers have yet to discover any benefits of having a high school exit exam.
LBUSD joins other districts on education reform
LOS ANGELES - Seven California school districts, including Long Beach, have formed a nonprofit organization to pursue education reforms promoted by the Obama administration.
District superintendents and high-level education officials on Monday announced the formation of the California Office of Education Reform, which will foster communication and collaboration among the seven districts.
"There has never been this type of collaboration among school districts," said Long Beach Unified Superintendent Chris Steinhauser. "It's never been done on this kind of scale."
Funded by more than $3 million in support from foundations, the organization will focus on reforms that the Obama administration promoted as part of the federal "Race to the Top" program.
States that agreed to pursue certain education reforms competed this year to claim a share of the $4.3 billion in funding available under the program. California applied, but it lost out to other states.
Despite missing out on the funds, the seven districts will continue to pursue the envisioned reforms, district leaders announced at a Monday press event at 122nd Street Elementary School, 405 E. 122nd Street, in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
In addition to Long Beach, the Los Angeles, Fresno, Clovis, Sacramento City, Sanger and San Francisco unified school districts are involved. Officials from the seven districts previously collaborated on California's unsuccessful "Race to the Top" application.
The district partners will work to implement English and math standards that are comparable with those used in high-performing countries. The districts also will study ways to improve low-performing schools and make better use of student performance data.
The districts have a lot to learn from each other, Steinhauser said. The nonprofit will make reform ideas available to all California school districts so they can benefit, too, he said.
For example, the LBUSD will share how it uses student performance data from its internal assessments to improve teaching, he said.
Any assessments developed by district partners could be posted on the Web for officials from other districts to view and use in classrooms, he added.