Tuesday, May 20, 2014


The 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education has renewed interest in the persistent lack of diversity and achievement gaps in public school populations.

Claims are often made that cite lack of diversity as the cause of low achievement among underperforming groups.  A couple days ago I read this refrain again in an Ed  Source article by the ED of the California School Board Association. A topic of much research for a number of decades, there remains scant evidence to positively correlate diversity and  achievement.  US Supreme Court decisions have noted the inherent racism implicit in the notion that education is precluded by lack of diversity - that is,  it is a fundamentally racist idea that students of color won't learn sufficiently unless they are in multiracial classroom settings, assuming  that other instructional resources are equal (and that's a large assumption).

Yet proponents of the SFUSD assignment system continue to maintain that increased diversity results in increased achievement regardless of the paucity of available data. Where is the requisite evidence to support public policy? Most data on the subject shows a persistence achievement gap both in more and less diversified  schools in SFUSD and elsewhere. This achievement gap  is partially the result of not watching the ball. We have policies and  board resolutions about any number of issues  but rarely about achievement,  Commissioner Haney's recent interest in hats and headwear at schools notwithstanding.
It goes without saying, diversity is a good unto itself as an integrated society is a cohesive nation. We don't need a proven link to improved student outcome for diversity to be part of assignment policy. At the same time efforts to end geographic segregation shouldn't divert us from the core purpose of education, which by all accounts is academic achievement. After all, the purpose of public schools is education. Integration came as a secondary purpose.

I understand that some might say  that schools should not be examples of segregation - that socialization is an equally important component of public education - that the schools should be the flowerbed of an integrated society.  I can't deny the truth in that. There's obviously a compelling reason for schools to be integrated, but schools should not spend their dollars on costly efforts at undoing the residential patterns that drive segregated schools,  then cite as the cause of academic failure the lack of integration when, at the same time, money is being diverted from instructional improvement for expensive assignment policies. The day to day task of education needs to proceed unfettered by policies that use vast amounts  of education dollars for purposes other than for raising achievement. The best way to integrate society is to raise the level of education among all segments of society and the best way to do that is to focus on achievement.
A majority of  school districts have ethnic communities separated geographically by neighborhood and diversifying schools requires engineering of demographics in ways that cause a great deal of family stress and public discontent. There is no clear answer for these problems as they represent a wide range of attitudes and situations, a fact borne out by years of failed diversity-first assignment systems and similar court-ordered policies. Some of those attitudes are prejudicial, no doubt,  and that's true among all subgroups. But should students be held hostage to ending racism before they can get an education? Should school districts hold up their diversity policies as the defining issue of public education when so many students are failing? 

Debate over these issues continues unabated with each side dug in due to the significance that education holds in family life.  But race relations holds an even higher station in public life and public figures hold more sway over policy in Sacramento than parents and children do over it at the dinner table. However, we can change educational attitudes more easily than racial attitudes. We should focus on the individual as all learning starts in the home. Our policies should focus on providing opportunity.
It is time to learn the lessons of the past,  to move the debate beyond the diversity-above-all-else agenda and to focus our efforts on achievement gains for all groups, especially those who need it the most. This is neither sanctioning a separate-but-equal policy or  rejecting diversity objectives in student assignment. It simply coming to the realization that cultural change is  gradual and educational needs are immediate. We need to assure that funding is matched to need and put our energies into doing the best for children in the society in which we live today. Race-based education politics have diverted our attentions from tackling the real challenges involved in creating schools which encourage  student participation and adoption of a positive educational outlook.  Right now in San Francisco diversity-driven policies are made in lieu of creating community schools, carving out more school time and tutoring and making retention of qualified teachers top priorities - reforms that are contrary to the union status-quo. 

SFUSD is an example of the dead end of diversity politics and policy.  Any one following the local scene has witnessed the monumental loss of human and monetary capital as a result of assignment system and the drain it has wrought on this district and its communities.  Decades into it we are now no less segregated than we were many years ago and our achievement gap continues to be the largest in the state. This is energy not spent on policies specifically aimed at increasing student effort, improving instructional quality and, in the end, graduating students with the best chance of succeeding in life and, hopefully, going to college.

The fight for racial equality in society at large should continue unabated and in the meantime while we should use our schools to their best advantage to deliver the kind of instructional experience in which student can succeed. This is the best chance for developing a truly integrated society.

Monday, April 14, 2014


The Weighted Student Formula (WSF) was designed to distribute funding to schools based upon per pupil needs and the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was intended to provide the funding for districts to do just that. So you have to wonder why SFUSD, an early adopter of the WSF, has decided not to use it as a means to distribute LCFF's supplemental and concentration grants, only the base grant. (I will tell you the reason shortly.) I naturally assumed that the Board of Education was going to revise the formula to account for the increased funding to the targeted groups, FRPM, LEP and foster children. But according to Guadalupe Guerrero, Deputy Superintendent of whatever, SFUSD has decided to forego inclusion of the two grants into the WSF.

For those of you  I've gotten ahead of, LCFF divides education funding into  base, supplemental and concentration grants. The base grant provides the foundational money to run the schools. The supplemental grant is for low SES students, English learners and foster kids. The concentration grant targets the  same populations but adds more funding (unduplicated) for every eligible student in excess 55% of the district.

Back to the story. We have a district dedicated to serving its underserved populations and the WSF was implemented by Arlene Ackerman for that purpose. It is widely hailed as a forward thinking reform and many districts across the country have adopted it. So why  isn't SFUSD using the formula to roll out the implementation of LCFF? There's only one possible answer. The leadership wants to hold the purse strings to these funds to use as it deems appropriate. If SFUSD were to roll it into the WSF, the money would be distributed automatically according to need - the whole idea behind LCFF. But that would also mean Superintendent Zone schools would only receive whatever LCFF funding was due them via the WSF and the leaders wouldn't be able to fund their special project to the level they'd like. (It should be remembered that not all funds are distributed through LCFF's three grants. Some state and all federal funding is still categorical and this money will continue to flow separately.)

The decision by SFUSD also raises the issue of compliance with the LCAP - the Local Control Accountability Plan. This is the accountability portion of the LCFF law . Among other things, it requires districts to get input from the community and to incorporate that input into their district plan. So why has SFUSD already decided not to include the supplemental and concentration grants in the Weighted Student Formula even before it gets the feedback from the community?

Again, that is not hard to figure out. The community engagement process is just a dog and pony show this district puts on to comply with the State law. To illustrate my point, I attended the first LCAP community meeting last Saturday. The meeting was scheduled from 9 am to 11:30. At 11:00 they were only beginning to get the input from the attendees and the meeting went only 5 minutes overtime. The whole first two hours were taken up by speeches by the Superintendent and his functionaries and some people from Parents for Public Schools - the sponsor of the event.  Much of it had nothing to do with the LCAP. Among other unrelated topics, I even ended up voting to reelect the board of PPSSF, an organization of which I'm not a member and decided to forgo nominating myself under the circumstances.  I could go on about the so-called LCAP community forum, but suffice is to say, it was a pointless exercise brought to you by the public relations arm that is in essence the soul of SFUSD.

Monday, April 7, 2014


SFUSD claims the Superintendent Zones are a giant success. Nine of these schools received School Improvement Grants funding totaling $45M over the 2011, 2012 and 2013 school years. Yet, a cursory review of the achievement data paints another picture.

Of the sixteen schools in the Zones, nine of them had lower scores in 2013 compared to 2012. Comparing the 2013 scores with the scores from 2010, the last year before the start of the SIG program, four schools had lower scores, two of which were significantly lower, Malcolm X and Drew. Five schools posted total gains under 25 points during these years, representing a statistically insignificant increase. Three schools posted mediocre to average gains between 25 and 69 points. Four schools posted gains between 70 and 121.  These schools were Buena Vista Horace Mann, Everett, Muir and Revere. Of the sixteen schools  a majority of nine failed to outperform the district as a whole. You have to wonder how the media can overlook the widespread failure of the Superintendent Zones.

Should SFUSD close down the program for most of the schools and stop spending money without reasonable results?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Despite media-driven public outrage over inequality in student achievement, the term "the achievement gap" is nothing more than a modern day repackaging of an age-old, universal component of social stratification - educational inequality. This is not to say that lowering the achievement gap is not a worthwhile cause. After all, that is largely the point of public education.  Raising the prospects of students who might otherwise become a burden to themselves, their families and society for generations to come is a large part of what schooling is all about, the inherent joy of learning notwithstanding. But when taken too far, advocating to close the achievement gap is no different than advocating to end class structure - a utopian goal of socialism. The "closing the achievement gap" mantra has become a  tool of civil rights provocateurs to advance the interests of their political agenda and, in the process, those of the unions and bureaucracies they control.


In this milieu rages the national education debate between, on the one hand,  education bureaucracies in concert with  teachers unions, both of which collectively advocate the status quo through traditional funding and no clear reforms, and, on the other,  the somewhat disparate reformists who support alternative models to traditional public school such as charters and vouchers.  The whipping up of public discontent over the achievement gap  benefits both sides, though each is working to a different end and each has a different agenda for the future of public education. By highlighting failure the establishment wants to promulgate the simplistic notion that lack of progress is due to lack of funding and  the reformists want to convert public discontent to increase interest in the alternatives they have offered. Both stand to benefit by underscoring the problem implicit in an achievement gap, even if that gap is nothing new or different.
At stake is how and where tens of billions of education dollars should flow each year here in California and, to a larger extent, across the country. Under Governor Brown the education establishment  has rallied support for the new finance mechanism, the Local Control Funding Formula, for 8 years of increased education spending  and particularly among the lowest performing student groups, thereby successfully perpetuating its own hegemony as a fundamentally and perennially unchanged public institution for the foreseeable future, though decision-making has moved considerably away from Sacramento towards the LEAs.


Social justice advocates, by portraying the achievement gap as a civil rights issue, have diverted blame for underperformance away from the public education establishment, of which they comprise a large part,  and the individual, whom  they ignore - to place it at the foot of society. We are told that underperformance and poverty are one and the same and that the cause  of educational inequality is racism and greed. Because status quo forces of the teacher's unions and the ed bureaucracies have no clear vision for the future of remediation other than to continue to throw more money at the problem, a hollow agenda the public sees through, they play the race/minority card instead, the old ploy of extremists. They characterize unequal student achievement as a singularly society-induced failing  but fail to mention that it's an individual failing as well because personal effort relates to the core of learning -  attitude and responsibility.  Why reflect on individual responsibility when one can point the finger of blame on racism and find encouragement in  doing so?

The social justice advocates have statistically tethered academic underperformance and its corollary, poverty, for modern era, data-driven consumption and  conveniently repackaged the relationship as the product of manifest greed and racism - turning education into a socially-induced illness to be remedied through delivery of a social service rather than an personal opportunity to be gained through individual effort. 

Contrary to the claims of social justice, correlation is not causation and poverty and low achievement are not joined at the hip as some poorer, primarily Asian cultures demonstrate by overcoming  "poverty-induced low achievement". The statistical inference nevertheless has given the self-described social justice advocates an "in" to promote equal educational outcome as the new civil rights cause célèbre, ignoring the significant role that the culture, the community, the family and the individual, in particular, play in the education of itself. That and the fact that massive past spending has failed miserably to combat low performance doesn't stop big business government forces from advocating for an unfettered monetary fix. In the process that fix has conveniently buttressed the position of those establishment forces despite widespread dissatisfaction over low achievement in public education . Under those circumstances LCFF is quite a coup for the status quo,  particularly as it seems to be hailed far and wide as a great reform to public education. We shall see.


Education experts roundly claim that low-performing students cost more to educate, but decades of experience at remediation equates only with more cost not more educational benefit. The channeling of ever-greater resources for low-performing students has resulted in incremental achievement gains at best and taken a toll on the rest. Over the years billions of dollars have gone into remediation efforts and costlier smaller class sizes, but there's been little to no payback in the form of educational progress to show for it - California has continued to slide. In an era when Serrano's constitutional imperative of equal educational funding is cast aside, how long can the collateral damage of large class sizes and reduced services for everyone else be contained? Will the achievement gap be resolved top-down rather than bottom-up? Will middle class flight and attrition lower the bar? There are already signs of this happening.


SFUSD and the Federal government  plowed windfall amounts of money into what's called the "Superintendent Zones" and, meanwhile, the high performing schools have been stripped to the bone during the Great Recession. After several years of a funding strategy during which time some students received double to triple the funding compared to other students, many of whom were and continue to be underperforming as well, the net result of this policy is a nominal average increase in low end achievement, [some schools actually did worse despite millions invested - see SIG post], accompanied by an overall decrease in the district-wide API achievement data for 2013.  Expensive efforts at remediation of non-Asian minorities here and statewide have come up empty year after year. Stymied by lack of innovation and beholden to staid union rules that impede any innovation, the education policy experts have not enunciated  a way forward to close the widely publicized achievement gap here in San Francisco and around the state.

Instead the Local Control Funding Formula was conceived to punt the football to the districts and give  them free reign to redistribute greater funding towards remediation, upping the ante on failed state categorical policies and programs. That is to say, the State has no idea what to do about education except to put the responsibility for achievement on the districts, a sign of capitulation, and to give them more money tied to some  vague and meaningless standards with no state oversight .  No entity willingly cedes power unless it has thrown in the towel.  It is ironic that this return to local control is happening at the same time and in conjunction with a nationalization of the curriculum and standards.

What we have now are California's school districts emboldened over the self-control afforded by the LCFF's base, supplemental and concentration grants  and no one is  talking about real reform - increased school hours, a longer school year, better teaching quality and commensurate pay raises to attract the best and brightest. We should be talking about how to drive up student interest in seizing the constitutionally afforded opportunity of public education - not perpetuating the fabrication that educational outcome or equal student achievement is a right regardless of effort. What social justice advocates choose to overlook is effort because that doesn't comport with more money for schools.

Both the constitutional mandate of public education and common sense tell us that equal opportunity is not equal to equal outcome, but this reality does not dissuade politically-motivated opportunists from crying foul when that equal opportunity does not equate to equal outcome. On the other side,  reformers  want to highlight failure in traditional public schools as a means to generate interest in the alternatives - charter schools and, to a lesser extent, vouchers, regardless as to whether these reforms yield better results. These same forces are also behind the high stakes testing regimen and the nationalization of curricula and standards known as Common Core.


That the achievement gap is and will always be doesn't mean we shouldn't try to close it. Reducing educational stratification should be a priority and therefore money should be spent were it is shown to have proven benefits.  But closing the gap isn't the only priority or necessarily even the highest and at present there is no cost/benefit system in place for the billions we spend. High school proficiency is an essential  stepping stone even if in itself it does not promise more than poor to mediocre job prospects in the age ever-expanding and specialized college-based  requirements. Without it a whole social class of students  is relegated to a life of despair and poverty if they are unprepared for higher education. At the same time, without more funding to promote excellence many proficient students will fail to achieve more than mediocrity. Only those who can fully utilize educational opportunities are going to reap the benefits of them and that, just like remediation, costs money.  That's why we need to show proven results for the money we spend to remediate, much of which is wasted, and practice an allocation scheme that nurtures the best from students of all stations.


Refocusing education funding to dramatically overweight remediation at the expense of excellence speak volumes about our current educational system. The extreme weighting that is LCFF is a threat to educational excellence and the majority of dedicated students who have much to lose under this new educational funding scheme. It's ironic that the constitutional requirement of equal educational opportunity is getting short shrift from social justice advocates who decades ago wholeheartedly supported the fiscal equalization that was Serrano , but who today advocate for the opposite - unequal fiscal policy. There's no question that compensatory education is expensive and necessary given the costs of remediation but the question is how much and for what benefit? We cannot keep throwing money at a problem simply because it is deemed the right thing to do with or without results. There's nothing right about spending precious resources and getting a poor outcome from the targeted students for whom the money was intended.

Under the guise of a modern civil rights quest we are fomenting a state of educational mediocrity in which we may be less so much unequal, but equally so much less. Excellence may be the price we pay for keeping our moribund education establishment intact,  unreformed, and growing ever larger. 

Monday, March 3, 2014


No.  It's been playing a numbers game to distract the public from the true and less than stellar achievement results. For years SFUSD has advertised itself as the "highest performing urban school district in California" until last year when San Diego overtook us as its API climbed while ours dropped to 806.  Instead of the highest,  now SFUSD slyly advertises itself as "one of the highest". But it's all a PR façade to hide the real-world academic underperformance of its students. If this is a test, SFUSD is a cheater. The high API is less high than it is  highly misleading.  Published and promoted each year to much undeserved self-acclaim,  the seemingly positive result is more a function of San Francisco's uniquely Asian demographic than any student achievement resulting from education policy, that is, unless you're talking about bad policy. How else can we explain why every major demographic significantly underperforms in SFUSD with the exception of whites?

Little more than a brief review of subgroup achievement statistics reveals a district that is anything but exemplary  - a district that is in large part significantly behind California as a whole - a state that has drawn national attention for its poor achievement results. This district is far from first or even second place when you delve into the true numbers.  SFUSD's African American, Latino and even Asian populations do significantly worse than their respective  statewide counterparts, but SFUSD manages to maintain an aggregate API edge which is the sole product of its uniquely large and relatively higher performing Asian population.  This large Asian population in SFUSD, 41% district versus 9% statewide, a difference of 32%,  outperforms relative to most other ethnic groups and thus the two factors of quantity and quality of Asian students drives up the overall performance numbers. But even here Asians do significantly worse than their counterparts statewide, scoring an 874 versus 906 in California as a whole. What does this say about SFUSD's policies? And how has this school district managed to hype itself all these years without any pushback?

Ironically, district leaders have cautioned parents for years not to misuse the Academic Performance Index as an evaluation tool, yet this is exactly what these same leaders do, in lockstep with the media, when they package the district's overall API results for public consumption, skipping the breakdown whenever possible. And SFUSD gets away with this misleading oversimplification because of a lack of any real journalism in the City by the Bay.  

You don't have to dig deep to see through this charade.  Just look a little below the surface of the aggregate API to see what's really happening. It doesn't take a statistician or even a high school graduate. Any casual observer can figure out this scam. The breakdown by ethnic groups on the CDE's API website reveals the exact nature of the demographic advantage afforded SFUSD by it large Asian  population - a  regional anomaly that has allowed this district to commend itself as a statewide winner while never addressing the real reason for the higher API. The poor showing by subgroups begs the question: Why is every minority underperforming in San Francisco? 

To illustrate how the statistical demographic advantage plays out, consider this: among the four major ethnic groups,  African Americans, Hispanics and Asians underperformed the same statewide ethnic groups by -78, -48 and -32 points, respectively. Only whites outperformed other whites statewide and by a considerable  42 point margin.  SFUSD's white population versus the State is smaller by more than half, 12% versus 26%, yet this school district managed to post a second place API due  to a demographic quadruple it size compared to the state.  Though the smaller white population also is a key factor in overall performance, the sheer size in conjunction with the excellence that Asian culture demands of itself are the two factors most responsible for our high API.  And  this is true despite the considerably weaker performance by Asian students  in SFUSD compared to the Asians statewide - a fact that gives even greater significance to the population advantage posited here. In fact, SFUSD likely would underperform the State if its white students did not outperform, a point which paints an even grimmer picture of SFUSD's educational program delivery.

Why San Franciscans are able to be fed lies from this district has to do with a lack of debate and a political homogeneity in a city controlled by extremists in government, in the media and in the unions - a triumvirate of establishment forces that encourage the imaginary success of the status quo in SFUSD through the trumpeting of false progress. Until we  vote out  the commissioners on the Board of Education and replace the administration with one  predicated on real academic achievement, we cannot expect more from our school district and its union cronies. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


When I originally posted the quote below I didn't include the paragraph you're reading now and didn't mention that Superintendent Richard Carranza was the speaker of the quote which is an excerpt from his introductory speech at the Administrator's Institute from last June.  I wanted to see how people would react.  Replacing the word "superintendent" on a couple of occasions  to hide the identity of the speaker, I sought to demonstrate how people process the views, opinions and attitudes of others based on their political affiliations or preconceived notions. Some people naturally assumed I wrote it and derided me for it.  What is clear is this: Superintendent Carranza  expressed opposition to a suspension ban on the principle that it's disrespectful to his administrators. Nonetheless, he was supportive of the Board's decision to impose a ban. What do you think this says about the  Superintendent?  Is it fair to say the Superintendent had an understandable change of heart? Is this a case of pure hypocrisy or is it something else?  I'm curious to hear what you have to say. I my opinion I can appreciate a change of mind or heart. I cannot appreciate a change of heart about  what is respectful. This has more to do with character and morals and is not situational.

"I've been a teacher. I know what these kids are like. I wanted to smack one or two up side the head. Absolutely. I get it. But I'm the adult. If I'm putting that kid out of school am I contributing to that kid's prison life time? I don't know. I'm struggling with this. As your Superintendent, as an educator, as your educating buddy,  I'm struggling with this because, right now, I know that I could just say, "administrators, there will be zero suspensions for willful defiance for the rest of this school year." How do you think that would feel? Five urban superintendents have done that....But because I've been a teacher, because I've been a principal, you know what? It's so disrespectful in my humble opinion."

Monday, January 27, 2014


Today the Vergara trial began but an ultimate outcome may be years away after the appeals process. The case is an important milestone in the quest to reform the teaching profession and to develop teacher quality equity between schools, something that would have an outsize and positive impact on the least successful students.
While we await and hope for an outcome in favor of  a long-overdue change to the way we evaluate, hire and fire teachers, we should take a look at the general policy initiatives of this school district because statutory employment reform is not a cure-all for what ails public education here or anywhere.

SFUSD has defined itself by promoting three goals - diversity, access and equity.  In fact, the SFUSD policy literature always begins with a rededication to these goals. But these three policy goals  remain unfulfilled and few ever ask the question as to why success has eluded the District, especially given the widespread support of the Board and the community.

There's little doubt that SFUSD  remains largely undiversified relative to the demographic diversity of the individual neighborhoods. This disconnect is widely acknowledged by SFUSD itself and, therefore, is not a matter of debate. As for the other two goals, access and equity, they remain alarmingly elusive due to SFUSD's own policies which promote lowered access and inequity. 

Every school will have a unique character reflecting not only the community served but the culture of the staff and the district. But there should be uniformity as well if access and equity are goals. If Central Office policies intend to promote access and equity, differences in the school programs and services should be minimized such that families can reasonably expect to get the same or very similar opportunities both in quantity and quality from one school to another. But we know that isn't the case. SFUSD has spent years creating a school district with widely disparate offerings  - schools with honors or music or foreign language programs and schools without them. Schools from K to 8. Schools from K to 5. Schools with after school sports and schools without them. Schools with a range of co-curricular activities and clubs and schools with few. Alternative schools, bilingual schools, small schools, magnet schools, academic merit schools, art schools, schools with counselors, schools with parent liaisons, school with computer labs... And now they complain about equity?

For some, particularly those who attend their preferred schools, these differences are considered a strength of SFUSD, but from an equity point of view it is hard to make a case that such fundamental differences between schools are consistent with that goal. The prevalence of school options increases choice, to be sure, but choice is only partially defined by the number of offerings. More importantly, it is defined  by the  ability to access those offerings, for what good is choice if you can't get any?

SFUSD has a long standing problem of applicant oversubscription and that inability for families to receive school placement choices has fueled the long-term exodus from San Francisco and/or its public schools. (By the way, few applicants are really satisfied with their third  or fourth choice let alone their tenth, making suspect SFUSD's optimistic measure of placement success.)

All this constitutes the backdrop by which to analyze and evaluate this district in its ability to "make diversity,  access and equity a reality" (their words, not mine). Just as schools must evaluate teacher effectiveness for the betterment of student achievement so the public must evaluate district effectiveness for the sake of the same.
But any way you cut it, SFUSD fails dismally to achieve the three goals, and that is so because its policies are contradictory to those very same goals. You can't create diversity through the artifices of lottery-based student assignment, a point which I believe has been demonstrated repeatedly with one failed SAS followed by another. We've seen years of diversity-inspired assignment systems and SFUSD remains undiversified in relative terms.

And equity and access will never see the light of day as long as resourced families are allowed leave their neighborhoods for higher demand schools. If the District wants access and equity it has to provide it at each and every school.  It has to make the offerings universal, not a hodge-podge with widely varying opportunities.  The model of moving the pieces around the chess board has not resulted in higher overall student achievement. It has resulted in the opposite - greater disparity in student achievement. Modern day public schools need the resources of the communities and that means moving to a neighborhood-centric model where people come together in public-private partnerships.
SFUSD  has failed to realize diversity, access and equity for one simple reason: it has strayed from the practical and historical mission of public education which is to raise student achievement. This is achieved through universal school attributes - quality teaching and instructional practices, relevant, engaging curriculum, as well as a full range of enrichment classes and other programmatic offerings and services. That is to say, it shouldn't matter where one attends school in order to receive a high quality education. 

It isn't lost on me that the elected  Board members and their administrators rarely speak of achievement  but speak incessantly of diversity, access and equity - platitudes that are little more than political props short of clear policies to promote them.  To this day the stated goal of the SAS is to promote diversity even though it is doing just the opposite. The leadership tells us lack of educational opportunity is the greatest civil rights issue of our time. If it is why  do they make every school different from one another and then proclaim lack of access and equity? Why do they keep blaming the middle class for lack of diversity when they can't get low income applicants to use the CTIP preference? Why one failed assignment system after another?

Our elected representatives on the Board and their administration have not come out publicly in favor of Vergara V. California , despite having done the right thing in imposing some restrictions on lay-offs at-hard-to- staff schools. As the largest inequity of all - the lack of effective teachers at underperforming schools, a true civil rights issue, the Board needs to go much further to fundamentality change seniority and LIFO to bring about the changes implicit in access and equity. The mighty axe of the union stands high in the air and ready to strike down the tenure of any Board members who take any union opposition too far.


Friday, January 10, 2014


Currently the State Attorney is reviewing an initiative for the November ballot, the High Quality Teacher's Act of 2014. It was submitted by Matt Davis and appears that Students First is the sponsor. I have copied portions of the submittal below. With the Vergara case to start this month, there now appears to a second front in an all out assault on teacher tenure and LIFO.

Let me know what you think about this.

This Act shall be known and may be cited as the High Quality Teachers Act of


Section 2. Findings and Declarations.

The People of the State of California find and declare as follows:

(a) All California children deserve access to a high quality education.

(b) A high quality education begins with making sure our children have a high

quality teacher in every classroom. Students of high quality teachers are more likely to

go to college, earn higher salaries, and have lower rates of teen pregnancies. However,

California currently ranks near the bottom among states when it comes to identifying,

retaining, and promoting high quality teachers.

(c) For too long, California has gone backwards when it comes to providing a

high quality education to our children-the state's dropout rate is one ofthe highest in

the country, our K-12 schools badly underperform in terms of student achievement, and

California's low-income and minority children are disproportionately impacted by the

decline in California's public education system.

(d) Today, there are plenty of high quality teachers available, but local school

districts are not able to make sure all of our children have access to a high quality

teacher because local districts are currently forced to retain teachers based on how long

they have been on the job rather than based on whether or not a teacher is doing a good

job of teaching in the classroom.

(e) California is just one of eleven states that bases teacher layoff and

reappointment decisions primarily on how long someone has been teaching, which led

to a finding by the nonpartisan, independent Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) that

such a system can lead to a "lower quality of the overall teacher workforce." (LAO, "A

Review of the Teacher Layoff Process in California,"Mar. 2012, p. 17.) California needs


to follow the lead of states like Massachusetts, Florida, Tennessee, and several others

and put in place a system which identifies and retains teachers based mainly on an

objective, comprehensive, and fair review of whether the teacher is doing a good job of

teaching children in the classroom.

(f) Teachers are more than just educators. They are role models that children

look to for examples of civic and moral standards. At six to eight hours a day, five days

per week, a teacher is poised to become the most influential person in a child's life after

his or her parents. Much of what a high quality teacher "teaches" is not detailed on a

syllabus. As positive role models, high quality teachers also set good examples inside

and outside the classroom of how young people should strive to be law-abiding

individuals and develop good character, integrity, responsibility, respect for others,

honesty, and trustworthiness. As future leaders of our communities, our state, and our

nation, it is imperative that our children have role models who conduct themselves

appropriately both inside and outside the classroom. It is a self-evident truth that

teachers convicted of violent, serious, or sexual crimes cannot be high quality teachers

because they have fundamentally and irrevocably failed in their duty to act as good role

models for our children and therefore must be immediately and permanently dismissed.

(g) A safe learning environment is guaranteed by our State Constitution, which

declares that every person, including our children, has a constitutional right to be safe

and secure in our public and private schools. (California Constitution, article I, section

28(a)(7).) Teachers convicted of a violent, serious, or sexual crime cannot be high

quality teachers because they undermine our children's constitutional right to a safe

learning environment. A teacher who threatens the constitutional rights of our children,

or who creates an environment where parents reasonably worry about the criminal

background of their child's teacher, does not possess the character and trustworthiness

necessary to qualify as a high quality teacher.

Section 3· Statement of Purpose.

The purpose of this measure is to provide every child in California with a high

quality teacher so that they can reach their full potential regardless of economic or

ethnic background.



Section 4· Section 44955 of the Education Code is amended to read:

44955. (a) No permanent employee shall be deprived of his or her position for

causes other than those specified in Sections 44907 and 44923 and Article 3.1, and

Sections 44932 to 44947, inclusive, and no probationary employee shall be deprived of

his or her position for cause other than as specified in Article 3.1 and Sections 44948 to

44949, inclusive.


(b )[Jl Whenever in any school year the average daily attendance in all of the

schools of a district for the first six months in which school is in session shall have

declined below the corresponding period of either of the previous two school years,

whenever the governing board determines that attendance in a district will decline in

the following year as a result of the termination of an interdistrict tuition agreement as

defined in Section 46304, whenever a particular kind of service is to be reduced or

discontinued not later than the beginning of the following school year, or whenever the

amendment of state law requires the modification of curriculum, and when in the

opinion of the governing board of the district it shall have become necessary by reason

of any of these conditions to decrease the number of permanent employees in the

district, the governing board may terminate the services of not more than a

corresponding percentage of the certificated employees ofthe district, permanent as

well as probationary, at the close of the school year. Except as othenvise provided by

statute, the seFViees of no permanent employee may be terminated under the provisions

of this section ..... hile any probationary employee, or any other employee vvith less

seniority, is retained to render a service 'Nhieh said permanent employee is certificated

and competent to render.

(gl In computing a decline in average daily attendance for purposes of this

section for a newly formed or reorganized school district, each school of the district shall

be deemed to have been a school of the newly formed or reorganized district for both of

the two previous school years.

As be'h\'een employees who first rendered paid service to the district on the same date,

the governing board shall determine the order of termination solely on the basis of

needs of the district and the students thereof. Upon the request of any employee TNhose


order of termination is so determined, the governing board shall furnish in VtTiting no

later than five days prior to the commencement of the hearing held in accordance vvith

Section 44949, a statement of the specific criteria used in determining the order of

termination and the application of the criteria in ranking each employee relative to the

other employees in the group. This requirement that the go~;erning board provide, on

request, a "V\'Fitten statement of reasons for determining the order of termination shall

not be interpreted to give affected employees any legal right or interest that vvould not

exist vmhout such a requirement.

(3)(A) liVhen terminating the services of a certificated employee or employees .

pursuant to paragraph (1) who are assigned to positions as classroom teachers, the

order in which certificated employees shall be terminated shall be based on


(B) For purposes of this paragraph, performance shall be iudgedprimarily

upon the evaluation and assessment of each certificated employee conducted pursuant

to Article 11 (Section 44660 to Section 44665) of Chapter 3 ofthis Part. Performance

evaluation and assessment ratings shall be averaged based on the three most recent

years ofperformance evaluation and assessment data. In the event that three years of

performance evaluation and assessment data does not exist for an employee, the

performance evaluation and assessment rating shall be averaged based on the two

most recent years ofperformance evaluation and assessment data. In the event that

two years ofperformance evaluation and assessment data does not exist for an

employee, the performance evaluation and assessment rating shall be based on the

most recent performance evaluation and assessment data.

(C) Under no circumstances shall a certificated employee with a higher

performance evaluation and assessment rating be terminated before a certificated

employee with a lower performance evaluation and assessment rating.

(D)(i) liVhen two or more certificated employees assigned to positions as

classroom teachers receive identical performance evaluation and assessment rating

scores pursuant to Article 11 (Section 44660 to Section 44665) of Chapter 3 oft his Part,

then the order of termination shall be based on the specific needs of the schools within

the school district and the students thereat 'When required to choose pursuant to this

clause between two or more employees receiving identical performance evaluation

and assessment rating scores, the governing board shall identify the specific needs of

the schools within the school district or the students thereofthat justify the order of

termination. which shall be provided in writing to the affected employees.

(ii) 'When two or more certificated employees assigned to positions as classroom

teachers receive identical performance evaluation and assessment rating scores

pursuant to Article 11 (Section 44660 to Section 4466.1:\) of Chapter 3 of this Part and

are not distinguishable on the basis of the specific needs of the schools within the school

district or the students thereof. then the order of termination shall be based on

seniority, with an employee with less seniority being terminated before an employee

with more seniority. 'When required to choose pursuant to this clause between two or

more employees receiving identical performance evaluation and assessment rating

scores on the basis of seniority, the governing board shall provide an explanation of

why the employees were not distinguishable on the basis of the specific needs ofthe

schools within the school district or the students thereof. which shall be provided in

writing to the affected employees. The governing board shall develop guidelines to

govern situations involving employees who first rendered paid service to the district

on the same date and thus have equal seniority.

(iii) The use of seniority pursuant to this subparagraph shall represent the sole

and exclusive exception to subdivision (d).

(c)(1l Notice of such termination of services shall be given before the 15th of May

in the manner prescribed in Section 44949, and services of such employees shall be

terminated in the inverse of the order in which they vvere employed, as determined by

the board in accordance vmh the prm'isions of Sections 44844 and 44845. In the event

that a permanent or probationary employee is not given the notices and a right to a

hearing as provided for in Section 44949, he or she shall be deemed reemployed for the

ensuing school year.

[gl The governing board shall make assignments and reassignments in such a

manner that employees shall be retained to render any service which their seniority and


qualifications entitle them to render. However, prior to assigning or reassigning any

certificated employee to teach a subject which he or she has not previously taught, and

for which he or she does not have a teaching credential or which is not within the

employee's major area of postsecondary study or the equivalent thereof, the governing

board shall require the employee to pass a subject matter competency test in the

appropriate subject.