Robert's plan to helping education.
There are many examples of students within the California School system who do quite well. Let's look at Angel. She went through the public school systems. By the time she was 16, she was taking Economics at Harvard University, and will soon have a Degree from the University of California, Berkeley.
Wow, you might think, she is a privileged kid. Not really. Angel came to California with her Mother from the Philippines, when she was only 11. She attended the public schools all through High School. Angel is an example of what can be done by a student in the California school system. But to get to Harvard and CAL, she had to work her tail off. It also took many long hours of tutoring and encouragement from her parents. Angel is a prime example of what can happen when the parents are an active part of the child's education.
Basic or Below: (If you noticed, "Basic" does not mean passing, but only a "partial" understanding. In other words + failing).
If you look into the "Average" scores for California schools, you will see that the story of Angel is rare. In the results for the 2008/2009 school year, less than HALF of the students in any one grade worked up to that grade level. See star.cde.ca.gov for test results. Example given for Grade 8:
Advanced: This category represents a superior performance. Students demonstrate a comprehensive and complex understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.
Proficient: This category represents a solid performance. Students demonstrate a competent and adequate understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.
Basic: This category represents a limited performance. Students demonstrate a partial and rudimentary understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.
Far Below / Below Basic: This category represents a serious lack of performance. Students demonstrate little or a flawed understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.
Take a second and think about this FACT for a moment. More children are failing than are passing! This holds true from Second Grade through 12th. Is this your child? How do you know? The schools are passing the child from first to second to third grade, right on into High School. Each time the child is getting further and further behind, not learning what he/she needs to excel. Is this an attempt to protect the child's self esteem? Well, guess what? That child wasn't doing second grade work, how can they be expected to do third grade work? The student falls further and further behind until one day they just drop out entirely. According to http://www.kidsdata.org, 20 %, or 1 in 5 children in California will drop out of high school. According to http://www.NCES.ED.GOV (National Center for Educational Statistics) the national average is only 6%. California is more than three times the national average. Is this the kid's fault? Who is to blame?
Please vote. Please get involved with your local schools. Please let the State Assembly know that your children matter.
I see the problem as three fold. The blame falls with the parents of the child who didn't take the time to review the student's work, and don't force the student to repeat a year when they clearly need to. I realize that many parents are single parents, and have to work multiple jobs to keep the children fed and clothed. There are numerous "reasons" why the parent didn't perform the duty of educating the child. I will discuss this further later.
The blame falls also with the local school districts. When you take a look at these districts, most of them have high ratings in Parent Reviews (http://www.trulia.com). "We love our school" is the most common statement, all the while the students continue to fail. How is this possible? Its simple + PTA, Bake Sales, and Back to School Nights. Teachers are afraid of being blamed for the child's learning problems. They work to put on a "happy face". Besides, most of the involved parents who attend the meetings and participate in the schools are the parents of the "good" students. If the "problem" children's parents could/would attend, there could be a much more effective dialog.
The third party in this diatribe is the State Legislature. The State of California has tried to play both sides of the fence. They set standards, but don't enforce the standards. They offer programs and regulations, but do nothing to fund them. The State is even guilty of withholding promised school funding. (See http://www.sfgate.com + Jan 14, 2009 article by Matthew Yi, Nanette Asimov, Chronicle Staff Writers) With each budget crisis the State Legislature gets us into, the schools are the first to suffer.
How do we fix it? How do we get the State of California back to being one of the best school systems in America? It's not going to be easy, quick or painless. It will be, however, necessary for the lives of our children, and for the economy of California.
Solutions to address the first problem + lack of participation on the part of the parents. No single approach will work for all parents. We must look at the causes. All parents want their children to do well in school. Not every parent did well in school. Children of drop-outs are more likely to become drop-outs themselves. (http://www.kidsdata.org) We need to work with Adult Education centers, such as Metro Ed (http://www.metroed.net) in San Jose, to teach the parents. You can't expect a parent to help a student learn what the parent doesn't know. Organizations such as Metro Ed can help those students who for whatever reason fell through the gaping holes in California's education system.
Another reason many parents don't take an active role in their child's education is that they simply don't have the time. When both parents, or a single parent is forced by today's economy to work two or even three jobs just to make ends meet, there is something wrong. What is causing them to need to work so much? The high cost of living in California is a major problem. According to http://www.bestplaces.net San Jose, which makes up the majority of District 24, has a cost of living index 61% higher than the national average. We have an unemployment rate of 11%, compared to the national average of 8.5%. It is very hard to spend time with your child when you only get to say good night to them as you grab a bite to eat and rush out to your night job. California needs to address the business environment and the factors that raise the cost of living in California, and start to do something positive about them. To see what I intend to do to address this aspect of education, please read my position paper on the economic environment of California. This is an extremely important topic and should not distract from the discussion on Education. Just keep in mind + I recognize that education is not a stand-alone issue. It is intertwined with Jobs, taxes, personal freedoms, healthcare, economics, and rebuilding California. You can't fix education by throwing money at it. You must address it in context with other social and political issues.
The second "problem" with education that I outlined earlier was the local school districts. There are many problems within the districts. I won't discuss issues such as district structures, spending priorities, and curriculum. That is best left for the school districts to decide. I would like to discuss the results. I come from business. If my business had more than half of the projects we work on fail, how long do you think I would be in business? If more than half of the airplanes "almost" made it to the airport, how many flights would you take, and how close to the airport would you live? More than HALF of the students FAILING each grade is NOT acceptable. Somebody, please explain to me on what planet that is acceptable? And yet, the same people get re-elected to the school boards, and the same administrators are promoted and the same curriculum is preached over and over again. As Rita Mae Brown wrote in her novel "Sudden Death" + "The Definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results". How long will the parents of California children accept a 50+ percent failure rate, and a 20+ percent drop-out rate?
Things I would like to see tried: actually fail a failing student. Don't worry so much about a child's self esteem that you allow it to hurt is potential for the future. You are not doing the child any favors by saying that everybody passes. When that child goes to try to get into a major university, his/her real scores count. When that child goes to get a job, his or her real scores count. When that child has to actually do the job they get, his or her real education counts. My proposal, if a child does not pass the CST test, they get the privilege of taking that year again. Oh NO! You can't mean that little Jimmy will have to take second grade again? His poor ego will be shattered! No, it will not, because little Susie, little Maria, and little Billy will all be taking the grade again. The first and second years of this policy will be very, very hard on students, teachers, and parents, but it will soon correct itself. Students will know that if they don't learn, they will be forced to do it over and over again. Students who fail the second year can and should be put into special classes.
This will remove the fear teachers have of telling the parents that their child needs help. Because it is not the teacher failing the student, but the standardized test, the teacher will have incentive to get the parents involved before the student fails. After just a few years of this, more students will pass the tests than fail. Think about that a minute + what would it be like if the student who finishes the sixth grade could actually read and write? How much better will our youth be when they start to take pride in their own future?
There are many programs and tutorial opportunities that can take place, once the real fear of failure is instilled in our children. Far from being damaging to their egos, this will build strong character and incentives to study hard and actually learn the material. As it is now, the student doesn't know the consequences of his/her continued failure. When students are forced to learn, it will make them stronger citizens.
The third problem is the State of California itself. There is one sure way to send the message to the State that your child failing is not acceptable and remove them from office. California cannot accept 50% failure. It is time to change. Build a stronger California that will improve the lives of the parents, build a stronger California which will challenge the young minds, build a strong California that is an example of hope, not a disaster continuing to unfold.