<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Education Nation]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/feature/education-nation http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:04:50 -0700 Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:04:50 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[New School Standards Start to Take Effect ]]> Mon, 07 Oct 2013 12:49:18 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Common-Core-Generic-2013_2.jpg

Students, teachers and parents across the country are feeling the effects of new, more rigorous standards that are working their way into the nation's classrooms.

Freshmen in Pennsylvania are preparing to take new tests that they will have to pass before graduating their senior year. Los Angeles pupils are toting around school-issued iPads in addition to notebooks and pens. Parents in the San Diego area are getting schooled on their students' new grading system and harder homework. Math lessons in schools in many states are looking beyond the equation's answer to how the problem was solved, while nonfiction texts are joining the novels that dominate English class reading lists.

The changes are part of a multi-year transition to the Common Core State Standards for English and math, a set of benchmarks for students from kindergarten to the 12th grade that have been adopted by 45 states and Washington, D.C. Proponents say the goal of the voluntary standards, which were developed by associations representing state governors and school officers, is to move the educational system's focus from rote memorization to critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for success in the 21st Century economy.

“We’ve shifted from teachers thinking they need to cover xyz; it’s less about coverage and its more about student learning,” Michele Puhlick, executive director of curriculum and instruction at Hartford Public Schools. “The focus is now what’s the evidence? What are students learning? How can they prove they’re learning it?”

With the target date for full implementation just a school year away, many states and schools are ramping up efforts to incorporate Common Core-aligned learning into their classrooms.

While nearly two-thirds of the states planning to adopt the revised standards were set to do so by this school year, according to the Pew Chartable Trusts' Stateline project, gauging the overall initial impact of Common Core and readiness for the change across the country is difficult because it is up to states and school districts to set curriculum and decide how to go about the implementation.

Close to 40 percent of teachers surveyed by one major teachers union earlier this year said they were concerned that their schools weren't prepared enough for the full transition, Stateline reported. But some observers say progress has started to pick up. 

“I think the states got off to a bit of a sluggish start, but have made big gains,” said Lisa Towne, who tracks Common Core and other education initiatives for Education First. “About a year or so out to when the rubber really meets the road… I think it’s starting to sink in and you’re staring to see it really making its way into classrooms.”

The transition hasn't been without hiccups or controversy. Reports by think tanks like The Brookings Institution have questioned whether the new standards and tests will actually do anything to accelerate student achievement. Poor scores from students in New York and Kentucky who took versions of the new, more difficult tests that will be used to measure students under the revised standards fueled criticism that the assessment approach is flawed and too tough.

The process of phasing in the standards and preparing for those tests has also proved to be a challenge that requires revamped curriculums, intensive teacher training and, in some cases, technological upgrades.

“The entire shift over affects every aspect of what we do,” said Puhlick, whose district started incorporating lessons and tests based on the revised standard soon after Connecticut signed onto Common Core in 2010.

Puhlick said Hartford schools have updated curriculum goals and tweaked the format and content of the state's current standardized tests in recent years in hopes that students will feel less of a shock in a planned trial run of the new assessments next spring.

“Certainly it is new for them to be asked to do these kinds of activities and to be accountable for their own learning, but the students are rising to the occasion; they find this kind of learning much more engaging,” she said. “Instead of being the quiet student in the corner that barely raises their hand, now they’re having to be actively involved in their learning.”

Educating teachers about the new standards and how to help students meet them has been a major component of the launch of Common Core.

In one San Diego-area district, an “intense” two-plus year effort to promote the transition includes 32 hours of professional development for instructors this year, said Maria Castilleja, executive director of curriculum and instruction at Sweetwater Union High School District.

“You have to transform the role of the teacher from one of being the director, directing the instruction, to one of being a facilitator,” Castilleja said.

That training, which includes ideas for lessons that promote interactive learning, is supplemented with another 16 hours of instruction on how the shift impacts students who have disabilities or use English as a second language.

Classroom tools and materials are changing along with the teaching style. Students in Castilleja's districts will see their nine-year-old textbooks replaced with digital versions aligned with Common Core Standards in the spring. All seventh and eighth graders were given iPads, a move aimed at giving them the technical know-how to meet the goal of being career ready upon graduation.

Castilleja says she has seen very few issues arise from the iPad program, but that hasn't been the case in all areas. NBC Los Angeles recently reported that savvy students in local schools have hacked their school-issued tablets to allow them to play games that were supposed to be prohibited on what were intended to be study tools.

Access to traditional materials that support Common Core has also been a problem in at least one state. Schools across New York City have been scrambling to assemble old textbooks or print class materials because of issues with the delivery of new textbooks ordered to teach to the revised standards, according to The New York Times. 

Scrutiny of the new standards and the tests that will accompany them is likely to increase in the next year, as more schools move toward instituting either one of two assessment models aligned to Common Core or their own tests. Some states, like Pennsylvania, are pushing to make the tests on math, literacy and other subjects requirements for graduation. That proposal for the state's Common Core-aligned Keystone Exams, approved last month by the state board of education, would apply to the current freshmen class set to graduate in 2017.

Lackluster test performance in Kentucky and New York, where the percetage of students deemed proficient dropped by double digits, have upset parents and worried teachers and administrators in states planning to evaluate school and personnel based on scores. Those concerns have sparked protests and prompted some parents to pull their children out of testing or public school altogether.

Education officials have attempted to assuage those fears, emphasizing the benefits of raising expectations for students. New York Commissioner of Education John B. King, Jr. described the tests in an August letter to parents as “a new beginning and starting point that will provide better, clearer information to parents, teachers and principals about what our children know and are able to do."

“I want to make it very clear that the change in test scores (including, possibly, one in your child's score) does not mean that your students are learning less or that teachers and schools are performing worse than last year,” King wrote.

But critics say the approach is fundamentally flawed. Robert Schaeffer, a spokesman for The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, blasted the assessments as “more of the same failed strategy” that hasn't led to higher performance in the past.

“It is still based on the flawed theory that raising the bar and testing to it will improve schools magically,” he said.

Common Core also continues to face opposition from conservatives who see the initiative as the federal government overreaching on education decisions, an argument that stems in part from the Obama administration's decision to make Common Core adoption a factor in awarding federal Race to the Top school grants.

Those concerns of “federal intrusion” were cited in Florida Gov. Rick Scott's recent call to review the standards and drop out of one consortium of states developing a shared testing model. The move has driven speculation that the state will delay implementation or eventually join Texas and other states that have opted out of Common Core altogether.

Despite the setbacks and criticism, supporters in states where the standards are being put in place say they're already seeing a difference. Christina Robinson praises the new benchmarks for leading to a “broader application of student learning” at the southwestern Illinois high school where she teaches English Language Arts.

“I think it’s increasing both college and career readiness because it gives  students, especially with the focus on informational text, more opportunities to apply what they’re learning in real-world situations and various content areas,” Robinson, who works at Nashville Community High School, said in a press release issued by the Illinois State Board of Education. “It’s not only about writing in English class but writing is important in shop class, it’s important in science class.”

The impacts of Common Core both on student readiness and classroom experiences will only continue to grow as the standards fully take effect. Successful implementation of the benchmarks, Towne says, will likely “require a rethinking of resources and a rethinking of structure” that could drastically change the nation's approach to education.

“The U.S. Curriculum has often been criticized for being an inch deep and a mile wide,” she said. “The Common Core State Standards suggest a very different approach which emphasizes depth of understanding and application and fewer topics spread over a sequence of grades... eventually the way time is used in schools is going to look quite different.”

<![CDATA[National Hispanic University to Close]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 09:54:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/college+campus+generic.jpg

National Hispanic University expects to close next year as a four-year college, but may host a new charter school, after several severe financial cutbacks.

The decision was made by NHU’s Board of Directors.

"We made critical and important efforts to expand and make the 'national' in National Hispanic University real," said Jonathan Kaplan, a top Laureate official and chairman of the NHU board of directors, according to the San Jose Mercury News. He said Laureate had invested "tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure, faculty and student support."

The school will continue to offer classes at the campus until the remaining enrolled students graduate or transfer to other colleges by the summer of 2015. At that time, NHU would cease to exist as a college accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Since it's beginnings in 1981 in Oakland, the school has struggled to raise operating funds and enrollment. Back in 2010, the U.S. Department of Education reduced financial aid and online opportunities to liberal arts students across the country enrolled in programs that did not offer good prospects for employment.

<![CDATA[Book Author Blasts "Hoax" of Ed Reform]]> Fri, 04 Oct 2013 15:44:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/212*120/DianeRavitchIntvw.JPG Former US Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch explains why she thinks it was wrong for San Francisco school district officials to attend a ribbon cutting for a new charter school supported by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. She also weighs in on the new Common Core state standards rolling out across California, and says teacher evaluations based on student test scores are "junk science."]]> <![CDATA[NYC Hikes Price of School Lunch]]> Fri, 04 Oct 2013 08:04:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/school_lunch_generic.jpg

The price of New York City school lunch is going up on Monday from $1.50 to $1.75, the first increase in 10 years.

The city Department of Education said the nearly 17 percent hike is needed because of higher costs for labor and food.

The DOE serves more than 620,000 lunches and 205,000 breakfasts each day in the school system of 1.1 million students. Breakfasts are free.

This year, children deemed eligible for a reduced-price lunch will now be able to get lunch free instead, the city said.



<![CDATA[Connecticut Town Might Have to Close All Public Schools]]> Thu, 03 Oct 2013 13:25:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/classroom_lock_generic.jpg

The northwestern Connecticut town of Winchester is asking the state for help with a financial crisis it fears might shut down all three of the community's public schools in December.

The superintendent told the state board of education that the district cannot make its payroll.

Part of the problem is the disappearance of millions of dollars in town funds. Last year, state police arrested Henry Centrella Jr., the town’s former finance director, on several larceny charges after a town audit revealed that $2 million was unaccounted for between January 2008 and November 2012.

Local school officials have gone to the state to ask for an advance in state funding, but it might not be possible for legal reasons.

In August, Supt. Thomas Danehy wrote to the town and state officials, painting a dire picture of the financial situation for the schools. He wrote that the town had hundreds of thousands of dollars in overdue bills and that utilities might be shut off because of nonpayment.

The town does have insurance, but it has only received payment on one policy, so the Winchester does not have the funds to bail out the school district, town officials said.

"We have limited funds available because of the former finance director, but I'm confident that we'll be able to get through it," Town Manager Dale Martin said.

In September, the local school board asked the state to investigate whether the town was meeting its obligations to educate students of the town, according to the Register Citizen.

That issue was brought up on Wednesday at the state board of education and the members voted to investigate the local board of education and town funds, according to the Citizen.

Town officials are also considering a tax to cover the costs, but Martin said he's trying to avoid that by calling banks and asking for a loan.

Centrella, who has not entered a plea, according to online court records, is due in court on October 8.

<![CDATA[Wisconsin Official Defends Common Core Standards ]]> Thu, 03 Oct 2013 12:00:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/classroom5.jpg

Wisconsin's schools superintendent is defending the state's Common Core academic standards in front of a pair of Republican committees.

Tony Evers told the Senate and Assembly committees reviewing the standards that the requirements are rigorous and clear. He says they allow teachers to go deeper, prepare students for college and help students meet employers' expectations.

He called the standards a serious step forward for the state.

Wisconsin was one of the first states to adopt the voluntary national standards. Conservatives, though, fear the standards trump local control and the federal government is using them to gather students' personal information.

Tea party members sent lawmakers a letter calling for an investigation into the standards. The Republican-controlled Legislature responded by creating Senate and Assembly study committees. Republican Gov. Scott Walker says he wants tougher standards than Common Core. 

<![CDATA[Maryland, Facebook Launch Pilot Program Against Cyberbullying]]> Thu, 03 Oct 2013 11:00:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/mesquite_bullying.jpg

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler is announcing a new initiative against cyberbullying in a partnership with Facebook.

Gansler made the announcement Thursday. The initiative will give educators a direct connection to address issues of online bullying in their school systems.

Facebook outlined the pilot project, which is being described as the first of its kind in the country, at the Maryland Association of Boards of Education fall conference.

The project is designed to streamline reporting of cyberbullying that may not be resolved through Facebook's normal reporting process. Each school system will identify a point person for direct communications with Facebook.

If an issue is not resolved within 24 hours, educators will be able to contact their school system's designated point person to accelerate the report through the Educator Escalation Channel.

Photo Credit: Tammy Mutasa, NBC 5 Mesquite Reporter]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Administration: Colleges Should Seek Diversity]]> Fri, 27 Sep 2013 14:08:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/affirmative-action-protest.jpg

The Obama administration told colleges and universities Friday they can continue to use admissions to increase diversity among their students, even in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that could potentially open the door to more challenges.

"Racially diverse educational environments help to prepare students to succeed in our increasingly diverse nation," the administration said in a letter to schools.

The Supreme Court ruled June 24 that schools should approve the use of race as a factor in admissions only after concluding "that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity." The 7-1 decision, stemming from a case challenging the University of Texas admission plan, did not question the underpinnings of affirmative action.

Civil rights advocates celebrated that the door on affirmative action had not been slammed shut. But at the same time, the decision appeared to embolden challengers who feel they've been discriminated against.

In its Friday letter the administration said the court "preserved the well-established legal principle" that colleges and universities have a compelling interest in a diverse student body. It was signed by Catherine E. Lhamon, the Education Department's assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights, and Jocelyn Samuels, the Justice Department's acting assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division.

Lhamon said the administration hopes colleges and universities aren't making changes in admissions policies because of the ruling.

In an accompanying "questions and answers" paper, the administration said race can be considered as long as the admission programs can show that the criteria are narrowly tailored.

"I would hope that colleges and universities would undertake these programs in carefully structured ways that would avoid legal challenge, and we certainly are available to try to help them do that," Samuels said.

The high court ordered the appeals court to take another look at the case of Abigail Fisher, a white Texan who was not offered a spot at the university's flagship Austin campus in 2008. Fisher has since received her undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday that a diverse enrollment, "promotes cross-racial understanding and dialogue, reduces racial isolation and helps to break down stereotypes." 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Education Nation: Fruity Lunches]]> Thu, 20 Sep 2012 08:20:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/kids-eating1.jpg Will the introduction of new healthy snacks help break bad eating habits?

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Education Nation: Smart Pens]]> Thu, 20 Sep 2012 08:20:26 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Smart+Pen1.jpg High-tech pens are taking the place of chalkboards and notebooks.]]> <![CDATA[Education Nation: Real Skills]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 08:38:29 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/145680657.jpg At Sollers Point Technical High School in Maryland, it's not unusual to find students working with their hands—whether it's on a carpentry project or on computers in a cyber-security program. Students seem to have the best of both worlds, combining what they learn in the classroom with skills needed to eventually land a job.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Education Nation: Battling Concussions]]> Wed, 19 Sep 2012 08:37:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP060824025070.jpg Maryland's State Board of Education has added a policy on brain injuries affecting high school athletes. It calls, in part, for state high school coaches, trainers and athletic directors to do a better job protecting students on the field. Schools are well aware of the new policy, and in places like Eastern Tech High School in Baltimore County, they're wasting no time putting what's on paper into action.

<![CDATA[Chicago Strike Tests Unions' Sway in Reform Fight]]> Thu, 15 Nov 2012 10:50:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/edt-AP557377177863.jpg

The week-long teachers’ strike in Chicago has drawn national attention because it affects 350,000 children and pits two Democratic forces against each other. But it also represents a broader struggle over education reform and union power, and the results could reverberate elsewhere.

If the Chicago Teachers Union wins enough concessions, then it’s a victory for the labor movement and a potential guide for similar battles underway in other parts of the country.

If Mayor Rahm Emanuel emerges with enough of his demands intact, then it’s another setback for labor and validates the push to impose stricter measures of teacher accountability.

“This is being looked at very carefully by school districts across the country,” said Kathleen Hirsman, who teaches education and labor law at the Loyola University School of Law. “There’s the issue of the diminishing strength of teachers unions and who is going to come out the winner. And how the Chicago Public Schools resolves this will be very instructive to other school districts now looking at implementation of state laws requiring teacher evaluation based on student performance.”

All over America, states and cities are trying to figure out how to respond to federal initiatives aimed at improving the public school system. They come down to a series of carrots and sticks. There’s money for districts that implement the Obama administration’s ideas on teacher evaluations and testing, and there’s the threat of closure or other sanctions for underperforming schools.

That challenge has resulted in elected officials trying to impose new standards for teachers, who resist having to give up control over their work.

“It comes down to who’s going to decide how kids are educated,” said James Wolfinger, an associate professor of history and education at DePaul University. “Who is the expert? Who should have the greatest voice?”

Chicago is just the latest of several big cities - including New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Cleveland - where that tension has come to a head.

Illinois lawmakers have set a schedule to implement new teacher evaluation methods, and Chicago must start making those changes this year. Illinois also happens to be a state that allows teachers to strike.

That makes the four-day-old walkout, which has captivated the country and could impact the presidential election, an ideal opportunity for labor to show that it’s no pushover.

“This is a very important strike for the teachers union,” said Richard Kearney, a political scientist at North Carolina State University. “If they can come out of this thinking they’ve made up some ground, that should give some encouragement to teacher’s unions elsewhere who are facing similar situations.”

Then again, Emanuel could end up on top.

Or: each side will concede, ending the strike in a draw.

What then?

“Then the fight just goes on elsewhere,” Kearney said. “And none of this meant a great deal.”

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Strike Enters Second Week]]> Tue, 18 Sep 2012 06:56:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/teacher+strike+getty.JPG

UPDATE: Judge Holds Off Order to End Teacher Strike

The first Chicago teacher strike in 25 years entered its second week Monday, pushing students' earliest return to class to Wednesday.

Union delegates on Sunday deferred its vote to end the strike and asked for more time to review a proposed teachers' contract drafted last week by school officials and the Chicago Teachers Union. The decision prompted an angry Mayor Rahm Emanuel to file an injunction that could force the teachers back into class.

"I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union," Emanuel said in a statement. "This was a strike of choice and now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children."

The mayor instructed the city's top lawyer to work with Chicago Public Schools' general counsel to file an injunction Monday asking a judge to immediately end the strike, now in Day 6.

In a statement, Emanuel called the strike illegal and said there's no reason why teachers can't return to work while the rest of the contract is ironed out.

"This continued action by union leadership is illegal on two grounds," he said. "It is over issues that are deemed by state law to be non-strikable, and it endangers the health and safety of our children."

But union president Karen Lewis said the deal isn't sitting well with many of the teachers.

"Our members are not happy, and they want to have the opportunity to talk to their members," Lewis said. "They want to know is there still anything more they can get." 

The union delegates aren't scheduled to meet again until Tuesday, in part out of respect for for the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, which began at sundown Sunday.

"If the agreement is not good, if the members reject it and think it won't improve conditions in their schools and classrooms, then we want the board to listen to those concerns before we would go back to school," CTU chief of staff Jackson Potter told NBC Chicago Monday.

School board president David Vitale said Monday the two sides are done negotiating and CPS is waiting on the union.

"We've done as much as we know how to do," Vitale said. "We reached an agreement with their leadership, we think it's a good agreement. It's time for the teachers to get back in school."

Potter said it's worth the wait.

"People have to live for three years under the terms of this agreement, and so it has to be a good agreement, it has to reflect the concerns that we brought to the table all along."

NBC Chicago has an array of reporters and producers covering the Chicago teacher strike. Check our live blog for continuous coverage and updates throughout the strike.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Get Back-to-School Cool Under $100]]> Mon, 17 Sep 2012 12:33:42 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/196*120/backtoschool_ofakind1.jpg Back-to-school season may induce midterm-related anxiety, but it also means statement-making notebooks, funky new pencils and cute accessories.

Photo Credit: Of a Kind]]>
<![CDATA["Parent Power" Vital in Education Reform]]> Fri, 15 Feb 2013 11:54:21 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/216*120/newsconference1.jpg Former White House Advisor Ben Austin explains why parents need to be brought to the table during the Chicago teachers' strike and how the days-long work stoppage has exposed a rift in the Democratic party between teacher unions and education advocates. Conan Nolan reports for NBC4's News Conference on Sept. 16, 2012.]]> <![CDATA[Judge: No Immediate Hearing on Chicago Strike]]> Mon, 17 Sep 2012 12:55:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CX-school-strike-P5.jpg

A Cook County Circuit Court judge on Monday shot down a request to hold a same-day hearing for an injunction to immediately end Chicago's teacher strike.

During a short meeting, Judge Peter Flynn postponed the requested hearing until Wednesday, city law department spokesman Roderick Drew said. That comes after the Chicago Teachers Union's delegates are scheduled to meet and vote on a proposed contract.

Earlier in the day, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made good on promised legal action to try and end the city's first teachers strike in 25 years, instructing his corporate counsel and the attorney for Chicago Public Schools to file an injunction to get kids and teachers back in class.

"I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union," Emanuel said Sunday in a statement. "This was a strike of choice and now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children."

Emanuel added that the continued strike was illegal on two grounds: "It is over issues that are deemed by state law to be non-strikable, and it endangers the health and safety of our children."

Union delegates on Sunday deferred their vote to end the strike and asked for more time to review a proposed teachers' contract drafted last week by school officials and the Chicago Teachers Union.

"Our members are not happy, and they want to have the opportunity to talk to their members," union president Karen Lewis said. "They want to know is there still anything more they can get."

The union's chief of staff Jackson Potter told NBC Chicago that "if the agreement is not good, if the members reject it and think it won't improve conditions in their schools and classrooms, then we want the board to listen to those concerns before we would go back to school."

School board president David Vitale said Monday the two sides are done negotiating and CPS is waiting on the union.

"We've done as much as we know how to do," Vitale said. "We reached an agreement with their leadership, we think it's a good agreement. It's time for the teachers to get back in school."

Potter said it's worth the wait.

"People have to live for three years under the terms of this agreement, and so it has to be a good agreement, it has to reflect the concerns that we brought to the table all along."

Union delegates aren't scheduled to meet again until Tuesday out of respect for the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah, which began at sundown Sunday.

Emanuel has no scheduled events Monday.

More than 26,000 teachers and staff walked out last Monday, leaving more than 350,000 students unattended. For five days, thousands of teachers picketed outside schools and twice converged on the Board of Education headquarters downtown.

The strike follows months of slow, contentious negotiations over salary, health benefits and job security after the school board unanimously voted last year to cancel teachers' 4 percent pay hike in the final year of their contract.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Thousands Who Don't Meet Requirements Enroll at UC, CSU Schools]]> Wed, 25 Jan 2012 13:59:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/88039771.jpg

California's public colleges and universities are in a very public budget pickle. But thousands of the students asked to pay more for tuition are attending school despite not meeting minimum academic and other enrollment standards, according to Bay Area News Group.

These students -- some are athletes, some are musicians, and some come from overseas where high schools don't adhere to the American system -- are "admitted by exception," the newspaper reported. The University of California's 10-campus system boosted the admission of such students by 60 percent in the current freshman class, according to the newspaper, with 780 students statewide admitted by exception.

California State University's 23-campus network, however, is admitting fewer and fewer students who don't make the grade: CSU had 2,276 excepted students enrolled in the 2010 incoming freshman class, down from 5,300 two years before, the newspaper said.

Campus admissions offices do have leeway when weighing to admit an out-of-state or foreign student who does not meet the enrollment requirements over a California resident who does. Admissions officers say that they only admit students who have a chance at earning a degree -- and some UC campuses shy away from the practice almost entirely. UC San Diego, for example, admits only three excepted freshmen in each of the past two years.

"We had so many students who meet minimum eligibility that it just wasn't fair to admit exceptions," Mae Brown, UCSD's admissions director, told the newspaper. "We turn away thousands and thousands of qualified California residents, so we're very careful."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Education Funding Under Attack]]> Sun, 02 Oct 2011 14:08:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/EducationNation-P1.jpg

In the greatest threat yet to the state's delicately balanced budget, the California School Boards Association and Association of California School Administrators are suing the state for underfunding public education by $2.1 billion for the current fiscal year.

That amount is the difference between what the legislature allocated and the 40 percent of the general fund required for public education constitutionally required under Proposition 98.

If the administrators win, the entire state budget will be thrown out of whack.

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and the Democratic majority in the state legislature have said that they couldn't afford to provide the necessary funding this year because of pressing local government needs to fund programs such as state prisoners in county jails. Thus, they suspended the full amount due to K-12 public education.

The administrators and board members might have looked the other way, given the state's budget difficulties, except for the side deal that Brown and the Democrats cut with the California Teachers Association. In order to get the CTA's cooperation on a deficient education budget, the Democrats passed a law that keeps districts from laying off teachers this year, even if the state education allocation is reduced because of revenue shortfalls.

Inasmuch as educators are by far the largest portion of the education budget, the deal has put administrators in a tough spot. It means that they must cut elsewhere--non-teaching personnel, equipment, services--anything and anyone but teachers. No wonder administrators are fuming. At a time of great economic uncertainty, it's hard to imagine any group other than teachers so well-protected.

The law suit also reveals the chasm in the education community. More than ever, teachers and administrators are on different sides of the budget issue at a time when the education establishment might be more successful by closing ranks.

As for the CTA, the deal may well cost the organization prestige and public support as people become more aware of its implications. When all is said and done, some may wonder whether the job preservation guarantees were worth all the bad press because of mangled district budgets.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Education Nation: Dual Immersion]]> Sun, 02 Oct 2011 10:43:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/sanchezondualimmersion_5264927_722x406_16973486.jpg NBC Bay Area's Kris Sanchez reports.]]> <![CDATA[iPads for Preschoolers]]> Mon, 03 Oct 2011 11:23:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/ClassAction54B.jpg A new reading program in Calistoga supplements classroom instruction with iPad learning -- and posts promising results.]]> <![CDATA[School Funding Fiasco]]> Wed, 28 Sep 2011 10:25:49 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Latino+Students+Struggle+with+Higher+Drop-Out+Rates.jpg

Do you care about the funding of the schools that your children or your neighbors' children attend?

Would you like to change it? If the answer is yes, let me just say you: it's awfully nice that you care about school funding.

Your views, of course, don't make a bit of difference, even if you vote.

This is California.

Now comes the news this week that education groups -- school boards, school administrators, school districts -- are challenging cuts in the state budget passed last June. 

Those cuts, they say, violate the state constitution's guarantee of a funding minimum for schools -- a guarantee enacted by voters in 1988 and 1990.

Teachers' unions aren't part of the lawsuit because they negotiated the cuts -- as part of a deal that gave teachers protections from layoffs.

The lawsuit has made headlines, and raised the possibility of more money going back to schools.

But the lawsuit is likely to drag on for years and unlikely to make impact on the school budgets.

No, the real importance of the lawsuit is as a reminder that Californians have virtually no say in how their schools are funded.

That's because we've eliminated democracy when it comes to school funding.

Instead of letting our elected representatives make decisions, we imposed a complicated formula -- that constitutional guarantee -- to govern school funding.

The lawsuit isn't a challenge that says schools don't have what they need to educate students to the best of their ability -- though that's undoubtedly true.

The lawsuit is about whether we have met the terms of constitutional guarantee. It's not about kids or education -- it's about a formula.

And it's hard to impact a formula unless you have the millions necessary to change the constitution -- or to pursue a lawsuit against it. Most Californians don't. And so we don't have a say in how our schools are funded -- and how our kids are educated.