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A roundup of perspectives and opinions I’ve come across:
• At the Silicon Valley Education Foundation blog “Thoughts on Public Education,” Bill Honig, former California Superintendent of Public Instruction, says that while educators and politicians work out how to improve student achievement, they should also be improving the quality of our teachers and what they’re teaching:
Unless improving curriculum and instruction becomes the driving force behind these efforts, gains will be minimal. We will never catch up with those world-class performers: nations such as the Asian tigers and Finland; states and provinces such as Massachusetts and Ontario, Canada; or districts such as Sanger and Long Beach. These jurisdictions have made what is taught and how it is taught central to their educational reform strategies. They have adopted a long-range effort to upgrade their teaching force and have built the infrastructure to improve curriculum and instruction.
The SVEF blog also tells the story of principal Norma Rodriguez, who has turned around Dorsa Elementary School in San Jose in the last seven years. The school has made astonishing gains in student test scores but it could all be overturned by severe budget cutbacks.
There’s already nothing left to lose, says Rodriguez with a numb laugh. “Since January, I’ve only had $18 left, and so we are running our school with donations … to pay for paper, to pay for supplies that we need.” For a moment, she can’t speak; her eyes well up and her nose turns red. Then her voice rises a bit as she ticks off everything that will be lost.
• It’s a similar story at Bird Rock Elementary in La Jolla. Cuts in funds mean cuts in staff and services. To make up the difference, parents are being asked to donate $1,000 per student, which raises the question of whether relying on donations creates unfair advantages for schools in wealthy neighborhoods.
Paul Bowers, who blogs on his own site about education, pointed out in the comments that the San Diego Unified School District recently started a foundation to accept donations. Bowers made a prediction:
The long-term goal of that foundation is to collect money from parents all over the district, and eventually disallow donations directly to a parent’s school of choice. Those parent donations will then be applied where the board believes they will be most effective on a district-wide basis.
That, if it comes to pass, would presumably level out some of the difference. (A similar foundation exists in Del Mar.)
This is the kind of pay-for-it-yourself story, by the way, that illustrates the “dissolving city.” Other examples are privately funded gear for bicycle-riding police (more here) and citizens feeling it necessary to fill potholes themselves.
Items quoted here may be lightly edited for spelling, grammar, or style (such as using proper capitalization, removing extra exclamation marks, or fixing obvious typos). Send comments you’d like to have included here to Grant Barrett, engagement editor for voiceofsandiego.org: firstname.lastname@example.org or (619) 550-5666 or @grantbarrett on Twitter.