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Charley Cowen's Message to Bayside PTA re parcel tax measure

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  • Marsha Williamson
    Forwarded to you by Marsha Williamson.
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 19, 2003
      Forwarded to you by Marsha Williamson.
    • wccusdtalk
      ... Dear Bayside PTA Council and Unit Officers: As you may know, there is currently a plan to put a parcel tax on the ballot for March. The first step is, of
      Message 2 of 4 , Nov 19, 2003
        --- In wccusdtalk@yahoogroups.com, Marsha Williamson
        <mswilliamson@l...> wrote:
        > Forwarded to you by Marsha Williamson.

        Dear Bayside PTA Council and Unit Officers:

        As you may know, there is currently a plan to put a parcel tax on the
        for March. The first step is, of course, to develop the language for the
        parcel tax. Then, the School Board would have to formally approve this
        measure for placement before the voters.

        Last week, I went to my first meeting of the "ad hoc" group to develop the
        parcel tax, as a representative of the Bayside PTA. This group consists of
        Board member George Harris, a representative of the teachers union, a
        representative of the main non-teachers union (Local 1), a
        representative of
        the NAACP, a principal (from Pinole Middle), the campaign manager, the
        campaign consultant, and myself. My participation is not meant as and
        is not
        taken as an automatic endorsement of whatever parcel tax ends up on the

        At the first meeting I attended (there was one of this group before), we
        discussed the questions that would be on the poll to gauge likely voter
        response to various parameters for a parcel tax. At the next meeting, this
        Friday (11/21), the ad hoc group will meet to go over the polling results
        and discuss what the language of the proposed parcel tax should be.

        The School Board has two meetings coming up. Today, Wednesday (11/19), the
        Board will receive a general report on the progress of efforts to
        develop a
        parcel tax. On Monday (11/24), the Board will vote on an actual parcel tax
        to put on the ballot. If you are interested in having your opinion heard
        about what the revenues for a parcel tax should be used for, the
        nature and
        amount of the tax, and whether we should have one at all, I strongly urge
        you to attend these meetings.

        I am, of course, interested in hearing what you or any parent in the
        district has to say about this. If there is any interest, I'd be more than
        happy to hold "office hours" Thursday night at some place so that you
        or any
        other interested parents can drop in and discuss this issue face-to-face
        with me before I go into the drafting meeting.

        Charley Cowens
        Executive Vice President
        Bayside PTA
      • Marilyn Langlois
        Below is a summary of last Saturday s hearing, which I attended. best regards, Marilyn ... No Child Left Behind? How the Federal NCLB Act impacts local
        Message 3 of 4 , Nov 20, 2003
          Below is a summary of last Saturday's hearing, which I attended.

          best regards,
          No Child Left Behind? How the Federal NCLB Act impacts local schools and

          A Hearing by the Select Committee on Bridging the Achievement Gap
          Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, Chair

          Saturday, Nov. 15, 2003, Stanley Middle School, Lafayette

          Camille Maben of the Calif. Dept. of Ed. gave a brief overview of NCLB as
          it affects California, where, as she put it, "we're still working on
          revising and improving our testing system." She explained API (California's
          academic performance index), AYP (annual yearly progress required under
          NCLB), and AMO (annual measurable objectives used to determine AYP). In
          addition to test scores, graduation rates are theoretically required to
          rise, but at present there is no reliable way to measure this. Schools that
          don't meet AYP two years in a row enter PI (program improvement, a status
          that can eventually lead to re-opening a school as a charter, replacing
          staff, contracting school operation with an external entity, or takeover by
          the state if test scores don't improve enough). The ultimate requirement of
          NCLB is for 100% of students throughout the state to score "proficient" on
          standardized tests in language arts and math by the year 2014. Ms. Maben
          touched briefly on the HQT (high quality teacher) requirement of NCLB, under
          which schools have a couple of years to ensure that all teachers have a
          4-year college degree, are fully certified or licensed, and can demonstrate
          competence in the subject matter they teach. She concluded that one of the
          most important challenges of NCLB is communication, i.e., communicating to
          teachers, parents, students and the general public what this act is all
          about and how important it is.

          There followed a wide array of expert panelists who are all attempting to
          comply with the law, yet every one of them expressed serious reservations
          and concerns.

          Richard Whitmore, Board member of the Acalanes Union High School District,
          emphasized that the US Dept. of Ed. will not waive any part of the NCLB law.
          This is frustrating for California policy-makers, since our state already
          has an accountability system that is similar to but not identical with the
          federal one.

          Terri Jackson, President of the United Teachers of Richmond, affirmed
          teachers' openness to reform and accountability but took exception to the
          top-down, heavy-handed way it is being imposed by NCLB. It is causing many
          teachers to lose the joy of their profession. The HQT provisions create
          unnecessary hoops for experienced teachers. The testing provisions restrict
          the teaching and learning environment with excessive emphasis on scripted
          curriculum and little or no time for the arts, PE, science and social
          science. She quoted Wynton Marsalis' appeal for the expansion of arts
          education: "We don't need smarter students, we need more informed, humane

          Michele Lawrence, Superintendent of the Berkeley Unified School District,
          pointed out that a major addition of resources would be needed to make the
          dream of high academic performance for all students a reality. The HQT
          provisions of NCLB overemphasize teachers' content knowledge while
          neglecting the importance of pedagogical skills. She said we should insist
          on multiple measures of student performance, a component of California's
          accountability law that is being violated.

          Janice Thompson, Principal of Verde Elementary School in North Richmond,
          said that the blessing of this law is that "it forces us to teach to all
          children", but the curse is that the state and federal government is not
          supporting us and following up with the necessary funds. Her school serves
          low-income, predominantly African American students with a history of poor
          achievement. Even though in recent years attendance improved, parents
          became more involved, and a core group of dedicated teachers helped turn the
          school around, she had to send out lay-off notices last spring and
          drastically reduce the number of teacher interns they could hire.

          Beverly Sadler, Curriculum Director of Acalanes Union High School District,
          said NCLB can be used as leverage for success for all students or it can be
          allowed to divert energy for the avoidance of consequences. A big problem
          in high schools is participation rates. If fewer than 95% of students
          overall or in any subgroup take the standardized test (regardless of whether
          parents requested they be exempted), then the school or district does not
          meet AYP. High school students often don't come to school on test days
          because they don't take this one seriously.

          Several students testified that the excessive standardized testing has a
          negative effect on kids, puts students under too much pressure and doesn't
          really reflect their knowledge and skills.

          Kathy Rollins, a classified staff member in WCCUSD Local 1, said low-paid
          paraprofessionals are being asked to do more and more without enough money
          for adequate training.

          John Chocholak, a San Leandro teacher in the CA Industrial Technical
          Education Association, said that because of NCLB and the intense pressure to
          focus on language arts and math, vocational education is slowly being
          eliminated in California. Businesses are upset that students can't take
          shop in high school, and before long, the only place where young people will
          be able to get publicly funded vocational education will be within
          California's largest growth industry: prison.

          Joan Alber, a Special Education teacher, said NCLB is wasteful and unfair to
          special ed students, who already have Individualized Education Plans and a
          variety of unique skills that can't be assessed on a one-size-fits-all
          standardized test.

          Stephen Rhodes, of the High School District Association, noted that 75% of
          high schools in California failed to meet AYP due to low participation, and
          said the participation rate threshold should be lowered.

          Following the invited expert testimony, about thirty audience members got up
          to speak during the public comment period. Without exception, outrage and
          opposition to this legislation was expressed by parents, teachers, teacher
          educators, community members, students, and a member of the AC Transit
          Board. Speakers noted that NCLB is designed to set public schools up to
          fail and pave the way for vouchers and privitization to the detriment of
          low-income students of color, who persistently have less access to high
          quality learning experiences. NCLB does not address the root causes of the
          so-called "achievement gap", which are unjust economic policies and on-going
          institutional racism. The lack of funding and rigidity of the new law were
          criticized. The question was raised whether we want education to be
          designed by politicians and corporations, or by the parents and educators
          and students who have to live with it. And one speaker noted, "if we
          applied this law to medicine, by 2014, no patients would die."

          In the written program, the resources below were listed for further







        • mswilliamson@lbl.gov
          Marilyn, Your summary of Saturday s hearing was excellent. I have one thing to add. The general sentiment by the end of the hearing was that we have too many
          Message 4 of 4 , Nov 20, 2003
            Your summary of Saturday's hearing was excellent. I have one thing to add. The general sentiment by the end of the hearing was that we have too many school performance accountability systems (four) in place in the state of CA and we are testing kids to death to the detriment of authentic teaching and learning. With respect to NCLB, many in the audience and on the panel agreed that the act should be repealed and we should start over. George W. and McGraw Hill (Reading First Program) be damned. I would highly recommend that people attend Loni Hancock's education hearings in the future. It is a wonderful learning experience for all participants.
            Thanks again, Marilyn, for the very comprehensive summary.
            Marsha Williamson

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