Priorities for the New School Year

The 2014-15 school year has just begun and rapid change is the new constant. The mantra of "wait a few years and the pendulum will swing back" no longer holds true. Change is occurring at a speed that was impossible to imagine just five years ago. And there is no going back.

Today there is too much corporate interest in the results of public education for our schools to languish in the status quo. Rumblings throughout public education will keep school board members, union leaders, superintendents and teachers all on their proverbial toes for years to come. It will require enormous political will and foresight to avoid pitfalls.

The national change agenda had many of its roots in the Race To The Top initiative engineered by the U.S. Department of Education in the first term of President Obama's administration. In Sacramento, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and its assessment system, titled the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), are two legislative pieces crafted by Gov. Jerry Brown that must be artfully implemented.

I have compiled a list of the top 10 issues that will determine if we accomplish our mission. For me, that mission is a high quality education for each and every one of America's children. (The list is not in any particular order since the role one has changes priorities.)

  • Increase funding for public education, from kindergarten through college. By 2018, all of the temporary taxes collected by Proposition 30 will sunset. Prop. 30, passed in 2012, did not help CSUs or UCs and only got state school districts to their 2007 level of funding. In the next several years school districts will need to place a larger percentage of their general fund dollars into the State Teacher Retirement System to make it balanced.
  • Fund universal access for high quality early learning programs for all 3 and 4 year olds.
  • Successfully implement Common Core and Smarter Balance assessments.
  • Reform teacher evaluation systems that allow for innovative instructional models, not just standardized teacher evaluation systems. Install evaluations that lead to a pay-for-performance model, where some teachers can earn up to $150,000 for a full year of work.
  • Thoughtfully plan, collaborate and share best practices that lead us closer to more high-quality charter schools and traditional public schools/districts. The traditional public model cannot get to the destination without help from others with similar goals.
  • If NEA/CTA and AFT/CFT teachers are successful in unionizing, the whole paradigm could shift. Thus far, charter school teachers have shown little interest in organizing.
  • Redefine tenure laws through the courts or legislature.
  • Refine digital learning in blended learning environments.
  • Groom school and district leaders who can successfully navigate the treacherous waters of the changing educational landscape.
  • End the contentious partisanship of the times.

In order to effectively carry out these priorities, elected officials, professional educators and union leaders must come together. Doing so will produce great schools and learning experiences for all.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

2 Comments

  1. Hey Disalvo- you have been in education for many years and on the BOE. Should you not look in the mirror and call yourself a failure? You are giving Obama and Brown the credit? It is private business, as usual, driving this change……not you.

  2. If schools pay for teacher performance, who will work in a Title 1 school that is in Program Improvement because test scores are so low? How can you honestly make a teacher responsible for doing a parent’s job? One can lead a horse to water, but cannot make it drink. That is the same in Education. Too many schoolchildren enter our public schools with deficits in vocabulary and math. Students are promoted to the next grade even if they don’t master the previous year’s standards, and truancy is high. Then, teachers are expected to raise students’ test scores by as much as 4 years. It is pitiful that too many of my students cannot multiply by 6th grade, and that is not the teachers’ fault!