California’s Education Time Bomb

Sometimes I feel I am living in the Twilight Zone. Is it strictly science fiction to think the common school curriculum supported by leaders in education, business and labor will help raise student achievement across the grades? Perhaps yes.

I know many people, including many regular SJI commenters, blame teachers’ unions and parents for the crisis. But while we are pointing fingers, other countries are out-educating us—as Pres. Obama continues to remind us. I think we need to end the blame game and get on with some serious solutions. The momentum behind the “common content standards” moves us in the right direction.

We must remember the starting point. Education, kindergarten through college, makes-up 50-plus percent of this state’s budget. Irrespective of the racial achievement gap or high school drop-out rate, we are spending a huge amount of money in our community colleges on remedial classes for those students who do graduate from our high schools. (Play Twilight Zone’s theme music here.) Dollars we can put to better use for sure.

One local community college trustee recently told me more than 50 percent of students that graduated from our high schools and passed the California High School Exist Exam need one or more years of remediation in English and Math. That is before they can enroll in the courses they need to transfer to the CSU or UC systems. So we are subsidizing the third and fourth year for students in community colleges that were designed as a two-year program.

The common-standards effort began as a high-priority initiative of the National Governor’s Association in 2009. For years a federal effort at developing a common set of curriculum standards was anathema to the American tradition—the notion that local control of what is taught is infinitely better. Through vision and perseverance the effort has won out and we now stand at its threshold.

A recently released statement from the Albert Shanker Institute, a research arm of the American Federation of Teachers, says, “We, the undersigned, representing viewpoints from across the political and educational spectrum believe that whether children live in Mississippi or Minnesota, Berkeley or the Bronx, our expectations for their achievement should be equally high.”

According to Complete College America (completecollege.org) 60 percent of jobs in California by the end of this decade will require at least a two year post high school certificate or degree.  According to their data, if you take 100 high school students who begin 9th grade today, only 66 will graduate. Of those 66 who graduate, 18 will begin a two-year program in a community college, but only five will graduate in three years.

Today, only 36 percent of American adults between 25-34 have at least a two-year college degree. The fuse on this time bomb continues to get us closer to educational Armageddon. Is anybody out there?

It is interesting to note our local community colleges and their current graduation rates. The good news is Silicon Valley has the top two community college graduation rates in three years in all of California, with Foothill and De Anza at 46 percent. The bad news, reported by the Mercury News in an editorial on Feb. 25, is that with the governor’s proposed $400 million cut to the community college system, as many as 350,000 students will be turned away this next year. As a society we cannot afford this cut…the fuse gets shorter.

If we did not have to remediate such a high percentage of community college students, we would be able to afford to serve more in this critical pathway to careers and four-year colleges. For the record, the other Silicon Vallay community college three-year graduation rates are (in order): Ohlone at 29 percent, College of San Mateo at 27 percent, West Valley at 24 percent Mission at 21 percent, San Jose City at 20 percent, Evergreen at 19 percent, and Gavilan at 19 percent.

Note: The time bomb referred to in this post is not science fiction.

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.

56 Comments

  1. What I worry about is after we demonize teachers and cut their pay and benefits where will our future teachers come from?  As I understand it, schools require a BA or MA for their teachers. Considering what changes are being talked about, will compensation be enough to attract qualified teachers or will they choose to get degrees in other fields?  I agree that something has to change but cutting benefits and demonizing doesn’t seem to help the situation in my opinion.

  2. Its not the teachers benefits thats costing california! Its how the school districts spend their money. Adult Ed is a complete waste of Money. They had their chance for a free education but decided to be lazy and or get into trouble getting kicked out of school.  The special Education program is the biggest scam. When a lazy student refuses to do the work or gets into so much trouble causing him or her to fall behind, the district lables them as a “special Ed” student giving them costly special treatment. The “special Ed” student continues to blow off with their bad and lazy behavior. Eliminate the Special Ed program because its costing school districts millions !!!! Eliminate the english second language courses (known as ESL)and audit the free lunch program and confirm that only the true poor are getting free lunches and not students who’s parents are too lazy to make their child a lunch!

    • I can’t imagine where you get your information from…(honestly I’d love to know)  Special Education is not full of kids who are lazy or have bad behavior.  It’s full of children, like my good friend’s daughter who are severely bi-polar, or have other needs that necessitate educational modifications.  These are not lazy kids, but children who can not function full-time in a “regular” classroom.  When I was in elementary school, I spent part of my time volunteering in a special ed. class.  The range of abilities and needs was enormous.  Are you suggesting that children with severe cerebral palsy, down’s syndrome, or autism be placed in a classroom that will only offer them opportunities for failure?  I’m certainly not saying that all children with these disorders need a special ed. classroom, but some do.  Many of these disorders are spectrum, meaning there is a wide range in severity.  I know a young girl in third grade who has Down’s Syndrome that is mild, and she has always been successful in a mainstream classroom environment.  ESL is another issue on which I disagree.  There are children who enter Kindergarten without learning English.  For those children to be successful contributors to society they need help to learn English.  These children aren’t lazy, they just haven’t had the opportunity to learn yet.  By depriving them of the ability to be successful, we are failing them as a society.  I think we can all agree that the goal is to help children become productive members of society.  I think to do that we have to give children a chance at success.  Helping kids who need it most, is not wasting money, but investing in our society’s future.  Before placing blame, I advise you to go visit and volunteer in a special ed. or ESL classroom.

      • I agree with Jennifer W. Why don’t you Bugsy go volunteer in a special ed. class to see if it’s full of lazy students or students who “get into trouble getting kicked out of school”? Also, the fact that some parents “are too lazy to make their child a lunch” does not necessarily result in the kid getting free lunch from the school. Wake up!

  3. > I think we need to end the blame game and get on with some serious solutions.

    “Blame” is just an unvarnished word for “responsibiity”.

    If you “end the blame game”, you end accountability.

    “Blame” and accountability are two sides of the same coin.

    • I think we need to end the blame game and get on with some serious solutions.

      I agree with this statement.  Education is in crisis for many different reasons.  We must all face reality, learn from our mistakes, and work together to improve education.

      • > I think we need to end the blame game and get on with some serious solutions.

        So, Nancy, if you’re going “to end the blame game” and not “blame” anyone for the problem, what problems are you going to solve with your “serious solutions”?

        No, we don’t need to “end the blame game”; we need to end the “empty, feel-good rhetoric game”.

        • i agree with Nancy.  We do need to end the blame game and find some solutions to fix our problems in the education system.  If we just blame everyone for the problems what good is that going to do anyone?

        • I disagree with Mika Y.

          I disagree with Nancy.

          Teachers unions have been saying “end the blame game” since day one.

          I say: “Begin the responsibility and accountability game.”

          Only, it’s not a game, it’s for real, and teachers unions have been playing games with politicians and the public forever.

          “We teachers have had to buy pencils and paper for our students.  Wa-ah! Wa-ah! Wa-ah!”

          “The taxpayers are cheap! Wa-ah! Wa-ah! Wa-ah!”

          “We are underpaid and overworked. Wa-ah! Wa-ah! Wa-ah!”

        • What do you mean by “Wa-ah! Wa-ah! Wa-ah?” ???????  I agree with these teacher complaints.  I find it ridiculous that teachers need to dip into their own pockets and/or beg for parent support just to have enough paper and pencils for the students in their classrooms.  I also agree that teachers are “underpaid and overworked.”  Teaching is a HARD profession and teachers are not fairly paid for all that they do, especially when teachers are forced to use their own money to buy classroom supplies.  Thank goodness there are people who care so much about children and thank goodness teaching is a rewarding career because, if not, who would ever teach for such little money in return?  Teachers have a right to stand up and complain.  Yes, maybe they shouldn’t cry about it, but there are so many teachers taking steps to do something about it.  Teachers can rightfully “Wa-ah! Wa-ah! Wa-ah!” as far as I’m concerned until something changes for the better.

    • You contradict yourself! Teachable Moment: If “blame” and “accountability” are two sides of the same coin, when we “end the blame game”, we flip to accountability.

  4. I find it ironic that the money being cut from community colleges is being slashed with the justification that k-12 schools are not getting the brunt of the cuts.  These schools are leaving students so underqualified that they must go to community colleges and take remedial math classes… which are now being cut.

    Clearly there is a bottom-up problem with the educational program in this country, and it appears things are going to get worse before they get better.

    Having attended Foothill, I know that it is a good school which would struggle, flounder even, with the budget cuts being proposed.

    What confuses me, is why we aren’t trying to encourage more students to attend colleges.  If we had greater numbers of students, wouldn’t we be making more money for our schools?

    Regardless, while we may be closing the budget gap in this state, we are opening ourselves up for an educational gap which may be nearly impossible to close if we continue on this trajectory.

    • I agree with you on your comment about budget cuts. It is always alarming how much money is cut every year from education and what is even more alarming is how they justify the cuts. Great point about educational gap as well; if we don’t provide opportunities to obtain a higher education, how are we expecting students to fill jobs that require it?

  5. Perhaps we should reevaluate the classroom model that has been the educational standard since the turn of the 20th century? Society has changed significantly in the past 100 years, but we still use the same basic method of educating our children.

  6. We are looking at symptoms of the problem, rather than the problem itself. California, at one time, had the finest K-16 public education system in the world. Today, we are attacking public education at all levels – publishing value-added test scores of elementary school teachers although debate about this method is far from settled, laying of thousands of k-12 teachers each year leading to an increase in class size, cutting funding to community colleges, raising fees at our universities. One thing connects all of these – money, or more precisely, a lack of it. If California is going to compete on a global stage, we are going to have to accept the fact that education is a sound but expensive investment. This means changes to our tax code.

  7. Give parents school vouchers. 
    Education providers compete to attract those vouchers.
    Education providers compete to attract the best teachers.

    Winning!
    …unless you’re a teacher union or educrat.

  8. With the state spending 50 % of it’s budget on education , it open’s the door for cuts . During the last decade we have seen spending on education rise because of the need to meet (the needs of a growing population of English learners ). At the same time spending for other departments has gone down , with the exception of the Department of Corrections .
    The time bomb is how school districts spend their money , teacher’s who work at local school districts have bemoaned how money is spent by the school administrators with particular attention to the costly waste in Text books . Following the dotted line to Universities and Collages   in California there is a ‘great’ divide . K-12 received more in money , while Collage students were left out of an education with cut programs and high tuition fees .

    I agree with Joe , it’s a twilight zone . If we want to just solve the problem we must extend higher education for free for all.

  9. As a product of the community college system in CA, I know how important they can be as a transition stage following high school. I had to take a handful of classes before I was ready to transfer to a state college, even though I graduated high school. While community colleges are left with the cleanup of the undereducated students from our education system, it’s clear we are not doing something right. I feel we have too many standards and not enough time to teach them. As I have mentioned before, many teachers are forced to rush through curriculum and keep up with their pacing guide. When students fail to learn or learn very little, they review the curriculum through the same ineffective methods the following year. While I am for national standards, we need to make sure we set them up in a manner that gives teachers the adequate amount of time needed to teach them within a school year. That means including time for re-teaching! If not we are only setting up teachers to fail, which means they set up their students to fail. In the end nobody wins!

    • I too am a product of the community college system in CA and am very grateful for it.  It was a nice transition before I went off to a four year, and it helped save me and my family money. 
      I agree with what Tony said about standards.  We are so busy teaching students about standards, and making sure that we get through all of them that i feel like teachers,not all but some if not most, don’t take the time to make sure students are fully comprehending the lessons.  How is this going to help our future generations in the real world if they can only remember it for a short period of time?  It is a lose lose situation.  The students aren’t able to learn curriculum so that they understand the concepts, and teachers get criticized for not doing their jobs. How does this help our education system?  It doesn’t.

      • I also graduated from a local community college and found it very beneficial. It was a good transition and a money-saver, however I do not know a classmate who didn’t have to take at least one remedial course. It took me 3 years to graduate with a change of major and a remedial course. I still know old classmates who are still struggling to get through to a university and now with budget cuts are very worried. A good teacher can make all the difference wether its in kindergarten or a university professor. Budget cuts are everywhere, we can’t escape them completely. What we can do is lend a helping hand; thank that teacher that helped you conquer a fear, visit your old community college and share your success or struggle story. Be an advocate for higher education. Even if there are issues in the education system, its still worth all the stress and money to push through and get that degree.

    • I completely agree that teachers have so many standards to teach in a limited amount of time that the students do not develop an in-depth understanding of the subject matter.  This affects their future progress as they do not have as much of a knowledgeable background. If the students do not really understand the basic content in elementary and middles school, once they get into high school and are learning new concepts and new subjects, they will have even greater difficulty comprehending the new subject if they don’t even fully understand the basics.  Without a strong foundation of background knowledge, the students are going to continue remediating and playing catch-up in high school and community college.  It is a mixture of many problems, some of them being teaching the standards in a limited amount of time, high stakes testing, and budget cuts throughout education. Obviously, many problems need to be addressed before things can improve.

  10. Time bomb for who?  Maybe the students but I get the sense large businesses no longer care about students in California or anywhere in particular.  Global businesses can now recruit the best and the brightest from anywhere in the world.  If California is not doing a good job educating its children, places like India and China will pick up the slack.

    Big money special interests dominate the agenda in Sacramento.  The concerns of middle and lower class parents who want the best for their children in a dying school system get very little attention from our state leaders.

    • > Big money special interests dominate the agenda in Sacramento.

      > . . . places like India and China will pick up the slack.

      So, how come the big money special interests in India and China don’t behave like the big money special interests in California?

      • They do. The difference is the level of money. Just ask your credit card customer service phone person whose in India or the Philippines. They make very little compared to the Americans who used to fill those jobs ($2, $5, maybe $10 a day). Notice that they rarely use their real names, using American psuedonems so American customers feel “comfortable.”

        Big business makes big bucks outsourcing jobs. As a result, vocational jobs, those that don’t require college degrees, have become even more scarce. BB then doesn’t have to pay our minimum wages, benefits, workers comp, sick pay, nor do they have to ensure safe work environments, eight hour work days, 40 hour work weeks, overtime, or breaks during the work day.

        In fact, many American have to play nice in the US. They outsource to foreign companies for plausible deniability, and together US and International companies make billions.

        • So, who do you WANT to “care about the students in California”?

          Politicians?

          Bureaucrats?

          Teachers unions?

          Child care professionals?

          Parents? Oh, wait.  Everyone knows that parents are ignorant, uneducated, and incompetent.  You could NEVER trust PARENTS to “care about the students in California”.  They would screw it up.

          We need PROFESSIONALS to screw it up.

  11. I agree with the comments about the educational gap getting wider with budget cuts.  It’s terrible to think that 350,000 students will be turned away from community colleges with the current proposed budget cuts.  I know we’re in tough times, but we don’t want them to get tougher, do we?  Education is too vital to keep limiting who can get a higher education.  The result will be a shrinking middle class, which will be devastating for our country.

    • I agree with you, the educational gap is increasing due to budget cuts. Is this the objective of budget cuts? It is so sad to see that the educational gap will continue to increase. Also, making it tougher will defenetly increase the working class which like you mention it will be devastating since jobs opportunities will be minimized due to lack of education.

  12. The root source of this problem is the fact that public schools are graduating people who do not have the basic skills required to enter college.

    Mr. DiSalvo referred to the “local community college trustee recently told me more than 50 percent of students that graduated from our high schools and passed the California High School Exist Exam need one or more years of remediation in English and Math.”  In that sentence there, he identified the both the source of the problem, as well as the solution.

    The solution is simple – do not give high school graduation certificates to people who need remediation in the basic subjects.  For the colleges, they should not admit any students until they demonstrate that they do not need remediation in the basic subjects.

    Eventually, those individuals will take their own personal responsibility to get themselves college-eligible – AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE – or they will enjoy their careers at Burger King.

    Citizens are guaranteed K through 12 education paid for by the Guvmint.  I fail to see the need to pay for anyone’s remediation after that time.

  13. @SierraSpartan

    Your ideas assume a level playing field. This sort of zero sum gain tack on education would b perfectly fine if all schools in California were created equal, that is, if there were equal opportunity in our ed system.

    The facts are that we do not have an equal education system. We have a many tiered system. Those who attend the poorest performing schools are graduating unprepared for college matriculation not necessarily because they are uninterested in school or their own personal development and quite often because the school itself has no provided adequate opportunity for students to acquire the skills they will need. With the last round of k-12 teacher layoffs, some high school chemistry classes have swollen into the forties. Imagine trying to learn chemistry in a classroom built for 30. How can the class possibly conduct experiments somethin de riguer in higher performing schools cross town?

    Though it saddens me to see blame heaped on teachers, at least this is better than placing blame on students in these increasingly difficult learnin environs. But this is all besides he point …

    The bottom line is that our public education system is underfunded. Yes, it may be the most significant piece of our state budget. But at the end of the day, education is the most important factor in our state’s sustained economic prosperity.

    • @Joshua –

      Sorry, Joshua, but ultimately the blame for educational failures lies on the individual receiving the service (the student), and not on the people who pay to provide the service (the taxpayer), nor on the people who are paid to provide that service (the teachers). 

      We, all of us, know that a proper education is the way out of poverty.  And so, at some considerable largesse, the taxpayers provide to every child in the state of California, free of charge, a paid-in-full service contract consisting of 13 years of free education, worth anywhere from $65K to $125K in total money spent (depending on the district), and in some cases more when you factor in lunch and breakfast programs, after-school care, and whatnot. 

      It needs to be made clear to everyone in this state that those who choose not to take advantage of this largesse provided by the taxpayers should not expect to be able to continue to avail themselves of that taxpayer largesse (via remedial courses in community colleges), nor should they expect the taxpayers to continue to pay for them to continue to fail in the schools year-in, year-out.

      Getting to basic proficiency in math and English is not that difficult.  Those who do not take advantage of what is given to them (again, completely free of charge) by the taxpayers deserve their fate, and perhaps a couple of years of people experiencing that fate will help to shock those students in the “difficult learnin environs” that it is up to them, as students, to be proactive in figuring out what they need to do in order to advance in this world. 

      TANSTAAFL.

  14. @SierraSpartan

    I’m not interested in debating principles or ideal situations. I have extensive experience teaching mathematics in inner city schools and currently train student teachers to work in these schools. I have encountered many, MANY students who have gone an entire school year (sometimes more than one) with either a series of substitute teachers or a single long term substitute (lacking propaer credentials) rather than a fully credentialed and qualified mathematics teacher.

    If this were an isolated case, I might be prepared to debate the principle of individual responsibility. In practice, our students are being failed by a system that is putting un(der)qualified adults in charge of their classrooms. This is not an isolated case, I have not been to a single inner city school that did not have at least one long term substitute on contract.

    At the end of the day, I would hardly call public education a free lunch. I would call it a baseline expectation for a society that hopes to compete on a global stage. Perhaps we don’t actually disagree. You have a problem with remedial courses at community colleges. I have a problem with a system that is failing to do what it purports to do (thus necessitating remedial classes).  The way to solve this problem is fix the k-12 system. This requires more (yes, MORE) money,  more money invested in the training of high quality teachers, more money to attract top talent to the profession in the first place.

    Unfortunately, ss long as we continue to defund public education, we will have a banana republic public school system. The greatest travesty is that in the eyes of many this provides fuel to the ongoing arguments for defunding.

  15. Many people who responded to Joe’s blog this week made excellent points. I agree that our public school is system is failing to prepare students for college, be it a junior college or a 4yr university. However, I feel that the foundation for academic success lies in the elementary grades. It is here that children learn the basic skills, reading, writing, and the foundations of mathematics. There is vast amounts of research that support the theory that children who have a strong foundation in literacy and math skills perform better in the upper grades. Grades K-2 is focused on teaching students to read i.e. phonics, phonemic awareness, writing skills etc. It is vital that all educators in these grades use research based, best practices to teach children to read. If we were to adopt a national set of standards, as Joe suggested, they would need to be well thought out, well supported and rooted in best teaching practices. The same is true for mathematics. Students need to understand the basic, underlying math concepts before they can move on to more advanced material. If they do not understand the concept of addition and have simply memorized rote addition facts they will never intuitively understand math and will most likely struggle throughout their academic career.

    It is incredibly disturbing that Governor Brown intends to cut $400 million dollars from the community colleges. I am product of the community college system. I chose to go to my local community college right out of high school rather than to San Diego State despite being accepted there. I chose community college because I honestly felt that my high school might not have prepared me for college level academics. Also, I had no idea what I wanted to study in college so I decided to save the money and go to Cabrillo so I could figure it out. Although I did not find the majority of my classes at Cabrillo challenging I did gain a basic understanding of how to manage the work load of 12 unit semester. Junior colleges are essential to helping students navigate the transition from high school level work to college level work. They are often the only option for those that cannot afford four years at a university. Individuals like my husband depend of schools like De Anza because they offer the programs that interest him i.e. automotive technology, at a reasonable price. We simply could not afford for both of us to attend a university.

    Education should be valued throughout the lifespan. It is important to find a way to support education from Kindergarten-college. We all know our schools are in trouble and that our students continue to do poorly academically. There are lots of reasons why students are doing poorly and lots of individuals and groups to blame for their decline;however, it is more important to figure out how to fix the problem rather than to keep continously assigning blame.

  16. As I’ve seen on some posts here, I’ve also attended a community college before transferring to a 4 year, and even though I spent more time there than I wanted to, I’m glad I spend more time there then a 4 year. It straighten things out for me in the long run and it saved a TON of money on tuition. As far as “straightening things out for me”, it was definitely necessary for me at least, as far as the HS to college transition. To think that there will be cuts for these colleges I can’t say surprises me, but definitely makes me question the current education system. Some kids fresh out of high school NEED to go to a community college, and no matter what the reason is, we’re taking that opportunity away from them. It’s just not fair that that age group (mostly right after high school) is getting the cut because it’s kind of a make it or break it phase for their college career. I don’t get it, we encourage the heck out of high schoolers to attend college, then they get turned away- I just don’t get it!!!

  17. We were just talking about this topic on Tuesday in my Science methods class! It only makes sense to have the same content standards across the United States.  By doing this, there will be a greater academic standard throughout the country for students in grades K-college.

    • I agree. With state to state standards of academic learning it is hard to compare students with one another because of the set of requirements that is geared towards each U.S. region.

  18. I think that the U.S. tries to teach too many standards, half which only get lightly brushed upon because of the limited time in a school day/week/year. Instead of this, I think it would be more efficient and more successful long-term, if the number of standards is decreased and the depth to which each standard is studied is increased.  You can see a similar system in the country’s that are out-educating us.  Less standards, covered to a deeper level of understanding would benefit the students, the teachers, and the nation as a whole.  This could very likely increase graduation rates at all levels, leading to a more educated, productive nation.

    • Jamie,

      I totally agree. Teachers working together can create “power” standards to focus their teaching and learning. Test designers will create questions which usually match the standards the critical mass of teachers have focused their work on.

  19. I agree with several comments above about the importance of community colleges.  There are a lot of students that just aren’t ready to go to a traditional 4 year college right out of high school.  I started my college career going to a UC. I realized very quickly that I definitely was not ready for that and returned to a community college.  This quote, “with the governor’s proposed $400 million cut to the community college system, as many as 350,000 students will be turned away this next year.” scares me.  What do they expect to do with all of these students that need a transition between high school and college?

  20. I beleive that 2 year colleges are a great way for students to get started on their college degrees without worrying about the high cost of tuition or college entrance exams.  Students are able to continue their education and will have more opportunities in their future.
    I find it interesting that everyone speaks of the importance of education; in fact Obama said “We have an obligation and a responsibility to be investing in our students and our schools. We must make sure that people who have the grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible.”  This seems simple enough.  Yet we still struggle to keep our teachers, professors, schools & colleges running at high standards.  If children are our future, why is there such a struggle to support them?  If it is clear that we need to invest in education, why are we still reducing its funding?

  21. Someone please clarify this for me:

    Schools have standards and they give tests. Students have to pass those standards and take those tests. So far, all i have heard is that teacher stress so much about the standards and the tests because they need to provide results. How then, is it possible that students are being graduated from high school and not being qualified for college, when there is so much importance put into the tests and scores? Is it because people don’t want to be responsible for the student for another year and they just want to “get rid” of that student? Are teachers so tired of working with students that have a hard time succeeding that they just pass them so that it’s not their problem any more? What’s the problem?

    • Jonathan,

      I think you have a valid question.
      ” How then, is it possible that students are being graduated from high school and not being qualified for college, when there is so much importance put into the tests and scores”

      This clearly raises a concern about the current education system. Even after students pass the California High School exit exam, they are still not prepared for college level courses.I am guessing it’s either the curriculum that is taught or it is the issue of “teaching to tests” that fails to provide students a strong foundation to be ready for college level courses.

  22. Sometimes I think there’s too much importance on teachers meeting the state standards and not teaching the students’ the essential material for math and english. The focus is taken away from teaching as the test are more important than teaching students life skills and getting them ready for post-high school and pre-college. It’s a different environment. I feel that in High School, teachers baby their students too much, they hold their hand and tell them what they need to do to pass the class. When the student goes to a 4-year university, the professor doesn’t hold the hand of the student, the student job is to go to school and complete the assignments on time. There’s a big difference and its a disadvantage for the students’ also cause they aren’t prepare and their English and Math skills are sub-par to other countries. What can be done to have a better transition from high school to college?

  23. Education should be highly valued and unfortunately it always seems to be the first thing to get cut. i don’t understand it.  While the state is taking away more money from the schools dropout rates are increasing. According to the organization, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, “The dropout crisis not only threatens public safety, it also damages California’s economy. Dropouts tend to earn less, pay fewer taxes and are more likely to collect welfare and turn to crime. For each year’s worth of dropouts, California suffers billions of dollars in economic losses over time, including 12 billion in crime costs alone.” This is crazy. We need to stop taking money away from the schools.

    • > This is crazy. We need to stop taking money away from the schools.

      OK.  Let’s just take money away from YOU and give it to schools.

      I’m sure you’re willing to do your part, and every little bit helps.

      And the schools will spend your money more wisely than you will.

    • Rebecca, I agree with you. The education cuts do much more harm than good—it’s mind boggling that we continue to take away money from our schools despite the severe damage it is doing to our state.

      • > it’s mind boggling that we continue to take away money from our schools despite the severe damage it is doing to our state.

        Taking money away from consumers does damage to our state.

        Taking money away from businesses does damage to our state.

        There is NOTHING SPECIAL about education that makes it MORE DESERVING than anyone else of “the states money”.

  24. I agree with Di Salvo that it is time to stop the blame game and start working together to help improve our children’s education. We are one of the richest country in the world, but our children are getting behind in their education. Once again I am saying that we as a society need to put our children first and their future. As other countries are getting their children ready for the future, we Americans are too involved with trivial things that really do not matter in the long run. It is time to wake up and get involved. Most of us are too comfortable with our way of life and we do not think about the consequences of our choices. Everyone has to come together and demand the highest quality education for our children because without that we live it up to politicians who really have no clue to go about it. I say leave to educators who knows first hand what it means to educate children. Through out history politicians have tried to “improve education” and there are some who have made a difference but overall politicians have made more damage than improvement.

  25. “According to Complete College America (completecollege.org) 60 percent of jobs in California by the end of this decade will require at least a two year post high school certificate or degree.  According to their data, if you take 100 high school students who begin 9th grade today, only 66 will graduate. Of those 66 who graduate, 18 will begin a two-year program in a community college, but only five will graduate in three years.” It is sad to hear that such a low percentage of students graduate high school. I do not know if there is one solution to this problem, but I do feel that the students who drop out have been unable to connect what they learn in school to real life scenarios. I believe it is important for teachers to try to find ways to help the students make these connections.

  26. My generation is realizing more than ever the importance of a bachelors or associates degree. I have several friends that did not go to college and now 10 years later, they have to go back in order to move up or towards a new career. How we get our students to understand the importance of a college education is beyond me.

    • I definitely agree with your comments. In previous generations, it was possible to have a successful career with only a high school diploma. But now, it is challenging to find a well paying, successful job without having a bachelor’s degree, masters, or a even credential. It is very important that young children learn this early and WANT to go to college for the sake of their careers and adult lives. The earlier they realize how important college is, the sooner their parents can start saving for their college education.

  27. I totally agree with Teachable Moment.
    I totally disagree with Joseph DiSalvo.
    I totally disagree that disagreeably disagreeing amounts to nothing more than unconstructive blaming.
    I totally disagree with the agreeable agreeability of all of DiSalvo’s disciples, er, students.

    There. Does this mean I get an ‘A’ in this class?

  28. The problem with students who graduate from high school needing remedial classes before being able to take transferable classes could be resolved if intervention were started earlier.  If students were given the tools and assistance they need to succeed at an early age when issues first arise we might begin to see achievement improve.  The other thing that needs to happen is students in every grade level from need to be excited about learning.  As thing stand right now learning in many schools is not fun as it is mostly teach to the test.  With this form of teaching beginning in elementary school students are bored with it by high school.  Learning should be an adventure that students look forward to everyday.  If schools focused more on making learning an adventure the time bomb might slowly disappear.

  29. Many have mentioned the problem with too many standards and not enough time to cover them all. In the school I am teaching at, the teachers are struggling to keep up the pace of the standards meanwhile many of the students are falling behind with only a surface level understanding of much of the content. Much of this had to do the testing that is in place and the pressure to have a certain number of students reach “proficient”. It is sad to see. There must be change in this if our students are going to have a better foundation for their future education. Much of the knowledge they learn in the elementary years builds upon itself in later years and at the rate we are going, we are building on a very cracked foundation.

  30. I am a junior college transfer and i’ve seen what has been discussed first hand. The majority of students start community colleges in remedial math and english. I know people who have been to state colleges; left and enrolled in community colleges and are still in remedial math classes, this is three years into college. I believe there should be a push for getting student SERIOUS about their education in highschool. My experience is that students who go to community colleges don’t get serious about their academics until they get to their community colleges. Students aren’t necessarily inadequate they just aren’t focused in highschool. How can we change that???

  31. Joseph,

    Thank you for writing about the issue of Community Colleges and remediation.  As a local CC trustee, I know there is a disconnect between the average resident’s expectation of Community Colleges and the realities the institutions face.

    1) A “two-year” degree is not a degree one receives after two calendar years.  Rather, it’s a degree awarded after the equivalent of two Full-Time Enrollment years of college level courses.  Degrees are awarded based on number and types of college level units earned, not number of days enrolled.  I believe most Californians want Community Colleges to maintain high standards for the awarding of degrees.

    2) The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) serves a purpose in that California expects its high school graduates to have at least a 10th grade understanding of basic math and english.  But the CAHSEE is not a test of having a 12th grade understanding of math and english.  And, though it’s not intuitive, a high school diploma never, ever, ever, ever in 500 plus years of North American settlement has required a 12th grade level of proficiency in math and english.  In Europe and elsewhere, different cultures offer different completion diplomas, based on the type of education received.  In the US however, we have not seriously addressed the gap that can exist between the standards necessary to receive a high school diploma and the standards necessary to enter freshman college math or freshman college english.

    3)  If a student completes the requirements for a high school diploma with commendable marks, but the courses completed do not prepare a student to begin first-year college work, which (if any) layers of government should provide the post-high-school coursework to get a student to the level of college readiness?  Public high school districts?  Municipal (city govt funded) adult education courses?  Community College districts?  In practicality, Community Colleges provide almost all these courses currently.  Some say high school diploma holders who aren’t ready for first-year college work should be responsible to prepare themselves without government assistance to meet entry-level college standards, since they effectively made choices during high school not to complete the A-G requirements.  Should 9th grade students be required upon entrance to high school to have parents sign off on the course path each student will choose?  Some could choose a college prep track and be ready to earn college credits after earning a high school diploma. Others could choose to graduate high school with few college prep courses, but they would know and declare early that they would need more training after high school if they want to enter college.  Or we can continue to ask all Community Colleges to make up the slack created by students who didn’t push themselves appropriately in high school.

    4) I graduated from Santa Clara University some years back.  I assert that plenty of SCU grads and plenty of Stanford grads and plenty of UC Berkeley grads and plenty of SJSU grads did not complete Calculus.  So a Bachelor’s Degree (or even a Master’s Degree) from a wide range of universities does not signify that a student has demonstrated success in college-level calculus.  These degree holders may or may not have passed a first level statistics course.  They may or may not have ever passed an economics course.

    5) So, realistically, a large percentage of today’s teachers (both in public and private schools) never have demonstrated success in college-level math, yet they are teaching math to today’s children.  One can earn a Master’s Degree in Education and a teaching credential and an administrative credential without demonstrating proficiency in what most people would categorize as college-level mathematics.  Do we have confidence that non math-educated teachers or administrators can discern what is or is not appropriate mathematics pedagogy?  Is this the year to begin implementing new standards for elementary teachers?  Or is the current process working fine?

    6) My side comment…. I’m concerned at how many teachers have math phobia and/or express math phobia.  I am more concerned, however, that our culture is math phobic and even hostile towards students/adults who achieve math proficiency.  This math anger may stem from math frustration or it may stem from the reality that the supermajority of teachers (and other adults) aren’t math confident.

    7) Bringing it back to Community Colleges, a CC degree today requires higher standards than in past decades.  These more stringent requirements do enhance the reputation of an Associate’s Degree.  But for CCs to thrive in coming decades, our local colleges need more support.  If not through money, then colleges could welcome relief from state requirements to teach every non-college-ready student regardless of readiness level.  Under today’s economic struggles, how can our CCs provide remediation, career technical education (CDE) and sufficient transfer courses?

    I welcome feedback on the ideas/perspectives shared above.  All our voices matter.

    – Chris Stampolis
    Trustee, West Valley/Mission Community College District
    Member, State Board, California Community College Trustees (CCCT)

  32. I was definitely not aware that education through college made up 50 percent or more of the state budget.  Common standards can definitely make a difference for students and their preparedness in college and beyond but it is still the responsibility of teachers to implement what the state and districts desire.  It is sad to say but the weakest link are the teachers themselves.