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State board approves new national education standards

Education

At a special meeting Monday, the state board of education unanimously adopted common national academic standards. These standards are to provide the basis for future instruction in the state.

The common-standards initiative has been pushed by the Obama administration, but executed through a voluntary national effort in which nearly all states are participating.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger applauded the vote, praising the state board for maintaining “California’s high expectations and our belief that every student is capable of success in the classroom.”

The standards are to ultimately supplant California’s current academic framework, which is widely viewed as among the best in the nation, although the same cannot be said of the results in the classroom.

A state commission supplemented the national standards with elements of the existing state plan as well as with updated approaches.

In Massachusetts, another state with high standards, the national plan became controversial, although it was finally approved. In California, there’s been vigorous debate, but most opposition had faded by Monday's vote.

Two commissioners on the state’s standards review committee said they opposed the national framework out of concern that the approach to math, and especially algebra, instruction could water down California’s efforts.

Other speakers at the meeting supported the national standards but said more work is needed to make the plan effective for students learning English.

The common standards were endorsed by the Los Angeles Unified School District and the L.A. teachers union. The state meeting, held in Sacramento, marked perhaps the first official appearance of new L.A. Unified Deputy Supt. John Deasy, who started work for the district on Monday. Deasy is considered a possible successor to L.A. schools chief Ramon C. Cortines, who plans to retire next year.

The vote enhances the state’s chances in its bid for federal school reform dollars through the Obama administration's controversial Race to the Top school reform program.

The decision before the California board went right to the wire, with a federal deadline set for 1:30 p.m. for states to vote on the standards, to qualify for added points in the Race to the Top competition.

-- Howard Blume

Photo: Fourth-graders work on a math lesson at Romero-Cruz Elementary School in Santa Ana. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (15)

Yeah, the state embraces the new standards until such time as the majority of protected minority members fails to meet the standards. Then the new standards will be decried as racist.

LAUSD has already adopted a large part of these standards which, in English courses, emphasizes writing and non-fiction reading and comprehension over literature. In theory, this is a generally good, though limiting, move. But have these changes improved student achievement? No. What will? There's a good chance that student participation and parent involvement would increase student performance, but the District and the teachers union are run by politically correct dinosaurs who dare not address a single fault in the student population of LAUSD. Thus, if students fail, it must be the teacher's fault. If students fail, we must change the curriculum and try new theories every couple of years.

I teach high school English. When I ask students why they have failed a class, often mine, 9 times out of 10 they will answer, "Because I didn't do the work." But this reality is not open to consideration in our politically driven "reforms." LAUSD, and perhaps most public education, seem bent on churning out a passive, semi-literate populace who, by the time they're through with their K-12 education, have a vague sense that they have free-will, but have been told for 12 years that it's "the system's fault."

Students that can not speak English should have to pay for instruction to master English before they can enter the school system....that is part of becoming an American. It would save our school system billions.

Ha ha ha!

Requiring the low-achievement cultures common in LA public schools to write coherent essays (paragraphs, topic sentences, grammar, vocab), comprehend things they read, solve fractions, do algebra, geometric proofs or discuss the finer points of the US Civil War means over 75% of them will fail high school.

Again, ha ha ha!!!

Standards are a meaningless fiction if we don't have the will to enforce them at the student end. The current California standards for high school math are quite demanding; a student who actually met them would be quite prepared for a science or math major at a rigorous university. Sadly, a few percent at best actually do so.

The bar has been set so low for passage that most high school students struggle to pass the High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) with a score of around 50%. The CAHSEE does not even purport to test advanced mathematics - it addresses 8th-grade material, and does so in a trivial fashion.

Particularly in mathematics, it is essentially a waste of time to push ahead without understanding of fundamentals. Our laudably rigorous standards are utterly meaningless by the upper grades, because students never master elementary school topics.

This change won't make a whit of difference, except possibly to enrich textbook publishers when we spend hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase books "aligned" with the new standards. If we hope to make any kind of meaningful difference in instructional results, we need to actually hold children accountable from a very early age.

Our whole approach to teaching high school mathematics is absurd. It serves no purpose to teach a student how to graph quadratic relations if they don't understand the fractions in a recipe or the interest being charged on a credit card balance. "All students can learn" is the mantra, we are told, and thus every kid is dropped into a theoretically demanding college-preparatory curriculum. The only result has been to water down the courses for those few students who are adequately prepared.

It's all complete nonsense. Educators and politicians waste everyone's time with new standards, etc...Nonsense. The unique task of educators is simultaneously tough and simple. Students, obviously, need to be brought into the 21st century, so they must be technologically savvy. But the basic task of educators is simple, yet suffers from a multitude of busybodies who flaunt one edu-fad after another but it all comes down to this: Kids need to learn how to (1) read, (2) write, and (3) count. And along the way they need to understand what makes this country special. If they would only focus on those 3 + 1, our society would prosper.

Soviet Government Education.....now we have States under the beck and call of Federal Government/NEA Education Commissars and thier edicts and Mafia-like "suggestions"...

How many times is the WORD "education" in the US Constitution or Bill of Rights???

HINT: as many times as the WORD "democracy".....

California....yet more generations in government labs of feeling and political correctness....with days to celebrate Government(Reagan Day) and deviance(Harvey Milk Day) and days of not "learning" ie vacations..........

Barely functional and literate "graduates".....not able to find their own country on a map or identify how many BRITISH Colonies separated from WHICH COUNTRY!

Socialist Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto DID mention the WORD Education...it("free" GOVERNMENT Education) is the 10th Plank recommended by Marx to help SOCIALIZE a nation...have the State seize and raise and "educate" the State's children..

look how what that has produced in America and California...good oblivious and conditioned servants(VOTERS)....oh..it is BIPARTISAN....shilling for STATE EDUCATION.....

When is the State going to evaluate current standards or enforce new standards, in hiring new teachers. It's a matter of accountability, since somehow "bad" teachers got into teaching and the "good" teachers, senority/tenure and the unions have been blamed for all this. Don't let in the "bad" teachers in our schools, in the first place. Change the hiring system.

A handout to textbook companies and test publishers, who will get huge contracts to rewrite and print for the biggest state in the nation. And to be paid for with what money?

Now if only we could get more than 50% of the students to graduate (at a 12th grade level!) we could all celebrate. What really needs to happen is to drop the notion that all students can or want to go to college. 20-25% of the public school students are college material while 75-80% should be directed to a trade or technical school. We would'nt have nearly as many drop-outs if there were real options for the students.

Does adopting national standards meant that teachers will be allowed to teach them and not merely parrot the adopted curriculum?
Currently, the California standards for kindergarten language arts speak to children mastering phonemic awareness. However, classroom teachers in LAUSD have largely been bound to following Open Court with fidelity, despite OCR's appendix that stipulates kindergarten children are NOT expected to master phonemic awareness.
If teachers are not allowed to teach directly to the standards in kindergarten, is there any doubt that students will have more difficulty in mastering the subsequent standards?

I taught in LAUSD for 32 years and watched the standards constantly lowered so Mexicans could pass. They can't pass in Spanish or English. Teachers are reprimanded for failing students therefore everyone passes. Standards are a joke. A teacher can't risk lossing a job by demanding performance from students or worse be accused of racism. Not everyone is capapble of going to college but no vocational programs are offered. Therefore everyone who doesn't drop out (50% do) are offered a meaningless degree and are unemployable.

@ Disgusted- so you taught for 32 years and you of all people, "Teacher" express yourself this way... "Standards have been lowered so "Mexicans" can pass..." Did you mean English Language Learners? For one, not all Hispanics/Latinos are "Mexicans", and two, especially when talking about Los Angeles, there are MANY different non English-Speaking Ethnicities (I have worked in schools in predominantly Russian & Persian communities- guess what? We needed Russian and Farsi translators/interpreters and school psychs (I'm one)! I think the issue you're bringing up are ELLs in general! ..And on top of it for you to insinuate that "Mexicans" are not "capable" of going to college... I think it's YOU who needs to stop using the "race card" in your argument! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Oh one more thing, you're a fine one to talk about not learning "standards" when you can't even spell "losing" correctly!!! A teacher for "32" years, ey?

As a 22 year "seasoned" teacher for LAUSD, I am appalled at the comments by "Disgusted" and saddened by the KinderTeacher comments. I have been in Title-One Schools in Central L.A. for my entire career, most of my years teaching primary grades. I have learned Spanish, not because my English Learners couldn't keep up without the support, but because I care enough to try to open communication with my student's parents. I wish I could learn Urdu, Korean and all the other languages my students speak at home. I have realized that the more I do to respect and support my students' families, the more they are willing to do for me and my school. I treat all of my students like my own children.If you know what will benefit your students' success regardless of the standards or reading program, you teach it to them. If your students aren't motivated to learn, it is your job to motivate them!

Are you taking into consideration the fact that in some LAUSD elementary schools certain "minorities" are given preferences meaning smaller classes than mainstream English immersion classes--dual-language classes of 16-18 students instead of the 25 to 30 students in the same grade level for English immersion classes? The basis is the language the class is taught in (not English). Larger classes are more difficult classes for many reasons: 1) lower performing students, 2) scarcity of resources.

The union is of no help either because the union contract allows LAUSD to average the number of students in a grade level rather than examine the specific number of students in each class.

I have been teaching reading & comprehension every year even while using OCR, but I have been given the lower performing students including special ed students in my large English immersion class.


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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