November 14, 2003

Education wars brewing in California

Education wars brewing, by Jill Stewart, San Fransisco Chronicle, Nov 14, 2003. In this superb article Jill Stewart expresses her unease about the incoming team of Arnold Schwartzenegger and his designated education secretary Richard Riordan.

FOR YEARS, I hammered Gray Davis as a weak leader and a bad governor. [...] [But] Davis excelled at one thing. He stopped a high-pressure crowd of educators and politicos hell-bent on reversing big advances that have ended 25 years of academic freefall in California's schools.

[...] Every year, opponents of reform bring forth politically motivated legislation to roll back reform, and the Democratic-led Legislature shamefully approves it. Every time, Davis vetoes the anti-reforms.

Indeed, Davis strengthened reforms adopted by the Board of Education under Gov. Pete Wilson. Davis' own Board of Ed backed rigorous academic standards that are tracked through testing so the public can see how well their schools teach subject matter.

Awful districts such as Los Angeles Unified saw student achievement in math and reading skyrocket after introducing Opencourt explicit phonics and English immersion, and retraining teachers who learned zilch at teacher colleges. But cities such as San Diego fought the reforms, and their student achievement tanked.

Stewart continues with a description of the battles that lie ahead with the anti-reformers, and she explains her unease with Riordan.

Riordan is pro-reform but doesn't grasp the Sacramento Education Wars. When I spoke to him, he did not volunteer details I believe should be on the tip of his tongue. I'm worried he will be drawn to trendy uber-discussions while the Legislature turns back the clock. [...] His job is to prevent anti-reformers from ramming California's education miracle back into the dark 1990s.

Posted by Bas Braams at November 14, 2003 12:44 PM