“Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”
– Horace Mann, renowned U.S. educator
Horace Mann’s premise is no less true today. As the daughter of a sharecropper, I can’t imagine my life, though with access only to a very inferior education in segregated schools in the South, is still so much better than it would have been otherwise. I remain forever grateful for educators and others who encouraged me, no matter how difficult it would be, not to give up on getting an education.
It’s hard to believe that even today we find ourselves competing with other countries and falling short. Some call it, “closing the global achievement gap.” Maybe that’s why we keep searching for a solution and why some are skeptical about another fix that touts promise for great improvement.
Yes, I’m referring to the newly adopted California Common Core State Standards, the Local Formula Funding and the Local Control Accountability Plan.
County and district school boards are meeting all around the state with their stakeholders to discuss the new standards and how we can plan and work together for the good of our children. It doesn’t matter whether we have children in our schools or not – high education standards at all levels are very important for the good of our country.
Common Core began with the National Governors Association concerned about the large number of children who needed college remedial help and lacked basic skills. In 2009, the governors paid a group of educators to write high-quality standards in English and mathematics that became the Common Core standards. Then in 2010, the California State Department of Education adopted Common Core. This model is based on the premise that all children should graduate from high school ready for college, careers and citizenship.
Tied to Common Core is the Local Control Accountability Plan, which is a three-year plan that must include goals for 10 areas of State Department of Education priorities. County and district boards must submit their plans at the same time as they submit their budgets before June 2014. Charter school authorizers must submit their plans by July 2015. In addition to updating plans annually, the plan must review progress toward goals and the specific actions taken toward achieving the goals.
Also, the state’s new Local Control Formula Funding model is supposed to eliminate rigid categorical program spending and give local boards and stakeholders much more say about the additional funding in the governor’s budget for low-income children, foster children and English learners.
Many parents tell me they are very concerned about their children graduating from college with huge debts and unable to find a job commensurate with the cost of their schooling, and sometimes not finding a job at all. The belief that if you graduate from college, you’ll find a good job has long been debunked. The huge high school dropout population only adds to the problem.
The shift in focus toward careers is creating a new educational model and has the potential for a good partnership between Common Core academics and career technical education, experts say. This past week, I had an opportunity to visit with Gillie Miller, manager for the Solano County Office of Education’s Career/Workforce Development Program. On this day, children from Jepson Middle School were visiting Vacaville High School’s career technical education classes. It’s part of a program there each year called “A Day in the Life.”
The program began as part of a career technical education middle grade grant, awarded to the Solano County Office of Education in 2011-12. Children visit the career technical education classes and observe hands-on demonstrations by high school students. In the afternoon, they also spend time meeting with counselors to learn about the different pathways available to them.
The career technical education classes include medical science I and II, digital photography, principles of engineering-robotics, culinary, fashion, agricultural biology and architectural design.
I absolutely loved the program. It’s just what is needed.
Mayrene Bates is a trustee on the Solano County Board of Education.