The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

July 30, 2010
Math Council supports Common Core; will State Board?

The California State Board of Education prepares to vote on replacing the state's existing academic standards for reading and math with the Common Core State Standards, organized by 48 governors and chief state school officers.

In a strong statement Friday, the California Mathematics Council (representing 10,000 teachers and parents) is supporting the Common Core math standards.

CMC president Sheri Willebrand writes that the current system, aimed toward building toward algebra for all in 8th grade, has "too many standards, lack of focus and coherence, and the lack of 8th grade standards for students not prepared to take algebra."

She continues:

Our standards may have been considered world class 15 years ago, however knowledge about mathematics instruction and how children learn has grown dramatically.

In a devastating critique of the current math standards, she notes that,

The longer students take math, the worse they do regardless of ethnicity.

In 2008-2009, 54 percent of all 8th graders took the Algebra California Standards Test (CST); only 44 percent of these students scored proficient or above.

Concurrently, 13 percent of 11th graders and 26 percent of 10th graders took the Algebra CST with only 8 percent and 11 percent of those students scoring proficient or above respectively.

The real issue is that you have to prepare students for Algebra I; you can't just dump them there and expect them to succeed - or have them repeat the course over and over, as Willebrand notes:

The current options do not address the fact that it is children of color, children of low income and children who do not speak English who experience limited access to or success in the gateway course for college and career success. Algebra 1 ad nauseam is not an option...Genuine equity unites words and actions in the development of a plan that assures our students emerge from the algebra class successful and ready to learn more mathematics.

Willebrand concludes:

The State Board of Education adoption of the Common Core State Standards is the next logical step towards improvement in mathematics education for our children. The California Mathematics Council stands ready to support all aspects of the implementation of the Common Core Standards.

On Monday, we'll find out whether the naysayers or those favoring the Common Core prevail with the State Board of Education.

July 27, 2010
A challenger steps up in Sac City Unified versus Roy Grimes

For a while it looked like no candidate would step forward to challenge Roy Grimes in the Area 6 seat (covering the Pocket area, and including Kennedy High School, Sam Brannan Middle School and six elementary schools) for the Sacramento City Unified school board. We took note of this in a June 25 editorial.

But a few days before the Aug. 6 filing deadline, one candidate has stepped forward to challenge incumbent Roy Grimes.

Robert Bartron describes himself as a non-politician who is putting his name on the ballot. He doesn't yet have a campaign organization behind him.

He retired on June 30 as recruitment manager for the California Troops to Teachers Program. He also served as director of recruitment for SEARCH California, helping engineers, scientists and technicians who are leaving industry to enter the classroom as math and science teachers.

He attended John Sloat and Freeport Elementary schools and then Goethe Junior High (now Rosa Parks Middle School.) He graduated from Kennedy High School, Class of 1969, and from the U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1973.

A Navy pilot and director of Navy officer recruiting, he served in the military for 25 years, retiring as a U.S. Navy Commander in 1995. He turned to higher education, serving as director of corporate relations at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, the nation's oldest technological university. He was Director of the Albany, New York, branch of the ITT Technical Institute, a two-year proprietary school.

He returned to Sacramento in 2002, where he took up recruiting for the Troops to Teachers program.

His wife, the former Mary Renfree, also is a Kennedy High School grad. She's been a teacher for more than 25 years, currently working as the head of tutoring programs and a reading specialist for Mercy Education Resource Center.

In his blog, Bartron states why he is running:

I am running because I feel we should have a choice when selecting our representative from the Pocket area. The incumbent has been on school boards for 28 years (20 years on the Sacramento County school board and the past 8 years on the Sacramento City Unified school board.) During this time our schools and students have declined in performance. I feel we must make a change if we do not want to continue this decline.

Bartron says he's focused on issues of teacher performance, but believes test scores should not be the measure of accountability.

Nine more days to go before candidate filings close...The more school board candidates, the merrier.

July 19, 2010
UC Davis Chancellor cautious regarding online degrees

The editorial board met with University of California, Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi this afternoon in a wide-ranging recap of her first year on campus.

Last year, she spoke to the board about the challenges of fulfilling the public mission of the university in an era of reduced state funding. "That mission," she said, "has been compromised by the inability to fund it. ... The struggle is to keep quality in place and to keep it affordable."

That challenge remains.

Katehi.jpgOn Monday, she handed out a pie chart showing that only 21 percent of UC Davis operating funds came from the state in 2008-09. Public universities that once were publicly funded and free to students, she said, now "are only partially supported by the state...but the mission remains the same: access to excellence."

The more the state cuts, she acknowledged, the more pressure there is to raise funds from other sources. She, herself, spends at least one day a week fundraising out of the office.

She responded to a question on action last week by the University of California Board of Regents and UC President Mark Yudof endorsing the idea of developing a fully online undergraduate degree, which UC Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley had said would make a UC degree "available to people in Kentucky and Kuala Lumpur."

Chancellor Katehi made it clear she does not support the idea of "an education without placing a foot on campus." But she could support a "hybrid model" with parts of a course online and part in the classroom, which she believes allows more students to have access to courses.

She thought there may be some areas where students could do a full degree online, "but not a bachelor's degree." She said that UC Davis "will be cautious" and "will not be the first" in pursing online degrees. She said UC Davis would look at a hybrid model.

The editorial board will explore some of the chancellor's other ideas in future editorials. Stay tuned.

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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