Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hartnell students showcase their research projects

Folks at Hartnell College are very proud of their math and science students, several of whom had a chance to intern this summer at top research institutions around the Monterey Bay area. The students showcased their results at the Fifth Annual Hartnell College Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Student Intern Research Symposium on Aug. 20.

Students spent their summers participating in challenging projects at places such as the Naval
Postgraduate School, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, UC Santa Cruz, and the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy--who provide internships for science, math and engineering students at Hartnell College. With grants from NASA, the National Science Foundation and the
Department of Education, among others, Hartnell students are given the chance to work alongside graduate-level researchers and other professionals, an opportunity rarely offered at the community college level.

For instance, Chris Halcon has worked with the Solar Cell Array Tester program at NPS, charged with developing a platform to test solar cells in space. Through a program coordinated with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the solar cells are launched as a compact satellite known as a CubeSat to gather information from outer space. Halcon's work just earned him up to $50,000 in scholarships, one from NASA and one from the Matsui Foundation.

Who knows, maybe we'll see a Nobel laureate emerge from their ranks...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Last chance for free whooping cough shots in Salinas

The whooping cough vaccine -- required for all students on grades 7th and above -- can cost up to $70 at a regular drugstore. This is your last chance to get them for free: from 3 to 5 pm. today (Monday Aug. 29), Tuesday and Wednesday. At the Monterey Office of Education, 901 Blanco Circle, Salinas.
Students will be sent home soon if the schools don’t have proof of the shot. Parents must come with your student. Bring your student’s current vaccine record.

The wonderful and frustrating part about reporting/writing

It's always so incredibly inspiring to meet people truly dedicated to community work. Take Jose Gil, for instance: a father, a teacher, a coach, a mentor. There's only so much real estate in the newspaper to write about him, and all the people who have been touched by him.

Fortunately, now we have the web. We can expand and expound, post photos and videos and sound. Here, I share a photo shared by Ruben Pizarro, proud father of Marco Pizarro-Silva, sitting behind and to the immediate right to Michael Jordan. Marco was one of the 40 students from Gil Basketball Academy who participated a few weeks ago in Jordan's "Flight School". Seeing Jordan up close is like a dream come true for these students. And to take their photo! Nathan Magana, sitting behind and to the left of Jordan, is also a member of GBA.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Joseph W. Heston v. José Castañeda: a teaching moment?

I've always found Joseph Heston's editorials fascinating: the general manager of KSBW looks straight into the camera and delivers the station's opinion with earnest facial movements and hand gestures. At the newsroom, where we all pause to watch the news, Heston's editorials are usually a welcome break from the routine.

On Friday, he broached the thorny subject of the Alisal Union Elementary district and its board president, José Castañeda. Castañeda pleaded no contest -- essentially a guilty plea -- to one contest of misdemeanor election code violation. That was a negotiated charge, down from two counts of perjury and filing false statements. Had Castañeda been convicted of a felony, he would have been prevented from holding public office. He didn't. Now he can stay in office for as long as the voters will let him.

In his editorial, Heston chastized Castañeda for not resigning in spite of the conviction, for ignoring a "teaching moment" and not only staying in his post, but for urging state administrator Carmella Franco to return full control of the district to the Alisal board. Then, he went on to suggest people of the Alisal go on and recall Castañeda, since it was Castañeda's attempt to recall Fernando Armenta what spurred all this.

Here's a bold prediction: the people of the Alisal won't try to recall Castañeda. Moreover, they're likely to elect them for another term when he's up for re-election in 2013.

With all due respect, here's what Heston doesn't know about the Alisal (which holds true for any other community, for that matter): they don't like strangers to come in and tell them what to do. That's why they resent Carmella Franco, as well intentioned as she is, coming to dictate all the changes that have to take place in their district. That's why many people in Carmel Valley don't want all five supervisors to decide what gets built and what doesn't in their surrounding communities. That's why wealthy school districts are reluctant to let children from other, low performing districts, come into theirs, even when the state says they can.

If recalling Castañeda has not occurred to them, the chances of heeding Heston's advice are slim to none.

Here's another thing Heston doesn't seem to know: in the Alisal, Castañeda is well liked; for some he's almost a hero. Yes, he's almost universally disliked among politicians and community leaders. Like Heston and prosecutor Steve Sommers, who accused Castañeda of having a "tenuous relationship with the truth," movers and shakers don't have the stomach for Castañeda's personal traits.

But in a community like the Alisal, where the needs are immediate and not long-term, where legislation takes forever to take effect and change has to happen yesterday, people crave for people like Castañeda: somebody who rolls up his sleeves, hops on a truck and drives them to a doctor's appointment. Who organizes a barbeque for needy children. Who challenges the superintendent, the California Deparment of Education. Someone who provides immediate relief. Who lives among them, looks like them, speaks like them. Someone who listens to their concerns and respects them.

So no, Castañeda will not be recalled. To the people of the Alisal, Heston, Franco, and me are just intruders, people who don't know what it's like to live hand-to-mouth, to need two or three jobs to support your family and find no support in the system. To be the first district in California to be taken over by the state not for financial reasons.

If not mandated by the state, our advise to them is meaningless.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

California schools chief warns of more schools falling behind

A week before California releases new data schools that met "Adequate Yearly Progress", California Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson is warning more schools could be falling behind.

Torlakson projects that 4,800 schools in California will be in "improvement status" for the 2011-12 school year, which means they failed to meet all goals imposed by No Child Left Behind. Torlakson is asking U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that California be allowed to "freeze sanctions and mandatory identification required under NCLB...Schools that have not made AYP would not be subject to initial identification, nor to escalating sanctions, but rather, would remain in their current status."

You'll find a copy of the letter here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The "Davids" of soccer in Monterey County

Proud soccer mom Jackie Scott of Carmel compares the wins of the MCFC Warriors to David defeating Goliath. Why, the tiny team of 10-year-old boys have defeated big time clubs like Santa Clara Sporting and the Inter Rage Academy of Sacramento.

These "Warriors" will now vie for the NorCal State Cup, with their first game this Sunday.

Scott, mother of goalie, says it with so much enthusiasm that I'll just let her have the mic. Here's her letter:

There's a tiny team of ten 10-year-old boys with HUGE hearts, out of tiny Carmel, that has triumphed against all odds in the first three tournaments they have played this soccer season. It's the kind of story everybody loves...It makes us feel like anything is possible. These boys are inspiring, dedicated and they are fighters!

In the sport of boy's competitive soccer, there are the "Goliaths" like Santa Clara Sporting and Ballistic United , both out of big cities, with thousands of players to draw from. They have fancy websites and full time coaches and multiple teams at each level; intense parents who pay thousands of dollars for the season, with elaborate uniforms and private trainers. It's big business.

Then you have the MCFC Warriors. The boys practice on the modest Carmel River School field. They don't have matching practice uniforms or managers, or even a paid coach. The coach often pays refs out of his own pocket and stripes the field himself in the foggy early mornings before the game days. But what they do have clearly matters...and they are starting to get noticed! They have entered three tournaments to begin their season and, against all odds, defeated all the Goliaths and won all three tournaments! This weekend, in the Stanford Summer Classic Tournament, they beat the Interrage Academy out of Sacramento in the finals, with a shut out of 2-0. In the semi finals they beat the Santa Clara Sporting 4-3 in a very exciting match in which they were down 1-3 at the half. The boys endured taunting from the other team and parents, fought through tears and hurt feelings, and came back to win in the game in a very tension filled second half.

Similar stories of comebacks and exciting triumphs are plentiful from their victories at the Santa Cruz Sand Tournament in July and the Breakers Cup in early August, both of which the Warriors won. The boys are now ranked ninth out of hundreds of teams entered in the NorCal State Cup, with their first game this Sunday.

It's really the fight and the heart that make these boys what they are. The small but victorious Davids of boys' competitive soccer in Northern California. We are so proud of them. And we think Monterey County should be too!

By Jackie Scott

Go Warriors!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hail to the budding scientists!

Kapil Sinha and Kyra Grantz were recently recognized for their achievements in science.

Kapil Sinha, who attends Buena Vista Middle School in the Spreckels Union School District, has been selected as a semifinalist in its first Broadcom MASTERS competition.

Kapil’s project, “Bugs B Gone: Aphid Control through Home (Organic) Remedies” took first place in the Junior Division at the Monterey County Science & Engineering Fair in March, and third place at the California State Science Fair in May.

Now, Kapil's project will compete with 300 other semifinalists from all other the country. If his project is one of 30 chosen on Aug. 31, he will get an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. in October to compete in a four-day STEM competition.

Now to Kyra Grantz, a graduate of York School who was awarded an Army Certificate of Achievement of Excellence from the American Meteorological Society at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May for her project "The Effects of Ocean Temperature on Aerosol Particle Absorption." Grantz won first place in the senior division at the California State Science Fair, and she was one of five students selected to participate in the Intel competition.

Before heading to the University of Chicago, Grantz worked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and conducted studies with scientists at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blah Results Despite Fudge Factor -- by Doug McRae

Texting expert Doug McRae wrote an analysis of 2011 STAR test results when they were published last week. Here's the complete analysis.

Note that in my story I said McRae gave the test results a "C" grade. Actually, he gave it a "C-" The reason? The fudge factor, as he calls it. He explains it better than I would in this analysis. I didn't want to get into it because I was going to save this analysis for another story. I still plan on tackling it in the not too distant future.

Here's McRae's analysis:

The Standardized Testing And Reporting (STAR) program results were released today. For the past several years, I have made a practice of recording some of my initial observations. Here is this year’s version.

Overview for STAR California Standards Tests (CSTs) Results

In general, the 2011 results may be characterized as blah, or perhaps just not very exciting. We now have ten years of gain scores for the STAR California Standards Test (CST) program, and I have evolved to calculating an average annual gain statistic for the core E/LA and Math tests [grades 2-11 for E/LA and 2-7 for Math] for which annual gains are apples-to-apples comparisons. This average annual gain statistic looks somewhat like a GPA, with numbers in the 3.0 to 4.0 range amenable to a characterization of good to very good. The notion that average annual gains in the 3.0 to 4.0 percent range tend to be what “on track” large scale instructional and assessment programs yield has been noted by other educational measurement specialists and is quite consistent with my observations from 40 years of looking at K-12 assessment program data.

Using the data for CST percents proficient and above from the SPI press release (Tables 1 and 6), one may compute average annual gains for STAR results for the last ten years and assign “Grade Point Averages” as follows:

Year E/LA Math Average Gain Grade

2002 2.0 1.5 1.75 C-

2003 2.4 5.5 3.95 A

2004 0.3 1.2 0.75 D-

2005 4.5 5.1 4.80 A++

2006 1.8 3.2 2.50 C+

2007 1.4 0.5 0.95 D

2008 2.7 2.3 2.50 C+

2009 4.3 4.2 4.25 A

2010 2.6 2.3 2.45 C+

2011 1.6 2.5 2.05 C

[Note: Data for 2002 are found in earlier year SPI press releases.]

Given this 40,000 foot view of the STAR landscape, the 2011 results may be characterized as very average, clearly not in the same category as the very good results in 2003, 2005, and 2009, but rather closer to the poor results in 2002, 2004, and 2007.

Introduction of the California Modified Assessments (CMAs) – A Hidden Fudge Factor

Beginning in 2008, California phased in a new STAR test for selected Special Education students, a test designed to provide greater accessibility to the content of the STAR exams for these students. Special Education students who scored far below basic or below basic on a STAR CST at the previous grade level are eligible to take the CMA with assignment of tests to be administered determined by the students’ IEP team. In 2008, about 40,000 Special Education students grades 3 to 5 took CMAs rather than CSTs. In 2009, CMAs for grades 6-8 were introduced and about 100,000 Special Education students grades 3 to 8 took CMAs rather than CSTs. In 2011, following a 2-year phase in for CMAs for grades 9-11, the 4-year gradual introduction of this test was completed with roughly 185,000 Special Education students taking CMAs rather than CSTs.

There are two issues to note regarding the introduction of CMAs to replace the more rigorous CSTs for selected Special Education students: (1) The CST percent proficient and above averages reported by the SPI press release are artificially inflated, and (2) the number of students taking the CMAs far exceed initial plans for this test, and are likely to increase to an alarming percentage of the entire group of Special Education students in California.

Inflated CST Percentages. When students who have not scored proficient or above are removed from the CST percent calculations, the numerators remain the same but the denominators decrease, thus artificially increasing the average proficient and above percentages – in effect, the STAR CST gain data reported by the SPI are artificially inflated by systematically eliminating scores for lower scoring students. This is what happens for the average percentages above for 2008 through 2011, providing a hidden fudge factor artificially inflating the data included in the SPI press release.

Now, the fine print in the press release includes a note that “With the inclusion of the CMA in the STAR program, caution may be needed when interpreting STAR results at the district and school levels, depending on the number of students who were assessed using the CMA.” Unfortunately, the SPI and CDE staff do not follow their own caution when they report the statewide results.

It is relatively easy to re-calculate the average percent proficient and above gains reported by the SPI to remove the hidden inflationary fudge factor. This can be done by simply adding the number of students taking CMAs to the denominators used for the percent proficient and above for each year and then recalculating to yield an “adjusted gain” score for the year. When these calculations are done, the adjusted annual gains are as follows:

Year Unadjusted Grade Adjusted Grade
Gain Gain

2008 2.50 C+ 2.00 C

2009 4.25 A 3.35 B+

2010 2.45 C+ 2.00 C

2011 2.05 C 1.60 C-

The cumulative gain for the past four years reported by SPI press releases is 11.25 percentage points. However, if the CMAs had not been introduced, the cumulative gain would have been 8.95 percentage points. Thus, the SPI reported cumulative gains included an “inflation” factor of 2.30 percentage points, or an artificial inflation of 26 percent over the past four years, due to the introduction of the CMAs to the STAR program.

I do not suggest that the CMAs should not be administered to selected Special Education students. Introduction of the CMAs has provided increased accessibility to STAR exams for many Special Education students, and that is a positive event. Rather, the point of this observation is that the introduction of the CMAs has generated an artificial boost to the STAR CST gain scores reported by the SPI. At the least, if a suitable adjustment for inflation cannot be incorporated, a caveat should accompany the SPI press releases indicating that some portion of the gains reported are indeed not true achievement gains but rather artificial due to changes in the overall STAR program. In addition, when CMA scores are included in California Academic Performance Index (API) scores, the CMA scores (which reflect lower achievement levels than the CSTs) should be weighted such that API gains are not artificially inflated. Last year, I estimated that API gain scores for elementary and middle schools were inflated by roughly 40 percent, and strongly suggested to CDE staff and the State Board of Education that adjustments for API calculations be made to address these artificial gains. Such adjustments have not been made as yet. With the availability of 2011 statewide STAR scores, including an increased use of CMAs for the Special Education population, it will be possible to re-calculate the CMA inflation effect for the 2011 Growth API scores scheduled for release in late August.

Finally, I might note that the US Department of Education has also noted that the introduction of so-called 2-percent tests based on modified achievement standards “obscures an accurate portrait of the academic needs of America’s students with disabilities.” [ED press release, 3/15/11] In a speech to the American Association of People with Disabilities, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan declared that students with disabilities should be judged with the same accountability system as everyone else. Sec Duncan has indicated that tests based on modified achievement standards will not be included in the so-called “next generation” tests designed to measure the Common Core standards that have now been adopted by many states, and indeed the work of both assessment consortia funded by the federal government to develop Common Core assessment systems does not include the development of tests like California’s CMA tests.

Increasing CMA Usage. When the CMA tests were proposed in 2007, CDE staff assured the State Board of Education that the tests would not affect more than 2 percent of the total population of students taking STAR, or roughly 20 percent of the Special Education population. That assurance was repeated as recently as early 2010. And, indeed, federal rules for the inclusion of CMA scores in the federal accountability system (Annual Yearly Progress, or AYP) limits inclusion of CMA scores to 2 percent or less for students scoring proficient and above on a CMA. However, this limitation does not apply to the effect of CMA on either the STAR results released today by the SPI/CDE, nor on the calculation of scores for California’s statewide accountability system, the Academic Performance Index (API). In fact, by 2011 more than 4 percent of our total STAR population take CMAs, reflecting more than 40 percent of the Special Education population in California.

A look at the numbers of Special Education students taking CMAs over the past four years is instructive. The numbers below are the numbers of Special Education students taking the E/LA CMAs for each year as the CMAs were introduced in a phased fashion:

Year Grades 3-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-11

2008 38,578 Not Avail Not Avail

2009 54,021 47,215 Not Avail

2010 63,922 63,709 11,379*

2011 70,591 74,191 39,169

[Note: CMAs for Grades 9-11 were phased in over two years for budget reasons, and hence the 2010 data reflect only the CMA E/LA data for Grade 9; the 2011 data reflect CMA E/LA data for Grades 9, 10, and 11.]

The data released today show that in 2011 CMAs were administered to almost 184,000 Special Education students in California grades 3-11. That number is 4.4 percent of the total number of CSTs and CMAs administered grades 3-11, far greater than the advertised 2 percent. When one looks just at the Special Education students, for grades 3-11 just under 50 percent were administered CSTs, just over 40 percent were administered CMAs, and just less than 10 percent were administered CAPAs. However, as one can readily determine from the data above, it takes several years for CMAs to be fully introduced, and the numbers are still increasing even for the CMAs introduced 2 and 3 years ago. For Grades 4 through 8, already the CMAs are administered to more than 5 percent of the total population for each grade level, with several grades approaching 6 percent. And for grades 4 through 8, for every grade more CMAs are administered than CSTs to Special Education students.

The reason for the above participation data is extremely clear – the CMAs are based on modified achievement standards, which translates essentially to lower performance standard levels than the comparable levels for the CSTs. In plain English, the CMAs are easier tests than the CSTs. We do not know just how much easier the CMAs are, and that is a major flaw in the entire effort to introduce CMAs in California – it is possible to generate estimates for the comparability of CMA scores to CST scores, but that work has not been part of the CMA test development effort. Thus, we are flying blind when it comes to knowing exactly what a CMA proficient score means when translated to the CST scale of measurement. This work needs to be done before we can use CMAs with integrity for applications like contributions to API calculations. And for specific policy issues like, for instance, using STAR scores as an alternative means for the CAHSEE graduation requirement, the comparability of CMA scores to CST scores is a required piece of information for policymakers.

Finally, I might note a concern voiced last year regarding an “uneven” implementation of the CMA portion of STAR across school districts in California. Based on 2010 STAR results, last year I produced charts for percentages of Special Education students administered CMAs for 53 local districts in three counties, and the results were alarming – in some good sized districts, more than 70 percent of Special Education students were administered CMAs while in others less than 20 percent were administered CMAs. Since CMAs can serve to artificially increase API scores, differential implementation of CMAs for Special Education students can be one way to “game” the API system and artificially boost API gains. With the release of the STAR 2011 results today, it will be possible to update these data in the near future.

Nitty Gritty Program Participation Numbers

Each year, I look at several nitty gritty program participation numbers that become available with release of STAR results

Algebra I for Grade 8. Since 1997, California has had a goal that 8th graders take Algebra I. In 1997, an estimated 16 percent of 8th graders took Algebra I. In 2002, when the Algebra I end-of-course tests were first administered, 32 percent of 8th graders were enrolled in Algebra I courses. In 2009, the STAR results showed 59% of students took Algebra I by grade 8, reflecting a steady increase of roughly 4 percentage points per year. For 2010, this percentage increased to 64%, and in 2011 the percentage increased again to 67%. [Note: In recent years, the percentage of 7th graders taking Algebra I has become notable -- in 2011, almost 8 percent of 7th graders took the STAR Algebra I CST. The “by 8th grade” percentages above include the 7th grade numbers from the previous year.] These participation data show that California is making steady and commendable progress toward a long range goal of having all students take Algebra I in grade 8. Furthermore, the STAR data shows the percent proficient has not been adversely affected by the increased numbers and percentages of students enrolled in Algebra I: in 2002, the percent proficient was 39% while in 2010 the percent proficient was roughly 50%. These data tend to contradict any suggestion that actual achievement in Algebra I has been lowered by the increased numbers of participants.

English Learner Data. The overall numbers of English Learners, the numbers of ELs in bilingual programming, and the numbers of ELs taking the primary language tests are interesting data that become available each year with STAR results. The overall number of ELs tested by the STAR program has decreased a bit in recent years, from 1,129,000 in 2008 to 1,014,000 this year. I’m not sure why this is the case, but the decrease is at least curious. Could it be that California is finally redesignating ELs at rates higher than incoming EL rates? Or could it be that these data reflect our current and recent overall economic conditions, with more ELs leaving California than before?

The reported number of students in bilingual programming for grades 2-11 was about 35,000 this year, compared to about 40,000 last year, 45,000 in 2009, and 47-48,000 in 2007-8. As a percent of the total number of English Learners in these grades, the percent in bilingual programming slipped to 3.4 percent compared to 3.7 percent last year and 4.2 percent for each the previous three years. This percentage dropped dramatically, from an estimated 30 percent in 1998 (when Prop 227 was approved) to roughly 10 percent in 2000, and has been dribbling downward for the last 10 years to a leveling off in the 4 percent range. The percentage of all students (not just ELs) in bilingual programming is now only _ of one percent.

The number of students taking primary language tests [the Standards-based Tests in Spanish (STS)] has declined substantially the last four years, from roughly 68,000 in 2007 to about 58,000 students in 2008, to 48,000 in 2009, to 43,000 in 2010, and only 40,000 in 2011. Of these total numbers of ELs taking STS, less than 25,000 were coded as students in bilingual programming. One might want some further analysis why the number of ELs taking primary language tests is considerably less than the number in bilingual programming – one speculation I would offer is that LEAs are not administering the STSs to all students in bilingual programming since the STS scores are not used for accountability purposes. [Note that the STSs have not been designed to yield comparable results to the counterpart CSTs, and hence may not be used for accountability system calculations.]

Integrated / Coordinated CSTs. For several years I’ve noted that most of the Integrated or Coordinated CSTs at the secondary grade level for Math and Science have been very sparsely used. This year, the three Integrated Math CSTs were administered to only 17,000 students, about 0.4 percent of the total number of Math CSTs given grades 8-11. In addition, only the Coordinated Science I CST was given to a substantial number of students (roughly 55,000), while the remaining three Coordinated Science CSTs were administered to less than 6,000 students or only about 0.1 percent of the number of students grades 9-11. It has been more than 10 years since these Integrated / Coordinated CSTs were developed, in part based on advocacy from teachers and curriculum specialists with favorable views of integrated / coordinated approaches to teaching high school math and science. It is abundantly clear than the current Integrated / Coordinated Sciences CSTs either do not serve this advocacy well, or that the advocacy simply is not widespread enough to support continuation of the costs associated with developing and maintaining these CSTs. It is past time to review the STAR practice of continuing to administer the Integrated / Coordinated CSTs.

A place for tests

As much as people seem to deplore tests, they do have a place, says testing expert Doug McRae. They provide information on the "progress of our school systems in our current information age," McRae writes.

An interesting conversation has developed among McRae, Bardin Elementary teacher Daniel Delgado, and yours truly in the middle of it. McRae characterized the advance made by California in STAR test results as "pedestrian." Delgado objected. I posted Delgado's letter in my post. It's only fair I print McRae's response to it.

By Doug McRae

Several reactions:

(1) I would agree my analysis was only quantitative. It is hard to do a
qualitative analysis on achievement gains for the entire state of California
grades 2-11 involving 4.8 million kids, several hundred thousand teachers,
tens of thousands administrators. So, we revert to a quantitative analysis.
As you note, is is not correct to generalize from the whole to a single
part, such as achievement gains at Bardin Elem alone. I've have no quibble
with the teachers' description of gains at Bardin Elem, qualitative or
quantitative, though I haven't analyzed the Bardin information myself.

(2) I'd suggest you might give your readers access to my full analysis of
California STAR scores that led to a "C" grade [actually, "C-" with
adjustments] via a link on your blog site. If a link is problematic, then
refer your readers to TopED's post on 8/16 where my full analysis is linked,
and several other opinions are noted re the statewide 2 point increases on
STAR this year. (Claudia's note: here's McRae's analysis in my blog, and here's John Festernwald's analysis of McRae's data in TopEd)

(3) I find the teachers' criticism of educational publishing companies
rather unfair. First, I worked for the testing division of McGraw-Hill
(headquartered in Monterey), not the instructional materials divisions the
teacher references, and to protect the integrity of the tests the testing
division published which were used to evaluate the results generated by
instructional materials generated by other divisions of McGraw-Hill as well
as other publishing companies we maintained an arm's length relationship
with other division's of McGraw-Hill. Second, the rhetoric re the
instructional materials developed by publishers as being "poor resources"
and "huge cash cows" may be one individual's opinion but simply are not

(4) Finally, let me say a few words about your description of the complaints
regarding the role of testing in K-12 schools in this day and age. You do
accurately relate recent criticisms directed toward K-12 assessment systems,
particularly in political and media circles. You know, tests have never
been "popular" with kids -- I wasn't all that fond of taking tests when I
was a kid, and neither are most kids confronted with tests to show their
academic achievement, be they teacher made tests or larger scale tests. Now
that tests have assumed a role for evaluating the effectiveness of
professional educators in our K-12 system (even though it is mostly an
indirect role), large scale "high stakes" tests are not popular with
professional educators. But they do play a valuable role by providing
quantitative information on the progress of our school systems in our
current "information age." Along with critics of K-12 testing, I deplore
the unintended negative practices attributed to high stakes tests -- narrow
teaching to the test, drill and kill coaching to try to game test results,
undue focus on content areas tested at the expense of content areas not
tested. But, I point out these bad practices cannot be attributed to the
tests themselves -- there is nothing about a test itself that forces poor
instructional practice by the professionals in our K-12 schools. As has
been said by others -- no one suggests sports be eliminated because some
athletes cheat or because some fans spend unproductive time following their
favorite teams. The same can be said of tests -- blame poor instructional
decisions made in some places and by some professionals, not the test
itself. Don't blame the messenger when the news isn't what you want.

Doug McRae

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A pedestrian characterization of state results increase?

STAR results were announced this week, and I'm sure there were a lot of unhappy people about Doug McRae's characterization of the improvement as "pedestrian."

McRae, a testing expert formerly with McGraw-Hill, said the improvement observed was not something to write home about because a decent number would be more like a 4 or 5 percentage point. California as a whole went up by 2 percentage points. You can read the entire story here.

McRae was careful to specify he was talking about California as a whole, not Monterey County, its individual districts or schools. The samples are too small for that, he told me.

Bardin Elementary teacher Daniel Delgado took issue with the story and McRae's characterization. In an email he wrote to me, he said that what McRae "failed to include in his analysis was the fact that the change was qualitative, not just quantitative."

In fact, The Californian reported that Bardin had increased its grades so much that it's already out of Program Improvement, the federal designation for schools that fail to meet federal goals of academic improvement. Since the California Department of Education has not yet announced official Program Improvement data, I will wait on reporting about that.

But I wanted to write about Delgado and his concerns -- which are not unique. I hear often not just from teachers, but also from parents, about the unfairness of the testing system. Teachers, students, administrators, parents, toil year long so the test scores improve, sacrificing precious time that could be invested in science teaching, or art, or activities designed to give children other analytical skills needed to succeed. In return, they have to wait for one test or two to be told whether they met federal goals -- which keep on climbing every year, making it almost impossible to catch up. And when the state comes back and tells schools "you're still in Program Improvement," well, it can be very discouraging.

It's the same complain we hear about No Child Left Behind: children are being set up to fail, and it's very unfair. Testing should not be the only way a child is deemed "successful." What about other non-testable qualities? Is the child kind, caring? Is he or she creative? Does he/she know how to analyze situations, to think for herself? Is fill-in-the-blanks testing teaching them how to do that?

U.S. Secretary of Education is scheduled to release next month a set of criteria states need to meet if they want to apply for a No Child Left Behind waiver -- which means California education officials could start thinking about devising other ways to measure student progress. It will be interesting to see where California goes, and if we finally leave those pesky tests behind.

Below is a copy of the letter Mr. Delgado sent me:

I am a teacher at Bardin Elementary (AUSD), and I firsthand witnessed and participated in improving our school’s test scores. What your consultant failed to include in his analysis was the fact that the change was qualitative, not just quantitative. He should have seen, with a more careful analysis, something akin to a step function, meaning a very high jump up quickly. That is precisely what occurred at Bardin

Two years ago, Bardin’s administration had the foresight to realize that we needed to rethink, with some really brilliant educational consultants (R. Miller of Educaliber), how to teach our children. The result was a teaching methodology which appears to be very intuitive and natural for children to use, and is focused on teaching the CA State Standards.

I am sure of the sincerity of your consultant’s desire to help our schools improve. But of course if you average all of the bad years of test scores, coupled with our low baseline scores due to our high poverty/non-English families, the improvement might look small. So I am puzzled by why your consultant thinks this needs to be emphasized.

I do, however, find it ironic, that this person used to work for an important educational publishing company. One huge reason we have been successful is because of the epiphany that the textbooks and other teaching curriculum that has been bought by CA are basically very poor resources in teaching what the state wants. What they clearly are, interestingly enough are huge cash cows for these companies because they supply so much supplementary material and training to make up for their deficiencies.

The bottom line is this; Bardin did not change its teachers, or get different students. It improved because we kept a clear focus – to teach what CA wants us to teach.

Unfortunately in the past, and sad to say in many schools still, we are told to teach what some academic hired by the publisher tells us to teach in poorly written teacher guides.

I am filled with joy at seeing what was in the past basically a crawling, hurt, child suddenly and mightily stand tall. This is the qualitative change I am talking about. I think this is a much better way to think about the dramatic change that is occurring throughout our district, then belittling it with a slight of statistics.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

One teen killed and another one in jail

"We see it happen all too often," says Robert Lehman, spokesman with the California Highway Patrol.

Teenagers, who're not supposed to be drinking alcohol in the first place, get inebriated, behind the wheel, and cause fatal accidents.

It happened again this weekend, when Carmel Valley 18-year-old
Ryan Armstrong was the driver of a Jeep that careened off Tassajara Road late Saturday, killing 19-year-old Keenan Lucero. If you missed the story, you can read it here.

A prominent athlete, Lucero was remembered by his classmates and fellow athletes at a football practice Monday.

One promising teen dead, another one likely to be charged with
felony drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter charges.

It's beyond sad. Incomprehensible. And completely avoidable.

Once again, the CHP is reminding parents of their free "Start Smart" classes
, which addresses traffic safety issues for new drivers. Start Smart speaks directly to the newly licensed drivers and their parents/guardians. This program entails collision avoidance techniques, collision causing elements, driver responsibilities, a number of testimonials from parents whose children have perished in collisions, and local area traffic collision trends.

The next class is scheduled for 6 p.m., August 23 at the CHP Monterey Area office, 960 E. Blanco Road, Salinas.

The Class is free of charge and parents/guardians are asked to attend with their teenage driver. For more information or to reserve your seat, contact Officer Robert Lehman, at (831)796-2130.

If the class is not a possibility for you, consider just having "talk" with your teen. Yes, they're at the age when they hate talks, but a talk won't kill them. Next time, when they're about to get in a car with a drunk driver, maybe your words will resonate with your child and they'll think twice about it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

CSUMB's Dianne Harrison "state of the university" address

Harrison delivered her 2011 state of the university addressed to a packed audience of professors and employees. Here's a copy of her remarks as prepared before delivery (she sometimes veers off the script, but not by much)

President Dianne F. Harrison
“State of the University” Address for 2011
August 17, 2011
World Theater
California State University, Monterey Bay

Now, it is my honor to talk about the State of the University and to reflect on the many things we have accomplished and consider how to best focus our resources and efforts in the year ahead.

When I came to the university five years ago, I was inspired by our enormous potential and by the prospect of continuing to build and grow the university. Little did I know that I would be doing this in the middle of the Great Recession and multiple years of budget cuts, salary freezes and student- and family-jarring fee increases.

We have all seen many changes taking place on campus (many of which are very positive), but we are also seeing changes in our state and our country in technology, education and changes in policies which are not so positive – mostly due to the economy and a lack of agreement about the best solutions. So we are left with a continual and often accelerated pace of change and much uncertainty. Sometimes it helps to put this accelerated pace of change in perspective.

It was 100 years ago this week that the first around-the-world telegram was sent. One of my CSU colleagues pointed out that in the past two months, YouTube has more video content on its site than the entire archive of broadcast television since 1948. Now that is accelerated change.

In spite of our external challenges, we have continued to move forward and continued to respond to change. When I arrived in 2006 our student enrollment was 3,818. This fall we are expecting 5,163 students.

In 2006, we broke ground on our new library. This year we are in the planning and design phase for “Academic 2” a state-of-the-art building which will house the Schools of Business and Information Technology and Communication Design. In 2006, we had 16 of majors and 6 grad programs. In 2011-12, we will have 23 majors and 8 grad programs.

So, how have we been able to make such progress in this environment?

In my view, the reason we keep moving forward together – in spite of lean state budgets – is that each of us accepts our individual and collective responsibility as stewards of this institution. And we acknowledge that students are the center and core of our efforts.

Through the teaching and research of our faculty, the creative talents of our staff, and the contributions of our students and graduates, we are all making a positive impact on our region, state and nation.

As we begin the 2011-2012 academic year at CSU Monterey Bay, I sense a powerful momentum across this campus.

This momentum was apparent last month when WASC, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, reaffirmed our accreditation through 2019.

Several other recent accomplishments have underscored our progress and brought us welcome recognition as well.

These include a distinguished national award for service learning; the launch of five new bachelor’s degrees; being named the next host campus for CSU Summer Arts (thank you, Dean Curry); and -- thanks to our amazing men’s golf team and Division II Coach of the Year Jason Owens -- our first NCAA national championship.
At the same time, we continue to increase our enrollment, which as I noted earlier, will surpass 5,000 this fall.

We also are retaining and graduating more students, streamlining our business processes, engaging with our communities, reducing our carbon footprint, and improving our campus.

CSU Monterey Bay continues to pursue its objectives in the face of an undeniable challenge.

The California State University system has taken a $650 million cut to its general fund budget for this fiscal year, with the very real prospect of another $100 million reduction mid-year.

As a result, our students – especially those from middle-income families – have faced another big increase in their tuition fees this fall: 12 percent on top of a previously scheduled 10 percent.

We will do everything we can to help our students with financial aid, which we know will help those with the greatest need.

We will also increase our efforts to raise more private money for scholarships, carefully administer the existing scholarship programs, employ as many of our students as possible on campus, and provide paid internships whenever possible.

Through several straight years of state budget cuts, we have demonstrated our ability to manage our way through adversity by being smart and staying nimble.

We remain dedicated to providing our students with a world-class educational experience that culminates in a meaningful degree.

Our efforts will continue to be guided by the four major goals of our 10-year strategic plan -- increasing student success, becoming a comprehensive university, developing institutional capacity, and hiring and retaining high-quality staff and faculty.

This afternoon, I will briefly review our efforts toward each of those goals, as well as discuss our own budget outlook and look ahead to our agenda for 2011-2012.

I think you will agree that everything we do is directly or indirectly motivated by an increase in student success. Increasing that success is the first major goal, and the WASC reaffirmation of accreditation was a significant endorsement of our efforts.

Following their final visit in March, WASC’s team of reviewers said, quote, “CSUMB has remained true to its initial vision, yet has initiated and accepted change in ways that make it a stronger institution and keep student learning at its core.”

I want to pause here and sincerely thank so many of you for the incredible amount of exhaustive preparation and attention to detail that went into this re-accreditation process over the past few years.

Would all of you who were directly involved in the reports and site visits please stand so we can recognize you? (pause)

CSU Monterey Bay’s ongoing commitment to the success of every student begins with our outreach to students of every socioeconomic background -- and especially to those from underrepresented groups and underserved communities.

Just last month, Congressman Sam Farr informed us that our ETS, or Educational Talent Search, program has been funded for an additional five years, having been awarded about $2.5 million in federal dollars for that period.

Like so many things at CSU Monterey Bay, this was truly a team effort, involving the staff of our Early Outreach & Support Programs, as well as staff in Grants and Contracts, the Enrollment Services Division and the University Corporation.

The result is that ETS will continue to provide all-important academic, career and financial aid counseling to 1,200 promising tri-county high school students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Of equal importance to these early outreach efforts are our efforts to retain and graduate more of our students, which the WASC commission also recognized.

In Fall 2007, just 65 percent of the previous year’s first-time freshmen had re-enrolled the following fall.

By Fall 2010, that rate of retention was up to 76 percent, and this fall we hope to achieve our goal of 79 percent.

Likewise, our six-year graduation rate has shown steady improvement.

Having been as low as 32 percent in 2005, the rate had improved to 41 percent by last year – definitely moving in the right direction toward our CSU Graduation Initiative goal of at least 49 percent by 2015. And, most of you can appreciate, we need to go way beyond that goal.

I want to especially recognize and thank our cross-campus “Delivery Team,” led by Provost Kathy Cruz-Uribe, which continues to spearhead our work on the CSU Graduation Initiative.

But everyone here can share in the credit for this accomplishment. Every aspect of this university -- from the efficiency of our business systems to the attentiveness of our faculty and staff -- plays a role in promoting the persistence of our students.

These efforts are too numerous to detail, but allow me to highlight our Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center, which continues to engage many of our most promising students and exemplify our academic mission.

Twenty-one UROC students graduated in May, and 10 of those are entering graduate programs this fall.

Additionally, six of the graduating students are entering professional careers related to their undergraduate studies, and five are pursuing leads for employment or graduate school.

We all recognize that retaining our students depends on more than academic success alone. Their experience outside the classroom is critical to their overall satisfaction, which in turn makes them more engaged as learners.
An example of how we are enhancing students’ co-curricular experience is the increase in club sports, such as rugby and lacrosse, and our intramurals program. Our intramural sports and tournaments had nearly 2,300 participants last year, more than double the number in previous years.

Easton Henrikson, a graduate and former student-athlete who is now employed in the Department of Student Activities and Leadership, played a leading role in making this happen.

Likewise, the quality and breadth of the Outdoor Recreation program under its new director, Rick Dawson, is motivating students to take full advantage of the remarkable opportunities in our back yard.

As a side note, I hope our “back yard” continues to offer all of us the same level of outdoor recreation as it does today. I hope our local leaders will plan smartly and elect to BANISH BLIGHT.

The second major goal of our strategic plan is continuing to develop as a comprehensive university.

Our gains toward this objective stem from the scholarship of our outstanding faculty, and recognition of their work through grants and special projects; the expansion of our academic programs; and the many ways we are engaged with our surrounding communities.

This past year, six of our faculty members received CSU research, scholarship and creative activity awards.
Faculty in our teacher education program received a $1.1 million federal grant to help students obtain a special education credential.
And for a fifth time last October, Dr. James Lindholm and several of our Science and Environmental Policy students embarked on a scientific mission at Aquarius, the world’s only undersea research station.
Another prime example of faculty recognition this past year was CSU Monterey Bay’s outreach program in remedial mathematics, called “Leapfrogging Math.”

Thanks to this program, created by math chair Dr. Hongde Hu and his colleagues, CSUMB was one of only 10 institutions worldwide chosen to receive the EdTech Innovators Award from Hewlett Packard and the New Media Consortium.

The financial award, which recognizes pioneers in use of teaching technology, has allowed local high school math instructors and students to attend four weeks of math “boot camp” during the summer, where they help develop new educational strategies using tablet PCs.
More than 92 percent of students in this program have passed the two-semester course, compared with a national rate of just under 50 percent.

Essential to our emergence as a comprehensive university is the opportunity for students to choose from among a breadth of majors across several disciplines.

This has been an extremely productive year in that regard.

We successfully launched our new Master of Social Work program, which has been granted candidacy status for accreditation by the Council of Social Work Education.

Four new bachelor’s degrees are starting this fall at CSU Monterey Bay. Three of them – marine science, environmental studies and Spanish – are former degree concentrations, while the fourth – Japanese Language and Culture – combines courses from different departments into an interdisciplinary degree.

We also are celebrating the approval of a new baccalaureate degree in nursing.

Set to launch next summer, this will be an exciting collaboration with our three surrounding community colleges.

Students will use clinical resources at the community colleges and pursue advanced nursing courses on our campus.

The program will produce baccalaureate nurses ready to step into vital patient-care roles, as well as continue on into post-graduate nursing programs.

The dramatic growth in our undergraduate majors, from 18 to 23, is accompanied by the opening of a new anatomy and physiology instructional space for our rapidly growing kinesiology program, as well as the addition of a second track in our online MBA program – one designed for students without significant professional experience.

Another distinguishing aspect of a comprehensive university is a deep commitment to community engagement. We continue to expand our regional partnerships, which allow us to serve surrounding communities while also building appreciation and support for our core programs.

One enduring success story is CSU Monterey Bay’s extensive involvement in the historic Chinatown neighborhood of Salinas.

Our Service Learning Institute, our Visual and Public Art Department, and our Wireless Education Technology Center have partnered with community stakeholders to support positive community change to improve the lives of individuals, and to preserve a unique heritage.

Another example of community engagement is right here on campus.

The Monterey County Business Council is now sharing office space in the Corporation Building with our own Institute for Innovation and Economic Development, strengthening their partnership to diversify the local economy and stimulate job creation.

The third major goal in the strategic plan is increasing our institutional capacity.

This, too, has been an area of dramatic advances on several fronts: improvement of the physical campus environment, our commitment to sustainability, advances in use of technology, and fund-raising.

If you were been away this summer, you may have been surprised when you returned and drove onto campus. We have deconstructed 70 former military structures on campus. As in the past, 90 percent of the building materials were either reused or recycled.
Some of the cleared land is now planned to become a new residence hall complex to address the housing needs of our ever-growing student body.

In addition, campus buildings and the residence halls around the Campus Quad have been painted in an attractive new color scheme; this fall we are repairing the roof and refurbishing the interior of the University Center; and we have begun leasing the Golden Gate University buildings for additional classrooms and lab space. And yes, we will remove the Golden Gate sign and replace it with a CSU Monterey Bay sign very soon (Right, Kevin?)

A new free CSUMB Otter Trolley shuttle system, using two trolleys from Monterey-Salinas Transit, is set to launch this coming Monday, with pickup at eight-minute intervals at stops throughout Main Campus. Please use it as much as possible on your cross-campus trips!

The busy team in Facilities Management and Planning has also been working on a number of other projects to make campus buildings more energy efficient, encourage recycling, and facilitate alternative transportation.

Thank you everyone for your hard work under tight deadlines to complete these many projects before most of our students return.

Collectively, our campus sustainability efforts – and the deep integration of this core value into our curriculum – have enabled our attainment of a gold rating in STARS, which is a self-reported sustainability tracking system administered by AASHE, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

We submitted our first STARS report on July 29 and immediately joined an elite group of U.S. colleges and universities that share the gold rating. We became the first CSU and only the second public university (UC San Diego) in California to receive that distinction.

Next, we will set our sights on the highest rating, platinum, which no school has yet attained.

Another aspect of growing our institutional capacity is making sure that we continue to use cutting-edge technology across the campus.

Given the constant changes in our own needs, and the rapid pace of change in an array of technological arenas, this can be a particularly difficult and expensive challenge. But we have had many successes to date.
IT and Strategic Communications continue to partner on development of new tools for communication and marketing, including a redesign of that is extending the time visitors spend on the site, a new mobile website, and a revamped version of the intranet portal, MyCSUMB.

Our innovative Tech Rent store that lets students rent the newest technology at low prices is so successful that it now has a branch at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and will soon be operating at Monterey Peninsula College.

And IT is working with University Police on an upgrade of our building security systems.

In order to build our institutional capacity, we must be able to attract private financial support. Given the loss of general fund money from the state, this never has been more important than it is today.
I am very grateful to the board of directors of our new Foundation of CSUMB, which was created to help us maximize our philanthropic fund-raising and protect and grow our assets.

They are raising awareness of our overall need for private support and of specific gift opportunities that are our highest priorities.

An obvious priority is funding for our next academic building, Academic 2, for which we are seeking $8 to $10 million.

Overall for the past fiscal year, we raised more than $4 million. That exceeded the previous year’s total and was very close to our 2010-2011 goal, which actually is excellent, given the economy.

Components of that included a record year at KAZU radio, which had more than $1 million in revenue from membership and underwriting -- and also for the Have A Heart dinner and auction, which raised $186,000, up nearly 60 percent from the previous year.

In a ceremony on Monday, we named our library atrium in honor of Linda and Mike Dorn, whose generosity helped launch the Pay It Forward scholarship program and inspired many others to lend their support.

Pay It Forward is a part of the Executives-in-Residence program, which has enlisted successful and influential leaders to open doors of possibility for our students.

It now provides scholarships and mentoring to 40 students, a number we anticipate will double over the next couple of years. These students are asked to “pay it forward” by providing their own service to young people through partnerships with two youth-serving organizations, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County and the First Tee of Monterey County.

Before I move on from the subject of fund-raising, I want to say how grateful I am for the way Patti Hiramoto has stepped in to lead our development staff, a job that she had done professionally and effectively, as we continue to assess the optimal structure for that division.

The fourth and final major goal in our 10-year strategic plan is hiring and retaining high-quality faculty and staff.

We have been moving on several tracks, with clear results in each.

As I noted at the campus budget forum in May, we continue to hire tenure-track faculty, including nine who are starting this fall. These faculty members come from Princeton, University of Wisconsin, Northern Arizona University, Portland State University, Georgia State University, New York City College of Technology and Cabrillo College, as well as from CSU Monterey Bay.

When we have a staff vacancy, we closely evaluate each position to determine whether it is essential to our operations and serving students.

I think what is most important for me to stress in the context of Goal 4 is that this university is hiring and promoting with a focus on excellence.

You all know that Earl Lawson, formerly commander of the University Police Department, was promoted to chief in November after Chief Hardee retired.

We selected Earl after a rigorous national search because he was the very best candidate for the position, and we are very pleased to have an experienced veteran of the Monterey Police Department, John Short, succeed Earl in the commander position.

Equal diligence went into our hiring of Justin Wellner, our new director of governmental and external relations; Chip Thomas, our new director of student housing and residential life; Christopher Little, our new Manager of EEO, ADA, and Employee Development; and each of our new athletics coaches hired in the past year: Walter White (baseball), Rob Cummings (men’s soccer) and Erin Reinke (women’s soccer).

We are able to attract top talent not because of our extravagant salaries (which are the lowest in the system) but because of the important work we do together as part of our mission and because of the university Vision, which virtually every new employee cites as an incredible statement of aspirational values and goals.

Our many strengths as an employer were underscored last fall when CSU Monterey Bay was named one of the best workplaces in the county, for the second time in three years, based on the Monterey County Business Council’s “Best Places to Work” study.

One of our strengths is the professional development programs organized by the Human Resources Department, which offers training in management excellence, workplace safety and business practices, among other topics.

A related initiative is the REAL Leadership training for promising mid-level managers, a group that in April presented to peers from other CSU campuses on their plans to promote campus-wide participation in sustainability efforts.

As you can see, we have had many accomplishments in the past year and we have made progress in many areas.

I sincerely appreciate the outstanding work so many of you are doing on behalf of this university and our students.

Author Lewis Carroll famously said that “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

Clearly, that doesn’t apply to us. Thanks to our strategic plan, and these four major goals, we know where we are headed.

I believe our challenge in the coming year, and for several more years to come, is to maintain the determination that has served us so well – the determination to continue CSU Monterey Bay’s historic journey as a comprehensive university, in service to our students.

We must recommit ourselves to continuous improvement in each of the areas outlined by the WASC commission:

We will steadily raise the bar for our students through increased academic rigor, preparing them to succeed in college and careers. Implementation of the Early Start program to complete remediation before Fall enrollment will help ensure that more students are ready for college-level work in their first fall semester as freshmen.

We will do all we can to encourage our students to stay in school and give them a clear path to completing their degree within four years – and no more than six. An essential part of this will be implementation, beginning next fall, of the Otter Model for a revised general education curriculum.

We will find ways to manage and scale academic strengths such as capstones in a way that is sustainable as we add more students.
We will constantly review our efforts to ensure that we are applying best practices in every area of our endeavor, while embracing a culture of evidence to complete that evaluation.

We must also recognize and cope with the reality that relief from tight budgets is not on the immediate horizon. In fact, things could still get worse before they get better.

It is highly likely that the CSU will have to absorb that additional mid-year cut of $100 million to be triggered if state revenue doesn’t reach sufficient levels.

We do not yet know exactly how that will be managed, but we probably will have to absorb at least some part of it.

As proud as I am of our enrollment gains, which helped stave off what would have been a $5.1 million cut for the coming fiscal year, I am also saddened that we have had to turn away about 3,000 qualified students for this fall.

Given the continued budget uncertainty, we may admit only a few students in the spring semester, and our growth toward our eventual goal of 10,000 students will be slower than I would like.

While we manage our in-state enrollment, we are actively seeking to increase our number of international students, who bring welcome diversity and fresh perspectives to our campus.

My trip to Jordan and Oman this spring as a Presidential Fulbright Fellow added to my desire to establish new faculty and student exchange and study abroad programs, not only with those two countries, but elsewhere as well. I hope you will join me on September 15th, when I will give a lecture about that experience.

Spending limits we have instituted on equipment, repairs and so on will remain for the foreseeable future. Open positions will be filled on a case-by-case basis, where the need is greatest.

We will keep making careful use of one-time funds, such as we have for a computer refresh, improved building security and replacing leaky roofs.

And we will join with other CSU campuses to seek savings through operational synergies, where they make sense, in such areas as IT, business practices and even academic programs.

I will work with the Senior Leadership Team to assess how we can find additional savings through administrative restructuring of the sort we have undertaken by combining the leadership of Administration and Finance and the University Corporation under Kevin Saunders.

I am very grateful to the abilities of Kevin, Kathy, Patti and Ronnie Higgs to step up and take on additional responsibilities and reduce our administrative expenses.

I also appreciate their staffs’ ability to adapt to changing leadership and openness to new ways of doing things.

I might say that it “could be much worse” and point to the experience of some of the larger CSUs, which have undergone cuts as deep as 21% of their general fund budgets.

But I recognize how hard this has been on all of you -- and how grinding it is to face year after year of austerity, with no salary increase and the recent memory of furloughs.

In an effort to help, I plan to make additional funds available to support the operational budges for each college.

Even as we do everything we can as a campus to make sure that California’s budget crisis does not stop our progress as a university, I think we all recognize that the state as a whole is at a crossroads.

We have experienced an unconscionable disinvestment in higher education.

The time has come when our elected officials – and the people of California– will have to decide whether they are willing to fund education of the skilled workforce the state will need to compete and succeed in the 21st century.

Across the country, as tuition increases accelerate and the national economy stagnates, we hear talk of a higher education “bubble” – a concern that the cost of a college degree may be outpacing its benefits.

I do not believe that is the situation at CSU Monterey Bay, or across the CSU as a whole.

We are delivering tremendous value to our students, and I mean that in a sense far beyond any dollar-and-cents calculation of return on investment.
But it is up to us to uphold that value.

We will do that by continuing to elevate the educational experience we offer our students and by ensuring that the public is well aware of what we contribute, both on behalf of our students and by enriching our surrounding communities and the state as a whole.

That will require a commitment to excellence that I am confident you all share.

The year ahead presents another set of opportunities to continue fulfillment of our mission and vision.

Before we move forward in our Day of Welcome program, I want to remind you of another event that occurred on this same date 42 years ago.

On August 17, 1969, the Woodstock Music Festival concluded. For those of us who were college students, music lovers, and hippies the time of Woodstock was exciting and even inspirational.
I just wanted to note that anniversary because there are some parallels. Things were not good in this country – we were involved in an unpopular war – yet there was enormous optimism. I don’t think it was a purple haze everyone was in. There was a sincere belief we could make things. I would like us on this campus to assume a “we can go farther if we work together” approach and remember it’s all about the students.
Thank you!

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 is around the corner

How do you teach that to your students? Do you, at all?

I was talking to one of my young friends not to long ago, and somehow the conversation veered to the topic of the 9/11 attacks. A 19-year-old girl, my friend doesn't remember anything about them. And her knowledge of the attacks is very limited, I'm afraid. I suspect many young people are on the same boat.

So how do you begin to incorporate into the classroom what happened on that fateful day? How the country changed afterwards? Or do you leave that to the parents and the History Channel?

My fellow journalists nationwide are asking the same question, and it doesn't seem there's a curriculum anywhere that teachers can avail themselves to. Or directives from districts, state boards of education, etc.

So if you have any ideas, any plans on how to talk about 9/11 to students, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, August 15, 2011

State releases test results

Monterey testing guru Doug McRae gives this year's statewide improvement a "C" -- very average.

"This average annual gain statistic looks somewhat like a GPA, with numbers in the 3.0 to 4.0 range amenable to a characterization of 'good' to 'very good'. The notion that average annual gains in the 3.0 to 4.0 percent range tend to be what 'on track' large scale instructional and assessment programs yield has been noted by other educational measurement specialists and is quite consistent with my observations from 40 years of looking at K-12 assessment program data," McRae writes in an analysis to this year's data.

This year's gain was 2.05, according to McRae calculations. Or a C. Passing but not stellar compared with 2009 or 2005.

And Monterey County students continue with a slow, steady climb on the results.

Half of Monterey County fourth graders are now considered proficient in English, the first time this milestone has been reached countywide for any grade level.
Monterey County students continue to make progress across different subjects as measured by the Standarized Testing and Reporting, although the remain behind their peers at the state level.
Fifty-one percent of fourth graders achieved an advanced or proficient level of English in the 2011 CST test, a three-percentage point increase from 2010. In California, three out of every five fourth graders tested proficient or above.

For the complete results, click here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New dropout data for California is out

and the results are very similar to those in Monterey County.

Seven out of ten Monterey County high school students who started as freshman in 2006 graduated by 2010, according to a new data by the California Department of Education.

One out of five dropped out in the same time period, which is almost the same drop out rate as the state as a whole.

Seventy-four percent of students graduated in California, compared with 72 percent in Monterey County. Eighteen percent dropped out, both in Monterey County and statewide.

It's the first time the State uses CALPADS, which means the data is more accurate than in previous years. Because of that, the California Department of Education is discouraging comparisons with previous years.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hail to the team!

Marina's On the Beach/Drawn Skate Team is the 2011 State Games of America National Junior Olympic Skateboarding Champions!

The 16 Marina youngsters competed against some of the best skaters from around the country this past weekend at the 2011 State Games of America in San Diego. Attending this event was a great achievement and a culmination of two and a half years of hard work for them, and everyone's very proud.

The team qualified for the National Championships by becoming the 2010 California Junior Olympic Gold Medal State Champions and the California State Champions for the 2010 California Amateur Skate League National Skate Federation State Championships.
Fourteen out of the 16 members of the team earned individual medals, which in turn earned them the team gold medal.

The champions team will be welcomed at 6:30 p.m. today at the Marina Teen Center, 304 Hillcrest Ave.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Women supporting women

The first Women’s Education Leadership Initiative (WELI) program at Hartnell College feted its inaugural graduating class last week, when 26 young women received a diploma and a $1,500 scholarship for the fall semester.

The WELI program is a leadership-skills, mentorship and scholarship program that assists socially and economically challenged students. Fifty
community business executives supports the WELI program, many of these leaders are from the IMPOWER group- sponsored by the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce- and have signed up to be career mentors for the WELI students.

Participants in the inaugural class of WELI attended a 16-hour leadership training where they received important information on self-image, time management, resources, budgeting, financial aid, and academic planning from several female executives from around the Salinas area.

Ana Hernández, a 21-year-old graduate of North Salinas High, is studying biology and plans to transfer to UC Davies and eventually become a doctor. She was one of the 26 graduates and says she enjoyed the program.

Usually, when you apply for scholarships, there's no interaction with the people who fund them, Ana said, but in WELI the women funders "took time out of their days" to spend time with the scholars.

"They have different sections on how to keep your finances, how to manage your money, how to take care of yourself, how to be successful," Ana said.

An estimated total of $75,000 from over 20 local business and individuals has been raised to support the WELI sponsorship program.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A little girl vs. a stolen motorcycle?

Not all the facts are in, but six-year-old Xitlali Molina was ejected from the SUV her father was driving when he was chasing another vehicle with a motorcycle that apparently had been stolen from him. Little Xitlali died soon after arriving at Natividad Medical Center. The accident closed the north bound lane of Highway 101 for a good chunk of the afternoon, so it was hard not to notice all the commotion. In case you missed it, here's the entire story.

It's always sad when children die, and in the case of Xitlali, not only is it sad, but it makes you wonder, was it worth it? My heart goes out to dad, Armando Molina, who not only has to deal with the immediate medical, financial and legal consequences, but who must also live with the guilt. Was it worth it, in the end, to try to recover that motorcycle? I'm sure you all know the answer.

There should be a lesson here for all of us: recklessness is never worth the risk. Reacting to anger isn't either. And when children are around we should be specially careful: they'll learn from our behavior and apply it to their lives -- if we're lucky. If we're not, they'll suffer the consequences of our poor choices. Is that what we really want?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Little girls could have a more profitable future in a science career

We already know that women earn about 70 percent of what men earn. And it's probably already well known too that more men hold jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math arenas. But a new report from the U.S. Commerce Department's Economics and Statistics Administration has found that the pay gap is smaller for women in STEM careers, and that they earned about 33 percent more than women in non-STEM jobs in 2009.

Unfortunately, budget cuts and the educational system's modern obsession with test-taking have relegated science curriculum to the trash bin, particularly among so called "low-performing" schools, of which we have many in Monterey County. The one path out of poverty that could be offered to those students is turned down in exchange of mindless practice of filling in the bubbles.

But not all is bleak. There are the Mark O'Sheas, who are trying to improve science education in elementary schools. There are the Hongde Hus, who are inspiring young students to take up math as their mission in life.

Three teachers and two administrators at MPUSD attended the Sally Ride Science Academy last month, which is designed to spark students' interest in careers in math and science. It'll be interesting to see what they learned -- and how students respond.

UPDATE: Going through old emails I ran into a good post about this very topic by esteemed colleague John Fensterwald. There's a new report by the National Research Council that offers an alternative approach toward science education. The council, affiliated with the National Academy of Sciences, recently released “A Framework for K-12 Science Education.”

To explain the report, John interviewed Helen Quinn, who chaired the Council’s Board on Science Education. Quinn is a physics professor emeritus at Stanford University.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Take your children to ancient India

This Saturday at the Salinas Public Library, where Dancers of India will be performing at its three locations. Youthful dancers will bring to life the classical dance form Bharata Natyam accompanied by the sounds of Carnatic music, the traditional setting.

The event is part of the Summer Reading Program, which encourages our young readers to continue expanding their horizons even during the summer months.

The dancing takes place Saturday from 11 to noon at El Gabilan Library, 1400 N Main St, 758-7302

From 1-2pm at Cesar Chavez Library, 615 Williams Rd, 758-7345

From 3-4pm at John Steinbeck Library, 350 Lincoln Ave, 758-7311

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dreamers keep fighting

Juan Santiago was brought to the United States as a child, and he discovered he was undocumented sometime around the immigration marches of 2007. He didn't know it then, he said, but that's when he became an activist. The Madera student now lobbies for the passage of the federal Dream Act (which would grant legalization for undocumented students after meeting certain requirements) and the California Dream Act, half of which was approved last week. The second half is stuck in legislative limbo, his chances of passage appearing more slim.

I met Juan and a group of young students at UCSC, my alma mater, where they were learning how to document their own stories. Juan is a Zapotec Indian from Oaxaca, Mexico, and indigenous groups have often been documented by outsiders. Jonathan Fox of UCSC had the idea to have these youths acquire the tools to tell their own stories.

They are a lively, engaged group. They were mostly from the California's Central Valley, although there was one young woman from Salinas. They're all bright, politically active. And they realize their struggle is long term: the passage of the federal Dream Act is probably not going to happen during this session, but they'll keep at it.

Juan is a bit upset because the public in general has been confusing the passage of half of the California Dream Act -- which will allow undocumented students to receive private scholarships -- with the whole enchilada. No, Juan has told people. We have not gained legal status. This is just a small portion of what they're fighting for, he says.

"It's so frustrating," he said. "People have told me, 'Now you're legal, right?' I have to explain the whole thing."

And there's more to come, Juan says. Next: the fight for the rights of indigenous peoples. Here and everywhere.

If you want to hear more about Juan, here's his blog.