Posts Tagged ‘social promotion’

Candidates For State Education Board Seat Bring Diverse Backgrounds To Race

By Sean Whaley | 9:21 am May 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – With education reform a top priority of Gov. Brian Sandoval, the new alignment of the state Board of Education – with four seats up for grabs on the November ballot – is taking on more importance than ever before.

One of the four seats, District 2 which mirrors the new Nevada 2nd Congressional District from Reno and Carson City east across rural Nevada, has attracted five candidates, two of whom are serving now on the 10-member elected board. The race is nonpartisan.

Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association; Scott Carey, a planner for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; Donna Clontz, a retired teacher and juvenile justice expert; Dave Cook, a member of the board and charter school math teacher; and Adriana Guzman Fralick, a member of the board and attorney with the Nevada Gaming Control Board, are all on the June 12 primary ballot.

The top two vote getters will move on to the general election in November.

Since taking office in 2011, Sandoval has made education reform a priority of his administration. A number of reforms, including reconstituting the state board, were approved in the 2011 legislative session.

Photo courtesy of FEMA via Wikimedia Commons.

He also recently appointed a new superintendent of public instruction, James Guthrie, who formerly served as the senior fellow and director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas.

Sandoval plans in 2013 to pursue a number of additional reforms, including ending social promotion and fostering school choice through charter school expansion and some form of voucher program that is still in development.

The new board will play an expanded role in the reform effort. In addition to four elected candidates, Sandoval will appoint three members, one of his choice and one each nominated by the Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker. There will also be four nonvoting members.

Ray Bacon brings an employer perspective to race

Bacon, who has advocated for education reform for more than 25 years, said he entered the race as a candidate coming from the perspective of the business sector.

“There are two primary focuses in the education picture,” he said. “They (are) the students, which should be first and foremost No.1, and then the second constituency is employers, which are routinely ignored by the education system.”

Employers need a voice on the board, Bacon said.

The key is not job oriented education, but providing students with a strong set of basic skills in writing, reading, math and science, he said. The reality is there will be job opportunities in the future that aren’t even on the radar yet, Bacon said.

“If their basic skills are really solid, and really foundational, and they pay attention, they have the skill set to move into those jobs,” Bacon said. “If they’re lacking in those basics, they can’t make the transition.”

The reforms passed in the last session were a major step forward, but more remains to be done, he said.

Bacon said he has concerns with the use of binding arbitration in school district negotiations with teachers and other employees. A recent arbitration decision in Clark County in favor of teachers could lead to hundreds of teacher layoffs. The arbitrators always seem to be from out of state and lack the knowledge of Nevada’s public education funding scheme, he said. Arbitrators should come from Nevada, he said.

There should also be a requirement that teacher contracts comply with state law, Bacon said. The Clark County layoffs will be based on who was last hired, which conflicts with legislation passed in 2011 making seniority not the only basis for such decisions, he said.

As to school choice, Bacon said he would start with students in under-performing schools, giving them an edge to enroll elsewhere, including charter schools.

Scott Carey says an educated workforce is critical to economic diversification

Carey, who grew up in Sparks and took advantage of the Gov. Kenny Guinn Millennium Scholarship, said he wants to focus on improving public education as a way to help with Nevada’s economic diversification efforts

“I see kind of the biggest thing holding back our state to diversifying our economy is education,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to get jobs to relocate here and open up new operations if our schools continue to be in the condition that they are and our graduation rate remains the way it is.”

Nevada needs a skilled workforce to drive innovation and expand the economy, Carey said.

The new board will play a big role in education reform, he said. The state’s last in the nation graduation rate is unacceptable, he said.

“And I’m willing to look at new ideas that can help improve that graduation rate,” Carey said. “I think a lot of the partisan politics that sometimes get played in Carson City do more harm than they do good. If elected to the Board of Education I would take a look at solutions from both sides of the aisle and see what we can do to help improve education.”

Carey said he supports expanded school choice, including the potential use of vouchers, as long as they don’t take financial resources away from what he said are already “vastly underfunded” public schools.

Donna Clontz says she wants to bring her experiences with childhood issues to bear at the state board

“I decided to run for the State Board of Education because I see it in a very important leadership role for policy for all of our 17 school districts and I don’t believe it really has filled that role in the past,” Clontz said.

The board can and should serve in an outspoken leadership role on behalf of all students to make education and quality schools the state’s number one priority, she said.

Clontz started her career as an elementary school teacher, then went to night law school to become an attorney. She then went to work as a prosecutor in the California juvenile justice system. Her next career was on the staff of the National School Safety Center, getting an education on school safety issues, from bullying to weapons, all of which are still issues today.

Those experiences make her well qualified to serve on the board, she said.

“Everybody who plays a role, I think, could be engaged in a strategic planning process where we would all work together to get that change of attitude that I think it’s going to take in Nevada for all of us to say that schools are the most important thing that we can work on to bring our state back, our economy back, to create the jobs we need, to have young people that are trained and ready to go to work in those jobs,” Clontz said. “We’re perched on the edge of some great things.”

She supports ending social promotion for elementary school students and the development of quality charter schools but opposes vouchers. Vouchers have been tried elsewhere without success and Nevada has too many other education issues to address, Clontz said.

Dave Cook says he will pursue Gov. Sandoval’s reforms if returned to the board

Cook said one of the keys to improving education is to use effective testing to measure progress.

“We need to effectively assess students,” he said. “At the same time, we need to do less testing overall. So we need to do testing that is going to be beneficial for making decisions about students.”

Assessing students at the beginning and end of the school year helps prevent a number of problems and can help determine if a student should be promoted, Cook said.

“And most of our problems happen because language and mathematics aren’t being effectively handled in the elementary grades,” he said. “By the time we discover them in middle school, the damage is already done.”

Such testing also provides the opportunity to measure teacher performance because it assesses how far each student has come during the year, Cook said.

Cook, who previously served on the Carson City School Board before being elected to the state Board of Education, said he is a big supporter of quality charter schools. Between 2008 and now, the attitude toward charter schools has improved dramatically and the schools are playing a big role in education reform, he said.

Cook said he supports the concept of vouchers as well, although full implementation might require an incremental approach. Any voucher program would have to carry an accountability element with it to ensure tax dollars are being spent efficiently, he said.

Cook said being a licensed math teacher gives him an added dimension to serve on the board.

Adriana Fralick says her time on the board gives her the background to move forward on reforms  

Fralick said she is on board with the education reforms already achieved by Sandoval and his plans going forward.

“I believe in charter schools and I think now with the new (Charter School) authority I think there is a chance of expanding that and streamlining it so I think that is going to be something very positive,” she said.

She also supports vouchers, saying parents should be able to choose their child’s school.

“Implementing a fair state-based voucher system will give parents and students a vested interest in the child’s education and stimulate parental involvement – an important factor in student success,” she said on her website.

Fralick said she is concerned about the potential for changes to the Nevada Plan, which outlines how public schools are funded in Nevada. A legislative panel is now reviewing the state’s public education funding plan at the request of the Clark County School District.

Fralick was appointed to the board in November 2010 by then-Gov. Jim Gibbons to fill out the term of Ken McKenna, who resigned. During the past 18 months, Fralick said she was on a learning curve. Now that she has the background, it is time to move forward with policies to improve Nevada’s education system.

“I’ve been on the board, not too long, but long enough to where I see what needs changing or what works,” Fralick said. “So I think that is one of my strengths, I can hit the ground running.”

Another strength Fralick said is her work as a public agency attorney for many years. Regulations sometimes have unintended consequences, so a legal background can help to prevent such occurrences, she said.

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Audio clips

Ray Bacon says employers have been ignored by the education system:

052512Bacon1 :16 the education system.”

Bacon says students need to master the fundamentals:

052512Bacon2 :18 make the transition.”

Scott Carey says a quality educational system is key to economic diversification:

052512Carey1 :22 way it is.”

Carey says he will work with all policy makers to improve the public education system:

052512Carey2 :25 help improve education.”

Donna Clontz says the board can play a major role in education reform:

052512Clontz1 :15 in the past.”

Clontz says Nevada has to focus on a quality public education system:

052512Clontz2 :33 in those jobs.”

Dave Cook says effective testing is needed to measure education reform efforts:

052512Cook1 :29 not be promoted.”

Cook says students need a strong foundation in the early elementary grades to succeed:

052512Cook2 :17 is already done.”

Adriana Fralick says she supports charter school expansion:

052512Fralick1 :14 something very positive.”

Fralick says she can hit the ground running if elected to the board:

052512Fralick2 :15 the ground running.”

 

Sandoval Public Education Reform Agenda For 2013 Outlined By Top Administration Official

By Sean Whaley | 3:39 pm May 4th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Establishing school choice for parents and ending social promotion for students are two top priorities in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s education reform agenda for the 2013 legislative session, an administration official said today.

Linking pay to performance and providing professional development to ensure students have the best possible classroom teachers is a third major priority, said Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Sandoval.

Erquiaga briefed the Nevada State Public School Charter Authority on the governor’s education reform agenda being readied for the next session.

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

Erquiaga said Sandoval is a strong believer in parental choice for schools and that he will again pursue that objective. Whether it will be through a voucher system or by providing opportunity scholarships directly to parents to pick a private or public school has yet to be determined, he said.

Implementing a voucher program would likely require a change to the state constitution, a time consuming process. A scholarship option might circumvent the need for a constitutional change. Florida implemented school choice by giving tax breaks to corporations that provide scholarships to parents for private school, including those operated by religious organizations.

“Fortunately though, we now, really for the first time, have a superintendent of public instruction who supports those concepts and will be working hand-in-hand with the governor’s office to present the best bill,” he said in an interview after his briefing. “The superintendent the governor has hired is a national expert with a national network, and we’re going to bring all of that intellect to bear on providing the very best bill that we can.”

James Guthrie, formerly the senior fellow and director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas, was named by Sandoval as the new state superintendent of public instruction in March. He started his new job April 2.

Erquiaga said Sandoval was disappointed that the 2011 Legislature failed to act on his proposal to end social promotion. His bill would have required children to be reading proficient by the end of third grade or they would not advance to the fourth grade.

The bill had a hearing but never made it out of the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

“We already provide class size reduction dollars in grades one, two and three,” Erquiaga said. “We have smaller class sizes and it is the intent of those dollars that those children receive the special attention. And yet we’re still passing on thousands of children who can’t read. We’re dooming them to failure.

“We may need to draw a bright line in the sand there,” he said.

Ensuring that each classroom has a highly effective teacher is Sandoval’s other major priority, Erquiaga said.

“We have a performance pay framework but the new superintendent has great ideas around a career ladder so that teachers can see a progression in their career and so we’re really going to look at that as well,” he said.

“We recognize that if we have an effective or highly effective teacher in the classroom, there is almost no better gift that we could give a child than that,” Erquiaga said.

The intention is to reward highly effective educators, including principals, and find ways to keep them, he said.

One element of Sandoval’s education agenda that was well received by the Charter Authority was the idea that many of the existing separate funds designated for specific needs such as textbooks, be placed instead in performance-based block grants that would give school districts more flexibility in how to use the money. Charter schools would be eligible for these block grants as well, Erquiaga said. A bill to accomplish this was introduced in the 2011 session but did not win approval.

The State Public School Charter Authority, itself created by the 2011 Legislature and viewed as a major education reform success by Sandoval, will have at least one bill draft, he said. The authority, created to focus on the creation and oversight of quality charter schools in Nevada, met today and had a discussion about what proposals to bring to the 2013 Legislature.

One of the key issues for the Charter Authority is the creation of “performance-based” charter contracts, which would link accountability to outcomes.

Erquiaga said Sandoval is a strong supporter of accountability throughout the public education system.

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Audio clips:

Sandoval Senior Adviser Dale Erquiaga says the governor will pursue school choice in the 2013 session:

050412Erquiaga1 :28 that we can.”

Erquiaga says social promotion is dooming thousands of children to failure:

050412Erquiaga2 :16 them to failure.”

Erquiaga says ensuring each classroom has a highly effective teacher is critical:

050412Erquiaga3 :11 that as well.”

 

Governor’s Education Bills Get First Vetting in Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 9:33 pm April 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval has said before that he can reform Nevada’s education system while still reducing the budget allotted to the state’s K-12 system.

But the cost of several of his proposals drew opposition at a legislative hearing today.

Assembly Bills 554 and 557 would establish a $20 million pot of merit pay for teachers, allow for open enrollment at schools regardless of geographic boundary, give letter grades to schools and end the policy of social promotion.

Representatives from the school districts of Clark and Washoe counties said the reforms, while laudable, required more money than Sandoval has budgeted for.

Joyce Haldeman of the Clark County School District said that pay for performance – basically, a system of awarding bonuses to good teachers – comes at the expense of cuts to programs like class-size reduction and full-day kindergarten.

“Without the resources, this bill is a difficult task for the school districts,” said Craig Hulse of the Washoe County School District.

On the issue of social promotion, legislators asked about the costs and how many students could be held back under the proposal.

Social promotion is a policy whereby students jump from grade to grade regardless of how much they learn each year.

Ending that policy would mean students who cannot read at grade level may be held back, or face summer school or other remediation. These extra programs could potentially cost the state money.

Dale Erquiaga, Sandoval’s senior adviser, said he did not have an estimate of how many students would be affected.

He did, however, criticize the state’s current policy, saying it leads students to failure.

“Unfortunately it causes critical failure later in the system,” Erquiaga said. “They’re going to fail, they’re going to drop out, they will not graduate later in life.”

Legislators on the Assembly Education committee considering the bills usually debate the policy measures of bills. But during this budget-conscious session, money seems like a difficult issue to avoid.

Craig Stevens of the Nevada State Education Association argued against the merit pay bill not for its policy, but because of the context surrounding the bill.

He said it was wrong to cut the pay teachers currently receive for the years they have worked and the advanced degrees they have attained – totals for which run into the hundreds of millions – and replace that with $20 million in merit pay.

The open enrollment and letter grade sections of the bills were not as controversial. Ken Turner of the Clark County School District, however, said that the school district opposes grading schools with letter grades because that system is too simplistic.

The committee did not yet vote on the bills, instead cutting the meeting short and ending at 8 p.m.

 

Children Who Cannot Pass Reading Test Would Be Held Back Under Sandoval Proposal

By Andrew Doughman | 3:37 pm January 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Third-graders who cannot read at a third-grade level would not advance to fourth grade under a proposal from Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The assertion rests on common-sense logic, and Sandoval has been promoting his idea since he was on the campaign trail.

It’s simple – until third grade, we learn to read. After that, we read to learn,” he said during his State of the State address earlier this week. “Most kids who start behind, stay behind. It has to stop.”

Simple enough. The complicated part, though, will be funding remediation programs or paying for students to re-take the third grade. The governor is already proposing 10 percent cuts to K-12 education and districts are warning of million dollar deficits.

Both state Superintendent of Public Instruction Keith Rheault and Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, have said the idea is a good one, but have held further endorsement until the governor shows them the money.

Other Democrats have warned that the proposal comes at a bad time.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, has already criticized Sandoval’s proposal. Although she isn’t against the proposal, she said it’s unjust to first reduce funding for full-day kindergarten, class-size reduction and early learning programs and then expect third-graders to pass a reading exam.

Sandoval plans to introduce a bill to the Legislature that would establish a minimum score on an existing reading test administered to all third graders. Pass and you’re on to the fourth grade. Fail and you’re in for a do-over or at least some kind of remediation like summer school.

This would end the practice called social promotion whereby students automatically go to the next grade regardless of whether they perform at grade level.

Right now, school districts use a hodgepodge of ways to educate under-performing children, said Rheault. These range from small group sessions to individual attention both during school and after school.

Like many programs, though, these remediation programs either aren’t funded or have been eliminated.

The governor’s proposal to end social promotion is still sketchy. The governor’s staff have determined neither a funding source nor the level for a “fail” or “pass” grade.

The state currently provides a base level of funding for all students. Should a third-grader fail the reading exam, the state would either have to pay for that student to repeat the third grade or pay for other remediation programs.

The governor, however, contends that Nevada has to start somewhere in fixing its schools. Part of that, he says, is to establish statewide standards such as this.

At the same time, the governor wants to allow school districts flexibility in how they manage class-size reduction, full-day kindergarten and other programs.

How you deliver the education is up to the school districts,” said Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser. “We’re not going to tell them how to teach.”

Instead, Erquiaga said, the governor will set standards and give districts leeway in how to meet those standards.

Beyond the funding, the debate over whether ending “social promotion” works is still up in the air.

Rheault said that some research suggests children are more likely to drop out later when they’re held back and separated from children their age.

Other evidence appears to refute this.

In Florida, former Gov. Jeb Bush ended social promotion during 2002. Today, literacy levels for Florida’s schoolchildren have dramatically increased. Bush has taken his reforms on the road through his education reform group, Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Here in Nevada, Sandoval is using the Florida model to craft his bill.

Around the United States, the massive New York City school district has done away with social promotion. Bills in various Legislatures around the country would also eliminate it. In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez addressed ending social promotion in her State of the State address as well.