Rent Increase Survey

Have you submitted your latest rent increase data to the rent increase survey?

Remediation, Not Education

by Dennis Green

The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that California spends about $135 million annually to teach college students what they should have learned in high school. Among the many other courses I taught at UC Santa Barbara and Westmont College — including Shakespeare and Bible Lit — I also taught remedial English composition classes for many years, so I saw the problem up close.

UC campuses enroll the top 12.5% of California high school graduates, and yet 65% of those incoming freshmen flunk the English Composition entrance exam. Many of them receive “A’s” and “B’s” in high school English, but are semi-literate at best.

The National Assessment Governing Board administers a test of core subjects, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, (NAEP), which found recently that in English and math, 4th and 8th graders in California rank near the bottom among all states. That is unacceptable.

Even more discouraging, a 2005 survey by Achieve, Inc. found employers estimated nearly 40 percent of recent California high school graduates were not prepared for entry-level jobs. Even in the workplace, they need remediation, further training in the basics.

In public schools, on average, only 65% of those entering high school ever graduate. In 2006, just one quarter of the 520,000 California students who had begun high school four years earlier completed the courses necessary to enroll in a four-year public university. Obviously, our schools are failing us.

While we are constantly reminded of the benefits of great schools, we are rarely or never told the social and criminal costs of those drop-outs. If public schools can take all the credit for those benefits, they should also take the blame for the costs of failure.

And no, I’m not going to blame the teachers, or their unions, for this malaise. In Sacramento, education funding has been hijacked by redevelopment agencies and budget-balancing tricks foisted off on we the people by our elected representatives. Their pet projects do not, in many instances, include the schools. Much of the effort by PTA’s and teachers’ groups now directed at raising new and much larger parcel taxes should instead be directed at Sacramento.

By the same token, if the students are failing too often, and in too many schools, let’s take the administrators by the throats and give them a good shaking. Never vote to re-elect a school board Trustee, for example, whose district is mediocre in its proficiency scores, or who has so poorly managed the district budget that it faces multi-million dollar deficits. They have been spending money they knew they didn’t have, and future monies they knew they wouldn’t have in years to come.

Shake up the School Superintendent and all his or her minions — by tying their salaries to the success and well-being, fiscally and otherwise, of the district and the individual schools they manage. Start with a ten percent cut. Their rate of failure in managing finances, physical plant and personnel would not be tolerated in the private sector. No Superintendent should be earning in a district as mediocre as Alameda, for example, nearly $200,000 per year, as Kirsten Vital does.

Finally, since Alameda teachers average $87,000 in salary and benefits per year, give them something more to do to earn their keep. Lengthen the school day past 3:00 p.m. Shorten that long summer vacation, and cut Christmas and Easter breaks in half. WITHOUT increasing that $87K.

We can’t fix our schools without major reform in the way teachers and their students interact. More use must be made of technology, and the way youngsters eagerly learn computer games. Finally, discipline must be maintained, and students must be kept busy working, learning new skills every day. Curriculum must be strengthened, even in job training programs leading to entry-level jobs upon graduation.

Until such reforms begin — from Sacramento to the teachers’ lounge — don’t give them another dime.

8 comments to Remediation, Not Education

  • Barb

    In addition to more money, AUSD is going to want our ICM to help its Superintendent figure things out for AUSD. The City should send AUSD a bill for her services.

  • Hot R

    Greenie: Some of what you say actually sounds well reasoned but that technology you mentioned and the training that is necessary to use it costs money. I suppose that will come from citizen donations from people like you?

    But a few questions. Where did you come up with $87,000? Is that the average of about $65.000 in salary plus benefits? If you use figures combining pension and salary like that, then the average police and fireman would make about $200,000 a year. With overtime, that is almost enough to place them in Obama’s no tax cut territory. So why not use the actual salary figures?

    I agree with you that a longer instructional time would be a benefit for students, but the District chose to cut instructional days to save salary after you failed to vote for the parcel tax. So now your solution is to basically cut pay down even more by requiring more instructional pay? Wouldn’t it be a better idea to raise teacher salaries and require them to work more hours too? This was the solution of Michelle Rhee in Washington D.C. as well as the innovative KIPP schools.

    I hear this constant comparison to the “private sector” but isn’t it true that all the brokerage and banking houses paid bonuses to their CEO’s and managers despite their abject failure? The private sector is not the model you make it out to be unless you think General Motors is a great role model. And the schools and the teachers are a relative bargain compared to the fire and police salaries and pensions.

    If you were on the school board you would be crying about the State cutting the budget for the 5th year in a row. This is the real problem and is not the result of the actions of the school board nor do any of the candidates have a solution for this.

    I do think you could reasonably argue that there are too many administrators, but don’t just stop with the schools – cut the fire chief, police chief, ICM’s and city attorney’s salary too. The question is, would we get better leadership then? Simply voting against everything because you are angry and cranky is not a reasoned response to the ills of society nor does it solve the underlying financial problems of the school district.

  • The school district, in their presentation for the Kofmann Auditorium public hearing on parcel tax structures last week (Sep 21), published the number of $87,890 per year, as the expense, including salary and benefits for the average AUSD teacher. The initial version of the presentation, reproduced below, did NOT include comparable figures for administrators. However, the presentation was subsequently updated to show that administrators all earn over $100K on average.

    It’s interesting how Hot R always deflects the question of teacher and administrator pay by bringing up the police, fire, city manager etc. That’s a separate discussion.

    AUSD Parcel Tax Proposals 092110

  • We have an opportunity to make the November Election a referendum on the AUSD March Parcel Tax as well. In last night’s school board meeting, the following exchange occurred:

    Trustee Trish Hererra Spencer offered a laundry list of questions about the proposed cuts that she wanted addressed. But board vice president Mike McMahon said he wants to focus on explaining to the community why a parcel tax is needed.

    “If we’re going to maintain the academic integrity of this district, we need a parcel tax,” McMahon said. “Did we lose the parcel tax because it was too much, or was it the wrong structure? Or were we not clear that Alameda’s education was on the line?”

    If Mike McMahon wants us to focus on the need for a parcel tax, we can easily, by defeating his bid for re-election at the polls, send a message to AUSD, “Hot R” included. Measure E was ALL OF THE ABOVE — too much, ($14 mil, and March will be $20!), too regressive and obviously in excess of the true outcomes it would buy. Alameda’s education is on the line every time a teacher steps into the classroom, and AUSD senior administrators like Hot R. step into their offices.

    Technology, Hot R, can be expensed by cuts to salaries, so that those who will benefit, the teachers and administrators like you, will make the sacrifice, not taxpayers like me.


  • Hot R

    There you go again…

    The figure you mentioned for those who are dropouts (65%) has no correlation to Alameda schools – instead it it simply a red herring argument, or are you actually maintaining that 35% of Alameda students are droputs? And far higher than 1/4 of Alameda students are prepared to go to a 4-year college. C’mon. At least write a responsible article.

    You didn’t respond to my critique of your comparison to the private sector so I assume you will at least stop making that tired argument.

    Your argument about financing computers with layoffs is almost too financially naive to warrant a response.

    And before you propose adding more days for less pay to the teacher’s burden under the reign of Dictator for Life Greenie, shouldn’t you consider the fact there is a union contract which controls the hours and rate of pay?

    Don’t you think you should actually research the subject before you write an opinion piece?

  • 2008 – California dropout rates about 24%

    2007-2008 – California graduate rates 68%

    2007-2008 – California Department of Education Report on Dropout Rates – Alameda Unified School District (Most recent data that is available on the CDE website)

    American Indian dropout rate: 33.3%
    African American: 24.9%
    Hispanic/Latino 18.5%

    District Total: 13.9%

    Ethnic Category Reported Adjusted
    Grade 7 Dropouts Grade 8 Dropouts Grade 9 Dropouts Grade 10 Dropouts Grade 11 Dropouts Grade 12 Dropouts Ungraded Secondary Dropouts Grade 9-12 Dropout Total Grade 9-12 Enrollment Grade 9-12 4-year Derived Dropout Rate Grade 9-12 1-year Dropout Rate Reenrolled Grade 9-12 Dropouts Grade 9-12 Lost Transfers Adjusted Grade 9-12 Dropout Total Adjusted Grade 9-12 4-year Derived Dropout Rate Adjusted Grade 9-12 1-year Dropout Rate
    American Indian/Alaska Native 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 25 33.3% 8.0% 0 0 2 33.3% 8.0%
    Asian 0 0 0 2 0 14 0 16 1,240 5.3% 1.3% 0 5 21 6.8% 1.7%
    Pacific Islander 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 49 5.9% 2.0% 0 1 2 16.3% 4.1%
    Filipino 0 0 0 0 2 11 0 13 335 13.4% 3.9% 0 1 14 14.5% 4.2%
    Hispanic or Latino 0 0 0 1 3 17 0 21 455 17.1% 4.6% 2 4 23 18.5% 5.1%
    African American (not Hispanic) 0 0 0 1 1 28 0 30 490 22.2% 6.1% 0 4 34 24.9% 6.9%
    White 1 0 0 1 7 26 0 34 996 11.9% 3.4% 0 5 39 13.7% 3.9%
    Multiple/No Response 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 32 25.0% 3.1% 0 0 1 25.0% 3.1%
    District Total 1 0 0 5 13 100 0 118 3,622 12.1% 3.3% 2 20 136 13.9% 3.8%
    Countywide 93 122 324 291 341 1,132 1 2,089 67,858 12.1% 3.1% 127 983 2,945 16.7% 4.3%
    Statewide 4,149 4,755 9,737 10,995 14,657 42,794 186 78,369 2,015,720 15.3% 3.9% 3,525 23,576 98,420 18.9% 4.9%

  • There he goes again! AUSD Senior Administrator “Hot R,” aka, “Hot Air” flunks the reading comprehension test, misquoting nearly everything I write once again. Did I suggest financing new technology by “layoffs,” as he claims, or by “salary cuts for teachers and administrators,” as I actually wrote? If he can’t even read what I write, why should I take him seriously enough to counter all his lame arguments?

    He says my “figures” have no correlation to Alameda schools, but neither is that what I wrote. I was quoting NATIONAL statistics, which paint an even more dismal picture than Island City. But so what? That’s called “framing the issue,” which Hot Air doesn’t want framed, as an apologist for AUSD, and their employee.

    As for “union contracts,” in tough economic times, they can and should be re-negotiated, or has he, even with his background in finance, never heard of such a thing? In the light of such distressful times for school financing, the school district administrator are sacrificing the teachers on the altar of “No sacrifice for us!” and calling attention to the fact that their performance is not “Excellent” at all. Another attempted parcel tax will just finish them off.