Pleasanton schools near districtwide mandates to improve minority test scores

Paper-and-pencil tests also will be phased out in favor of computerized testing.

Even as the Pleasanton school district deals with state-mandated improvement at schools, the district is looking at a new set of national standards that will radically change teaching and student testing.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the board heard of work being done at two schools, Valley View Elementary and Pleasanton Middle, to improve scores for students. The two schools are using different approaches to bump test scores for Hispanic students, English-language learners, socio-economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.

Pleasanton Middle and Valley View are Title I schools, meaning they receive extra federal money to help improve test scores for disadvantaged students. Failing to improve could trigger a series of increasingly serious interventions for schools that remain in what's called "program improvement." Those interventions begin with revising a plan for the school and giving parents the option to transfer their students to schools that are not program improvement, with the district providing transportation.

Scores for poor readers at PMS have jumped for 25 out of 34 students that were put into a special program called "Read 180," and some students have improved their reading skills two to three times what's predicted under the program.

An after-school intervention called "Language for Learning" has been initiated for Spanish speakers and poor readers at Valley View with good results, according to its teachers.

Those schools aren't the only ones that could end up in program improvement due to increasingly tough standards laid out in the federal government's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act. Lydiksen and Alisal elementary schools are working to improve scores for students with poor reading and math skills. And district data show both elementary schools and middle schools did not meet the improvements mandated for this year under NCLB, although 10th-graders did.

Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi noted that other high-performing districts including those in San Ramon, Fremont and Palo Alto are facing similar problems in meeting NCLB standards.

Meanwhile, the board also learned that California is moving forward with plans to adopt sweeping changes in how and what students are taught and changes in testing as well.

Common Core State Standards is a nationwide initiative designed to prepare students for college and for work, with emphasis on the tools needed for success, according to a report presented by Jane Golden, director of curriculum and special projects. CCSS was adopted by California in 2010, and 46 other states have also approved the program, which was created to make students more competitive with their peers in other counties.

Students will do more writing in general and more writing from non-fiction sources. They will be required to show a growing ability to use language from vocabulary and syntax to the development and organization of ideas.

They'll also need to learn to make sense of math problems and persevere in solving them, along with showing their growing abilities to reason abstractly, construct arguments and critique the work of others.

Teachers will be required to begin integrating CCSS into their classes in the 2014-15 school year, and that year will also begin the phasing out of paper-and-pencil tests in favor of computerized testing.

"This is a huge challenge," said Golden, who outlined the standards to the board. "I lay awake at night wondering about what a monumental challenge (this is). Our teachers can do this."

The goal is to phase in math by 2016 and English language arts by 2018. Meanwhile, the district will need to buy materials to bridge the gap between older courses and CCSS. That'll cost $200,000, according to Golden, who said that didn't count teacher training sessions or substitutes to replace them while they're off learning, or $90,000 apiece for two years for two teachers on special assignment who will help integrate the new model into the district.

Golden also said that many of the district's textbooks are due to be replaced, noting that English coursework in particular needs to be upgraded with bridge materials in mind. School board members, however, hoped that some of the materials would be available online.

"I'd really like us to consider making a move to a delivery system that doesn't require texts," said Board President Joan Laursen, who was echoed by Board Member Valerie Arkin.

Golden noted that the district is buying $300 notebooks with Internet access for students.

"I think we're due for new standards in the state," added Board Member Chris Grant.

As the district moves toward spending money on new materials, the board voted to cut the equivalent of more than 18 CSEA (California State Employee Association) members, including the equivalent of four custodians, three library/media assistants and three site technology specialists, among others. Some schools have come up with money to fund a few of those positions on their own, but the net decrease is about the equivalent of 14.7 jobs due to state budget reductions. That's in addition to final pink slips due to be issued for teachers next month.

"These reductions and cuts may change at some point in the future," Board Member Jeff Bowser noted, with Bill Faraghan, assistant superintendent of human resources, saying that, should there be an improvement in budget numbers, "There's nothing that prevents us from rescinding a layoff."

The district had little news on state funding as it awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's May revise, although Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services, noted that the state is down about $900 million from revenue projections it made last year.

"As you know, April is a good month," Cazares said. "We're looking forward to where the income taxes come in, relative to the projected levels."


Posted by Tech Geek, a resident of Birdland
on Apr 27, 2012 at 8:44 am

It is great that they will do away with pencil and paper testing and move to computerized testing. Too bad some schools are using computers that are a decade old.

Posted by Pazo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm

This is one of the many repercussions Pleasanton is experiencing from all the illegals moving into Pleasanton. We haven't seen anything yet. When the low-cost housing that was forced on us by the left wing loons goes in. the quality of the schools will decline substantially. Trust me, I know. I've experienced that before, its one of the reasons I moved to Pleasanton. Now I'm getting the h*ll out of Pleasanton (and taxing the taxes I pay with me).

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 1:52 pm

First, the problem was the school administrators, then it was the teachers, and now it is the low income housing. Some people will blame anyone to avoid paying a fair share of taxes.

Posted by hmmm, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 2:14 pm

A fair share . . . that often gets bandied about . . .

Aren't Californian's (the small % who still pay something anyhow) already paying more than their fair share compared with the rest of the country?

And it's not like all our money is going on making our services better, just look at the schools! The money is going to the wrong things - that's the problem. J. Brown's budget includes a huge spending increase and no meaningful reform, that's also the problem. Even HIS pension reforms have been shelved by his own party.

I imagine there are plenty of people willing to pay more than their fair share if they knew it would go somewhere useful. Sadly not in CA. I thought I'd never give up on the schools, but I have now.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm

As to fair share in California from the Wall Street Journal: Web Link

Posted by Bessie, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Apr 27, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Ah, yes, Kathleen, whenever a hack right-wing editor doesn't have material for a piece, he trots out the hackneyed views of a hack demographer from the highly prestigious, right-wing haven Chapman University. We need to lower taxes on the rich, and raise them on the working poor, otherwise, people will move to, um, Texas.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Yeah, Bessie, I didn't post it for you. Your answers always ignore anyone who says what you do not wish to hear. The point actually was that California is losing the middle, and manufacturing, and farming (there is another recent article on the Salton Sea--I'll let you find it), etc.. But you go ahead and dismiss the information based on the person rather than discuss the importance of the information.

Posted by Tracey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 27, 2012 at 3:56 pm

An insightful article, thanks Kathleen! I especially like how it starts out as a reasonable exposition on the housing troubles we all face, then, without sufficient evidence or reasoning, blames it on Governor Brown. Calling it a "war on the middle class" is particularly good, since only the middle class live houses. Oh, wait... Well, at least the rich can still buy them, and that's good!

Then, of course, the editorial naturally evolves into how cap and trade will bring about the Mayan end-times and we'll all have to eat dog in Kenya, plus a few other toe-the-line talking points.

Thanks so much for sharing Kathleen! You always enrich this forum! :-)

Posted by hmmm, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I thought it was a very good article. We have serious problems, no one who has kids in the school system can dispute this. The taxes proposed are not going to save the day, far from it, and it would be wonderful if we could start discussing the issues reasonably rather than sticking our heads in the sand.

Posted by Tracey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 27, 2012 at 4:11 pm

hmmm, your words are wise and have given me much to think about. Yes, increased taxes are not going to save the budget--how could they? What we need to do is somehow get more money into the budget, not waste time on non-issues like how much tax revenue we bring in. What to do...what to do...

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Well, let's see--Joel Kotkin is a Truman Democrat, attended UC Berkeley, and:

"A leading expert on the evolution of cities, towns, and rural places, Mr. Kotkin has written major reports on the future of New York, St. Louis, Los Angeles, rural North Dakota, suburban Montreal, and the Inland Empire region of southern California. He writes for The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Inc. Magazine, and The American Enterprise among other publications. He lectures widely in Asia, Europe, and North America.

"As a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation, Mr. Kotkin wrote on issues relating to the future of California as well as on national economic, social, and political developments. He worked on research projects relating to infrastructure development, the American heartland, the Houston region, and the future of suburbia."

New America Foundation: "The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States."

I can see where you would just want/need to ignore all that and paint it with dogs and the drama of the end of the world to distract readers.

Posted by Tracey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm

A Truman Democrat you say? WOW! Truman? That'll help wash the dog down when the liberals destroy California.

Posted by hmmm, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm

I am so sick of your postings Tracey / your 50 other web personalities. You are trying to stop conversations because you are scared of what is going to happen when people wake up and say NO and elect some honest people of either party to office. I can't wait until you can't use union employee's dues for political campaigns any more, bet that is causing a few sleepless nights . . .

Posted by Tracey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 27, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Sounds like you'd be more comfortable in a country where speech isn't free. Why don't you leave America to the patriots?

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm

You can use what's left of the Salton Sea to wash down the dog. On the "what to do" front . . . substantial budget cuts would be a good starting point to balance the budget.

Speaking of budgets, they only have to sorta look balanced: Web Link

Posted by hmmm, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I would be delighted to live in a country where union employees weren't made to pay, out of their wages, for someone else - union bosses - to speak for them and drive an agenda that isn't at all in their favor in many cases. Ie. their fellow employees getting fired so others can get unsustainable raises and pensions. No chance whatsoever for the young getting a job so the old can game the system.

I'd also be delighted if you could actually discuss why you personally think taxes will help anything useful - so far from what I've read they are paying for salaries and pension and status quo, but not helping useful at all.

But I know where you're coming from and you're not going to do anything useful on this forum. And things are getting dire, so throwing more money down the garbage can clearly isn't going to do the trick, stopping spending on useless things will.

Posted by Bessie, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Apr 27, 2012 at 5:27 pm

KR as yet another drooling right-winger who doesn't know difference between an article and an opinion piece or, as in this case, an 'informative piece' disguised as right-wing claptrap. If you're a true right wing believer, info, opinion, opinion-disguised-as-info, matters not. He's a Truman Democrat for gosh sakes! Does writer need another position to counterbalance this 'story' (or should I say propagandistic glop)? Heck no! It says what I want to hear, and that's all I need.

Posted by Tracey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 27, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Good news--there are openings at Foxconn, Global Fishing Concern, and many other companies overseas in countries without our employment problems. And you know what? NO interference from the unions! You can bet that without unions, those workers are appreciated, pampered,and probably even snuggled by the Glorious Corporate Leaders.

All hail our Glorious Corporate Leaders!

Posted by hmmm, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Unions had their day in the US. And then they started expoiting the system and the good will of Californians. It's a real shame because there was a point to them a long time ago. Now they've ruined everything - for the workers, the young and the state. It's so hard to reverse what has been done and we'll be paying for it forever and so will our kids.

Posted by Tracey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 27, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Not if you move to China! Why not join the largest economy on Earth instead of languishing here? Plus, there's much less free speech. Sounds like a win/win, eh "hmm"?

Posted by Elizabeth Dallmann, a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 27, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Kathleen, I for one, appreciate your attempt at honest critical discussion on these forums. There are a few posters here who are intent on using every form of rhetoric and fallacy in a Critical Writing 101 textbook. Name calling, red herrings, straw man arguements do not hide the fact that both the federal and state governments are spending more than they take in. Both Republicans and Democrates tend to focus on staying true to their "groupthink", refusing to admit they need to compromise toward both cutting spending and raising taxes. I know that in the private sector, pensions were cut when profits went down. Regardless, of contracts there should be a way to cut pensions in public sector that payout in the six figures. At the same time, Republicans need to realize that corporations and the weathiest citizens may need to help the government pay its bills and prevent over taxing of the middle class, which tends to do the most consumer buying in the country. And above all fix the issues with the NCLB Act, and fully fund federal education requirements.

Posted by hmmm, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Elizabeth, I agree with everything you posted. Especially that the wealthy corporations need to do their bit, loopholes closed and NCLB fixed!

Tracey, I would love to work and educate my children in Asia - it's the land of opportunity now.

Posted by Patriot, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Hmmm said,

"We have serious problems, no one who has kids in the school system can dispute this."

I've had kids in Pleasanton school system for 8 years now, and have found them to be fairly good. They're safe, the test scores are good, and middle and high schools are fairly competitive. The main problem seems to be money.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 10:55 pm

I've heard with or without tax tax increases class sizes are going to 30-1 and lots of other cuts in elementary. That isn't great for kids younger than yours.

Posted by Patriot, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Not great, but not the end of the world either.

Posted by hmmm, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm

So happy we moved here and spent a fortune on the house and spend a fortune on taxes to enjoy the "not end of the world" education. The frog's almost boiled.

Or will people wake up and demand some accountability for spending? There is a funding gap and yes, let's get more revenue in, but first prove how it's going to be spent effectively on the children's education and show that the public sector salary / pension / early retirement age situation is being managed sustainably for the future.

Posted by Bessie, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Apr 28, 2012 at 1:35 pm

See, the question is higher taxes or reduced teacher salaries/pensions. I'm not a greedy union teacher, so you know how I'm going to vote. Of course I'd vote that way anyway, but this allows me to say I'll vote NO ... AND ... it allows me to bash greedy union teachers at the same time. It's a great world we live in if you ask me. Screw the teachers. We want sustainability, accountability, responsibility, and lower taxes (especially for ME).

Posted by hmmm, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2012 at 2:53 pm

I didn't say teacher, I said public sector - all of it. And yes, I do want sustainability, accountability and responsibility, not false promises that never deliver.

Our family do not need lower taxes but will not vote for more until those things are in place. We are not millionaires or anywhere close to even being $250k'ers, so the tax increase would not affect us much anyhow.

We would pay up to $750 a year parcel tax for Pleasanton schools if the money is specifically targeted for the children and we contribute to the schools now.

Big corporations are undertaxed via loopholes and small companies are suffocating under too much regulation.

If things continue the way they are going, taxes will have to be increased so high to pay for our pension obligations that corporations and tax paying individuals will move and all that will be left are people like you Bessie.

Posted by Jason, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm

How many folks are moving into CA and how many are moving out? How many businesses are moving in and how many are moving out? What's the average amount of taxes paid and government benefits received by those moving in and those moving out?

Posted by Leslie, a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Apr 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I just want to say that I appreciate Glenn's accurate accounts of what happens at school board meetings. He continually speaks the truth and reports what actually happens rather than what the superintendent would like him to report. Very fair, very accurate. Thanks, Glenn!

Posted by Bessie, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Apr 28, 2012 at 10:33 pm

About 1% growth per year, which is a healthy slowing trend but thats because the filthy disgusting illegal immigrants arent coming around as much. Whats you point? Do you want more box stores and medical marijuana joints? Lets just tax the hell out of anyone in the public sector. Then THEY can leave and the rest of us can complain about something else, like how the rich are taxed too heavily.

Posted by Leave out behind, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2012 at 12:33 am

Of course the easiest way to 'equalize' everybody, is to not help or coach the blu-eyed, blonds any more....shortly they'll all be equal. You don't think maybe teachers are already spending more time on the english challenged ?

Posted by Good Work, Problem Will Grow, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm

I applaud the "No Child Left Behind" program for establishing useful standards and enforcement. I applaud the PUSD for all their hard work to help these students. Unfortunately, the leftist-mandated bottom end housing will only add to the number of such disfunctional students in the PUSD. With absent sperm fathers, and low standards at home and among assosiates, it is a herculean task we impose on our educators to counteract this environment. As a city we need to fight, not for the abandonment of standards, but for reasonable achievement goals. Equal opportunity plus some additional help is reasonable. The Democrats' quota-based equal outcomes are neither reasonable, nor fair to the other students who will have their eductational potential reduced as resources are diverted to those who cannot achieve above a certain level.

Posted by blu-eyed okie farmboy patriot, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I recent the ensinuation that blu-eyed blonds need more help then others do.

Posted by just a parent, a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on May 2, 2012 at 10:14 am

Blue-eyed blonds and blondes need help just like brown-eyed and black-eyed kids. Not sure about the green-eyed kids, but I do recall from one of the board mtgs that caucasians are not advancing in math in middle and high school as quickly as Asians.

Isn't that part of why the district wants how individual kids do on standardized tests to be completely unrelated to their demographic backgrounds, someday?

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