Category: public schools

How Community Colleges Can Keep Sacramento Pols Off Their Backs

ALICIA DOWD, associate professor, Rossier School of Education, and co-director for Center for Urban Education, and ESTELA MARA BENSIMON, professor of education, Rossier, and co-director of CUE.

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post on April 30.

The recently released California community college system’s Student Success Scorecard has rightly drawn praise. The web-based scorecards contain comprehensive information on students’ performance at each of the state’s 112 community colleges, making details about student outcomes the most easily accessible in the nation. The Scorecard reveals how colleges are doing in retaining and graduating students, remedial education and job-training programs, with data broken down by gender, age, race and ethnicity. The added information about race and ethnicity, new to this accountability report, is crucial in a system in which latinos and other students of color form the majority.

While students can use the scorecard to pick a campus, its main purpose is to provide data to community college leaders that they can use to zero in on what is impeding students’ performance and design remedies. But as important as the Student Success Scorecard is as an accountability tool, it does not ensure meaningful change because neither rewards nor penalties are attached to using the data or to improving scores.

Schools Are Hardly Gun-Free Zones

RON AVI ASTOR, professor of urban social development, USC’s School of Social Work and Rossier School of Education.

This op-ed originally appeared at CNN on Dec. 21.

Last week’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, appears to have at least temporarily changed the debate on gun control and opened the door to new restrictions.

Following up on his pledge to “use whatever power this office holds” to prevent another slaughter at a school, President Barack Obama has said he will submit new gun-restriction proposals to Congress in January. But the obstacles to progress remain formidable, chief among them the political power of the gun-rights lobby in Washington.

A Hail Mary to Save Proposition 30

DAN SCHNUR, director of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Since the day he took office, Gov. Jerry Brown has been on a crusade to convince Californians that he is not just fiscally responsible but downright stingy. During his first week as governor, he ordered thousands of state workers to give up their government-issued cellphones. Since then, he has negotiated to rein in pensions for public employees, initiated welfare reforms that were included in the last budget and bragged about his preference for flying Read more →

Privatizing the Public University

WILLIAM TIERNEY, director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education, USC’s Rossier School of Education.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Recently a committee of the University of California’s Academic Senate effectively threw cold water on the plans of UCLA’s Anderson School of Management to take its M.B.A. program private.

The plan was for the program to give up state funds and, in return, for the state to give the school more leeway in issues such as setting tuition. The school’s faculty and the UCLA Senate had approved the plans, but it ran into unanimous opposition from a committee of the Academic Senate. It was troubled that donors might have too much influence, that faculty priorities might shift, and that costs would rise without sufficient financial aid for poorer students.

California Needs a Politics Rooted in 2012, Not 1978

DOWELL MYERS, demographer and planning professor, Price School of Public Policy.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

At the root of California’s dysfunctional politics lie some old ideas about who we are as a state. Demographics have been more volatile here than in other states, and many Californians older than 55, who make up roughly 46% of state voters, don’t want to pay for changes they never welcomed. The tragedy is that they are battling problems that have largely dissipated. The outlook for California going forward from 2012 is very different from what it was two decades ago.

Take population growth. The 1980s brought an unprecedented growth spurt for the state, with population increasing by some 6.1 million people. This far exceeded the population growth of 3.7 million people in the 1970s and 4.3 million in the 1960s.

Has Proposition 13 Lost Its Relevance?

DOWELL MYERS, demographer and professor of planning, USC’s Price School of Public Policy.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

Proposition 13 is widely regarded as the third rail in state politics: Touch it and you’re politically dead. It has earned that sacrosanct status because it solved some urgent problems for California homeowners. But that was a generation ago, a different time with different problems. As we face the challenge of reviving the state’s housing market and finding a reliable revenue source for freeways, schools and other public services, we should consider how Proposition 13 should serve us in the future.

The Ivory Tower Can No Longer Ignore K-12 Education

C.L. MAX NIKIAS, president of USC, and WILLIAM G. TIERNEY, university professor and director of the USC Pullias Center for Higher Education.

This op-ed originally appeared in Education Week.

As we look back on research universities in the 20th century, one regrettable legacy we see is the firewall between too many of them and our public schools.

University administrators and professors missed meaningful opportunities to help K-12 educators manage and overcome the challenges they face daily. There was little sustained interaction between public school teachers and professors. Commonalities across high school and college curricula were largely nonexistent. What students learned in a math class in their senior year in high school, for example, frequently did not prepare them for freshman-level math. And the academic and social gulf between high school and university left too many of our poorest children unprepared for the transition.

This disengagement has much to do with how research universities were born and evolved in the 20th century. Institutions that were small, parochial scholastic backwaters morphed into academic powerhouses whose raison d’être was research. Faculty members doing research earned new respect within and outside the academic world, a development reinforced by the rise of nonacademic funding sources, such as foundations. By the end of the 20th century, research-oriented professors received higher compensation than their peers who only taught in the classroom. Growth and distinction became the new watchwords. Admired throughout the world, these universities helped drive American economic pre-eminence, especially in the second half of the 20th century. But the rise of the American research university had little to do with the creation or sustenance of K-12 education.

Times have changed and so, too, must the research university’s lack of engagement with public schools. No problem is clearer and more compelling where those of us in the research university might add our voice, knowledge, and support.

While not as bleak as commonly perceived, data on K-12 student achievement have remained sobering for over a generation. Many of our urban high schools are “dropout factories,” with up to half of the entering students never graduating. At too many schools, fewer than half the seniors will qualify to enroll in a four-year college or university. At many of our state universities, more than half the entering freshmen require courses in remedial math or English—or both. Several recent studies show that the performance gap between affluent and poor students in terms of test scores, high school completion rates, and, ultimately, wage earnings continues to grow at an alarming rate.