February 15, 2002

Report Card on Bersin's Blueprint

By Mike MacCarthy

(Editor's Note: In order to continue bringing the news about the San Deigo Unified School District, we welcome writer Mike MacCarthy who will contribute a biweekly column to La Prensa San Diego highlighting the issues, primarily at school board meetings.)

In my February 1st column, I mentioned the importance of all voters understanding what's at stake for their children in the upcoming school board primary on March 5th-now only 18 days away. To many, San Diego's city school board is nothing more than six politicians wasting taxpayer time and money for their own ends. In truth, what the city school board decides has a profound effect on your child or grandchild's future.

Item: Is the "Blueprint any good?" On February 12th, San Diego City Schools (SDCS) received its first independent evaluation of the "Blueprint For Student Success"-cornerstone of Superintendent Alan D. Bersin and Chancellor of Instruction Anthony Alvara-do's administration (their contracts run out in June 2002). The American Institutes For Research (AIR) of Palo Alto, California, was hired at a total cost of $1,125,000 spread over three years to render an in-depth analysis for the school years ending June of 2001, 2002, and 2003.

According to AIR Chief Researcher Beverly Farr, the Blueprint gets a "B" for goals during its first full year in operation, but an "F" for implementation, especially in terms of how much weight the district has given parent and teacher concerns. The report went on to say that parents and teachers repeatedly told AIR researchers that SDCS omitted them from the planning process. Furthermore, the "top down" implementation at school sites as well as the "one size fits all" approach by the Institute For Learning has resulted in creating (according to the report) a disincentive for Hispanic and African-American students and parents.

Another item on the board's agenda on February 12th was the question of: "Is there a `real' achievement gap between white students and students of color?" It's now official: According to a report prepared by SDCS staff, there is a "real" achievement gap for children of color. The issue then becomes, How big is this achievement gap? Consider this: For the school year ended June 2001, only 12 percent of white students were "Below or Far Below" grade level in the California English Language Arts Test, while 41 percent of African American and 52 percent of Hispanic students fell into the same category; in math the achievement gap is even worse.

Furthermore, according to this SDCS report, since the Blueprint went into effect (school year ended June 2000) there has been virtually no change in the learning gap between white students and students of color, despite the fact that the district has re-directed more than $160 million of Title I monies away from its 96 "compensatory education schools."

Does this sound to you as if children of color are getting a fair shake by the Bersin administration? In other words, if you're happy with this report card on the "Blueprint," you can go back to watching TV and ignore the city school board election primaries on March 5th. But if, like me, you think this report card is unacceptable, then it's time to take action. As always in a democracy, the choice is completely yours, but please keep this important saying in mind: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Mike MacCarthy is Publisher of San Diego Writer's Monthly and President of Voters For Truth in Education (VO/TE), a California public benefit corporation dedicated "to better the education of students attending the public schools within the cities and towns of San Diego County." He can be reached at mcarthy@sandiego-online. com.

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