Bay Area Council Blog: Education Archive



Congratulations to Bay Area Council board member Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi, who has been named President of San Jose State University.  Dr. Qayoumi, who has been a long-time supporter of the Council, comes to San Jose State from Cal State East Bay, where he served as President since 2006, reinvigorating the university with an academic focus on science, technology, engineering and math.


Demonize data on teaching at our state’s peril

The following Op-Ed by Jim Wunderman, Bay Area Council President & CEO, appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 13th. The article can be accessed here.

The facts are hard.

A generation ago, California had what was considered the best education system on the planet.

Today, our daughters and sons attend one of the worst-performing education systems in the industrialized world.

We are failing on the rock-bottom basics. California students’ ability to read is ranked 49th in the country by the U.S. Department of Education. Our kids’ ability to do math is ranked 47th and we are second to worst in science. Compared globally, the situation darkens further. Of the top 35 nations, the United States is ranked 29th in science and 35th in math. Your neighborhood school might be good by California standards, but that is a very low bar indeed. Our education crisis is a human tragedy and a looming economic disaster.

The Bay Area Council resolutely refuses to accept this crisis as our state’s fate. Let’s get past the political gridlock and get down to the real business of dramatically improving California schools. We know, as every honest study has shown, that it will take a combination of real dollars and major changes in the way we deliver education.

Several years ago, the Bay Area Council successfully fought to pass legislation creating a fully functioning statewide education data system. That system is now emerging and will be tied to a widely praised common national curriculum. We were inspired by Florida, which implemented the nation’s best data system, and now has far superior education outcomes. Florida’s student population is quite similar to California’s.

For students, the data system should be used throughout the year to help their teachers diagnose needs, guide instruction and monitor performance. It can guide program progress and help principals identify teachers who are getting results, and whose efforts and approaches can be modeled. Finally, considered with other factors, test scores must be a part of meaningful teacher evaluations to ensure our kids are getting the best teachers possible, not just the ones that have accumulated the most seniority.

What happens in a classroom is complex and the fix has multiple answers, but demonizing data throws out a critical flashlight we need to get out of this wilderness.


New CA Supt. of Public Instruction Taps Council VP for Transition Team

Our schools need help.  California’s students rank 48th or 49th in the country in reading, science and math.  Compared globally, the situation darkens further with the U.S. ranked 29th in science and 35th in math.

Luckily, help from the Bay Area Council is on the way.  The Council’s VP of Education, Linda Galliher was tapped to join newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s transition team. Linda has accomplished some great things at the Council over the past year, such as leading the passage of legislation to allow teacher performance to be linked to student outcomes, helping to pass legislation to establish an early warning system for student failure or dropout, and leading the passage of legislation to raise the kindergarten entry age to five, with transitional schooling for eligible four year olds.

We’re proud of her work and we know that Linda will ensure the voice of business is clearly heard as Superintendent Torlakson assumes office. Congrats!


The Packard Foundation Renews Commitment with $100,000 Grant

By Chandra Alexandre

By many measures of progress, the United States is falling behind in the industrial world. At the Council, we firmly believe that what’s needed is a new look at education, complete with a comprehensive and integrated pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade early education investment that will prepare our students to excel and compete with their peers, whether in Finland, South Korea or India. Indeed, quality pre-kindergarten education is a place where maximum returns can be found for relatively small investments.

For the third year in a row, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation agrees. With a substantial commitment to our program, On the Job for California Kids: The Employer Engagement Initiative for ECE, the Foundation is helping to move our business engagement strategy forward into new territory—one that involves continued outreach to the CEOs of major corporations and then beyond to the grasstops of small-to-medium sized businesses around California. Through this initiative, the Council is contributing to systemic P-20 education improvement and addressing long-term workforce development needs.

We believe the greatest opportunity to build effective business engagement lies at the local level, for example, by partnering Chambers of Commerce with early education advocates and community leaders.  Such partnerships work to push the message that quality affordable preschool is an important component of any successful community.  The Bay Area Council has convened and fostered several such partnerships across the region and is expanding this work thanks to the support of the Packard Foundation.

For information about our initiative, On the Job for California Kids, contact: Matt Regan, VP, Government Relations

For information about how to help support our work, contact: Chandra Alexandre, VP, Development


BAC Convenes Leading Superintendents to Strategize Improving Student Achievement

By Linda Galliher

The magnitude and complexity of the challenges facing California public schools is no secret. California’s public education system is not only one of the nations largest and most diverse, but is also one of the lowest funded per pupil. Despite recent “silver bullet” attempts at reform, drop-out rates and poor performance on standardized tests continue to plague the system.

Recognizing the status quo as morally and economically unacceptable, education stakeholders across the state have been mobilizing to find a comprehensive, sustainable solution. As part of the Race to the Top second round application, experienced superintendents have been meeting to discuss and plan innovative strategies to improve college-readiness in their districts. Despite shrinking budgets, these leaders plan to meet the challenge of preparing every student for a career or college head-on.

On Tuesday June 22, The Bay Area Council hosted a meeting between these superintendents, other education reform leaders, and Dr. Jerry Weast of the Montgomery County School District in Maryland. Dr. Weast has been leading a dramatic transformation in student achievement in Montgomery County for the past 11 years, boasting an unprecedented reduction in the achievement gap while simultaneously improving student performance at all student levels. Since Montgomery County has similar characteristics to many Californian districts, Dr. Weast shared his experience and strategy with the group.

It was clear from the meeting that while challenges persist and grow for public education, California has the leadership, talent, and drive to drastically improve student outcomes. However, turning California’s public education system around will take leadership on several levels and partnership across sectors. The Bay Area Council has been a leading voice for education reform in California and views the business community as an invaluable player in the future of California public education.

Watch the video clip below to see a portion of Dr. Weast’s presentation.


BAC Leads Delegation to Promote Early Childhood Education

By Matt Regan

California’s education system is broken to the point that many observers don’t believe it can actually be fixed.  We plunged from first in the nation to worst in a generation; a precipitous decline by anyone’s standards.  Statistics vary depending on who is producing them, but across the board California consistently ranks at or close to the bottom in student funding, student performance, and teacher/student ratios.  We also rank at or close to the top in students qualifying for free or subsidized meals, students who speak English as a second language, and total student population size.  In short, our needs are great and our resources not so much.

Faced with such sobering statistics, it is not hard to side with the pessimists, raise the white flag, and declare the problem unsolvable.  That, however, is not an acceptable option.  California is a knowledge based economy and it is the public education system that previous generations built that made this State the economic powerhouse that it is today.  Consigning a whole generation of California children to failure will produce a pig in our education python that will eventually materialize in an inability for California employers to compete for talent in the global marketplace, higher dependence on state welfare programs, and higher rates of incarceration.  In short, a recipe for disaster.

The Bay Area Council has been a leading voice for education reform in California, and in particular the need for early education, birth to third grade, to be a component part of any effort to repair California’s ailing public education system.  There are many other stakeholders in this reform effort and while we all agree what the problems are, we have rarely reached consensus on what the solutions might look like.  All that may have changed thanks to a trip co-hosted by the Bay Area Council to Montgomery County Maryland, and Washington DC this week.  Joining us on the trip were six School Superintendents, Department of Education representatives, representatives from the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, members of the State Legislature, early education advocates, and business leaders from around California.

Our first port of call was Viers Mill Elementary School in Montgomery Country, Maryland.  Viers Mill is one of the top performing public schools in the country, yet faces exactly the same challenges that exist in California, with 65% of students qualifying for free meals, 30% speaking English as a second language, (32 different languages spoken by students) and a student mobility rate of 22%.  Montgomery County schools outperform California’s in orders of magnitude, yet its per pupil spending, while more, $11,724 compared to $9,152, is not so much so as to be the primary driver of its success.

We saw that driver later in the afternoon in the person of County School Superintendent Jerry Weast.  A no nonsense, pragmatic, larger than life individual with an obvious passion for public education and an intensity and focus that was contagious.  Superintendent Weast turned around his struggling district with a simple formula: set an objective, map a path to get you there, empower your teachers, and don’t let anyone get in your way.  It is clearly working.

We saw first hand what the light at the end of California’s education tunnel looks like.  A school district with similar demographic and fiscal challenges to California performing what can only be described as miracles. Using a data driven model, they are leading the nation in preparing kids for college.  The whole delegation, business, labor and educator alike agreed that while Jerry Weast cannot be cloned, his plan can, and it could work in California schools.

The next day in Washington D.C. we took our unified message and newfound optimism to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative George Miller, and Roberto Rodriguez Special Education Advisor to President Obama. We impressed upon them the need for an integrated seamless and data driven birth to college education model.

Special thanks to Randy Ward, Superintendent of San Diego Schools for co-chairing the delegation with Jim Wunderman, Ken McNeely, Chair of the Bay Area Council Early Childhood Education Committee, and the Packard Foundation for making it all possible.


U.S. Bank Awards $10,000 for Council’s Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders Scholarship Program

By Chandra Alexandre

The Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders Program is at the core of the Bay Area Council’s commitment to education and to investing in underserved communities in the nine-county Bay Area. The program currently helps 60 low-to-moderate income (LMI) scholars realize their goal of achieving a post-high school education—often as the first one in their families to graduate from high school, let alone college.  These students possess an intimate awareness of the challenges faced by residents of LMI communities and are passionate about making a positive impact on their communities.  Through supporting their college education with scholarships, mentoring and leadership workshops, the Council and its partners are helping them become the most capable leaders that they can be—for today and for tomorrow.

The program is in alignment with US Bank’s mission and goals in education. As Lisa M. Joyner, Vice President in U.S. Bank’s West Region Community Affairs department shared in announcing the grant award, “U.S. Bank is excited to support The Bay Area Council’s Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders program.  This program is aligned with one of U.S. Bank’s funding priorities: education. We support innovative programs that help low-and moderate income students succeed in school and prepare for post secondary education.  We appreciate The Bay Area Council’s dedication and commitment to underserved youth.” The U.S. Bank contribution will help the Council further develop and improve upon tracking metrics and aid work with scholars to enhance their exposure to and leadership potentials within the business community.

Thank you, U.S. Bank, for your support!

For additional information about the program or to lend your support, contact us.

Female elementary school pupil being bullied

California Misses Out On First Round of Race to the Top

By Linda Galliher

The U.S. Department of Education announced the list of 16 finalists for the first round of its Race to the Top funds, a list that did not include California. The announcement came as a great disappointment, especially after the Legislature performed “legislative backflips” in the lead up to the January application deadline, passing education reform laws to make the state more competitive for as much as $700 million in federal funds.

States that made the first cut include New York, Florida, Massachusetts and Colorado, as well as the District of Columbia. States were chosen based on willingness to improve failing schools using tools such as a data collection, tougher testing standards and teacher training. It is expected that less than half a dozen of the finalists will go on to receive funding in the first round.

With another round of funding coming up in the summer, California will have a second shot at the Race to the Top money. In order to have a chance this next time, the state will have to demonstrate its ability to improve failing schools through additional reforms even before receiving funding. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan hopes this strategy to lure states into the Race to the Top will result in improved education systems even in states that do not receive federal funds.

Missing out on the first round of grant funding is disappointing but is not a closed door. We now have more time, and the challenge, to bring additional reforms to the table for round two. The Bay Area Council looks forward to working with all stakeholders, and our lawmakers in Sacramento, to find the path that will allow us to usher in some much-needed federal dollars and a new era for education in California.


Important Victory for Education! – SB 19 Signed into Law

By Linda Galliher

California’s cash strapped and underperforming schools need help. Yet, without a comprehensive system to track student data and performance, the state was unlikely to qualify to compete for a large pot of money in the federal Race to the Top education funds. In frustration with his home state, Congressman George Miller, who chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor, ended a recent Bay Area Council meeting saying, “We cannot continue to throw education dollars at a broken system.” It was sobering to hear this given the Bay Area Council’s Education Committee’s continuing fight for a comprehensive education data system. Our hard work finally paid off when Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 19 (Simitian), a bill that removes barriers to federal stimulus dollars – and strengthens the State’s ability to accurately track student performance.

State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) thanked our members for their work. “The signing into law of SB 19 is the culmination of several years’ hard work. Not only does the bill make California eligible to compete for $4.5 billion in federal education funding but it will put in place a data system that will benefit our children and their teachers. I thank the Bay Area Council for their support over those years.”

We, in turn, congratulate Senator Simitian. California lags in the tracking of student performance. We are working diligently to change that – and this bill is a huge step.

SB 19 will allow California to do the following:

* Use student data to evaluate teacher performance and to make teacher assignment decisions.
* Link the collection and flow of data, through a longitudinal system, from Pre-K, through K-12 and into higher education.
* Compete for federal Race to the Top stimulus funds that will be awarded to states that are innovative and reform minded.

For more information on California’s quest for federal grant monies, and suggested reform legislation from the Governor click here.


There is Hope in Education Reform

By Linda Galliher

The Bay Area Council Education Committee recently met at the Commonwealth Club to discuss priorities in education reform – a major challenge for both California and the country as a whole, and a challenge the Bay Area Council has stepped up to lead on behalf of the business community. Attendees were eager to engage with Matt Miller of McKinsey & Co and education guru Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond.

Both speakers emphasized the striking achievement gaps that exist between high and low income students, white and minority students, between California and other states, and between the United States and other developed countries. In the U.S., a child’s low socioeconomic status has become a predictor of poor academic achievement. Internationally the achievement gap between students from high and low income brackets is much less than in the U.S., indicating that family income need not be destiny.

There is hope, Linda Darling-Hammond assured one hundred Bay Area Council members, educators and thought leaders, that there are education reforms that can turn around the downward slide of California public education, now 49th in the nation. She pointed to a wealth of federal stimulus dollars that can help economically strapped California make significant progress toward supporting effective teachers in every classroom. Many of the most lucrative funding opportunities come from grants in U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s, well publicized $5 billion Race to the Top Fund, which will be allocated on a competitive basis. In addition to Race to the Top funds there is a list of alternative funding opportunities, as well as notes from Linda Darling-Hammond’s presentation: Moving California’s Schools from Worst to First: What will it really take to Leave No Child Behind?

Matt Miller from McKinsey & Company presented their report, The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap, which makes a convincing case that we all have a stake in fixing education. The national economy is already showing signs of the negative impacts of a failing education system. By failing to provide the best education for all of our youth, we short change immense human potential. We diminish productivity and lifelong earnings with the cumulative effect imposing the economic equivalent of a national recession that is substantially deeper than the one we are currently experiencing.