Thursday, January 19, 2006

Opting Out--Colorado Style


Denver's education system has made the news recently, mostly because of a pending ballot measure (to be voted on in November 2006) which would create a model of merit pay for teachers. While proposed "carrots" currently include compensation for such things as earning a Master's Degree, spending money on your own education, teaching in a hard-to-serve school and earning a satisfactory evaluation (among other accomplishments), most controversial is the connection between teacher pay and student test performance.

Meanwhile, something else is going on in Colorado, state-wide. Led by Don Perl, University of Colorado professor and founder of the Coalition for Better Education, a group of parents and educators are uniting for a common purpose: To opt-out of the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) altogether. According to one report published in The Denver Post last March, more than three thousand students "just said no" to the test in 2005.

In a new awareness campaign, launched on January 16 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, the group unveiled bus bench ads displaying the web address for official opt-out forms in Colorado.

In California, the opt-out discussion hasn't quite garnered the same national attention. Even though there aren't any "opt-outs" allowed for the High School Exit Exam (HSEE), parents may still complete forms to opt their children and young adults out of the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program.

Teachers may not "encourage" or "rally" parents to exercise this right but are legally permitted to make information available. For information on what's possible in the Golden State, visit the California Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CalCARE) website.

Monday, January 16, 2006

His Terminating Days Are Gone

What a difference a year makes! Last January he was unbeatable. He could walk on water. He was an intimidating figure. Yes, the terminator governor had it all--except common sense and good advisers. Now, we hear Arnold in his State of the State speech admitting that he had been foolish. He now understands, he says. The voters have spoken.

He's learned his lesson, he says, and now understands that the people of California want "to cut the warfare, cool the rhetoric, find common ground, and fix the problems together.

Now he wants to do what is right for the people of California, which means he has to work with the state legislature. You remember them; they were the "girlie men" of last year--now they've become his newest best friends. And what about those bad special interest folks? You know, the teachers, nurses, policemen and firemen? Well, they're okay now, too.

Are we to believe that he has had an extreme makeover since the special elections of last month? Are we to forgive him for wasting the goodwill that we had once showered upon him when he won the recall? We'll see how seriously he believes his own words.

He now wants to do all things for all of us. In fact, he proposed in his address to find the funding to provide all kinds of projects to improve the education of our children, the safety of our streets, improve the health care of our elderly, and insure that California remains the fifth-largest economy in the world.

"I say, build it!" the governor shouted several times, but what does he want to build? Is it truly our infrastructure, or is it his stature in the state? All of that without raising any taxes! If I didn't know better, I would have thought that it was he who parted the Red Sea and not Moses, and it was he who fed the people with only a fish and a loaf of bread.

He now wants to be the Collectinator instead of the Terminator governor. He thinks the federal government will come to our aid and help to fund the projects he mentioned. Well, where have the feds been since Arnold took over the reigns of power in California? Why does he think the government will come forward to help us now?

It's obvious that cutting taxes for the wealthy and funding a war based on lies have depleted the government's treasury. And California being a blue state in the last few elections won't make Bush any more sympathetic to our needs.

The problem, of course, is Arnold no longer has any credibility with the people. His true colors were out there for all to see leading up to the special election. Is he saying these things now because he realizes that he needs to be the people's governor instead of the governor of corporations and big business, or is he only thinking about his re-election in November?

Does he care about rebuilding California, or only rebuilding his own image? Is he thinking about the people, or his legacy as governor?

Only time will tell. If he's sincere, then in January, 2007, Californians will be cheering him as a true advocate for the people. If he's not, then we will be sending him back home to Hollywood. There, he can always get a role in a low-budget film portraying a governor. Once an actor, always an actor, even if he was never really a very good one.