Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Looking for more on State Assembly candidates’ education positions

Published in the Malibu Surfside News, November 2, 2016
Dear Editor,
I have examined State Assembly candidates Richard Bloom and Matthew Craffey websites, and have found very little information about their positions on education. One of the primary responsibilities of state government is education, but other than pious pronouncements that education is “important,” and be available, the candidates rarely mention it.
Here are issues that I think need to be discussed:
Our students are being pushed into excessive amounts of science, technology, engineering and math (“STEM”) regardless of their personal interests because of the widespread belief that there is a shortage of American experts in these fields. Several studies have shown, however, that this is not so. Are the candidates aware of this issue?  
- California has consistently has very low reading scores. Research relates this problem to a lack of investment in libraries and librarians. Are the candidates committed to more support for our libraries and librarians?
- Bilingual education was dismantled in California in 1998 by Proposition 227, despite strong evidence that properly organized bilingual programs help language minority children acquire academic English. In the November elections Californians will vote on Proposition 58, which would reverse aspects of 227 and once again allow districts to set up bilingual programs that help minority students. Do the candidates have a position on bilingual education?
- Children today undergo a massive amount of unnecessary and expensive testing that does not contribute to their learning. Arizona State University professor David Berliner has reported that increasing testing does not increase school achievement. Have the candidates carefully examined the impact of testing on our students?
- There is a strong movement from publishing and computer companies toward “competency-based education,” a new form of online programmed learning that may result in daily testing. There is little evidence that it works. A report from the National Governor’s Association states that there have been “only a few rigorous evaluations” of these programs.  How do the candidates feel about competency-based education?
About 40 percent of the state general fund budget goes to K-12 education, and another 10 percent to higher education. I hope that Mr. Craffey and Mr. Bloom will present their positions on educational issues.
Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California

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