A New Year – but will it be “Happy?”

Catching up on important local school news, the college admission race, and Betsy DeVos.

I have taken a break from blogging since it came time in early December to help my students prepare for Fall semester finals.  This article catches up on important events during the last month or so.

I have not followed up yet on my series about Raising Local Teacher Salaries (parts 1, 2, and 3) as I am still waiting for information from Superintendent Rosas following our meeting on 11/22/16.  I am sure that she has been busy as well, but progress has unfortunately come to a halt on this issue for the time being (and, yes, I did send a follow-up request).  If I do not receive a response fairly soon in the new year, I will try to proceed with my study of this issue by using the limited information available on the SMFCSD website.  We need to address this issue before we lose more teachers from our local schools to surrounding districts.

However, last month CALPERS voted to reduce its investment return targets which will obligate municipalities to contribute more to public pension funds.  This may throw an additional wrench into the funding works.

The renewal of Measure A for the San Mateo / Foster City School District will be on the ballot this coming March.  If it does not pass, local elementary and middle schools will lose about $7 million in funding.  However, Measure A simply maintains the status quo.  Note that my teacher salary study, if ever implemented, would require an additional parcel tax.  Perhaps this might be more palatable after a Republican tax cut 😉  !!

As for positive news, I am pleased to announce that four of my students over the past two years have been accepted to Ivy League schools.

However, on the downside, I am discouraged by the continued attention of high school students to resume-building instead of learning.  High school has become primarily a series of hoops to jump through to get into a good college, but, in the process of jumping through these hoops, I see good students losing interest in science, engineering, and math.  I blame this directly on the teaching to the test emphasis and trap-filled questions prevalent on the AP exams.

Some Aragon teachers tell me that they feel the same way that I do about AP classes, but they teach as they do because of parental demands for “rigorous” AP programs that enable kids to get into top colleges.  Parents express their concerns to me about their students’ stress levels.  Students themselves pile on more AP classes because “their smart friends are doing it.”  Looks like there might be a great business opportunity in the new year for someone selling hamster exercise wheels!

There are remedies for this problem, but change, if it comes, will be slow.  I was interested to note that the newly elected House Representative from the South Bay, Ro Khanna, recently addressed the “college admissions arms race” problem in an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle.

January 11th will be the start of confirmation hearings for the nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, an advocate for school vouchers and charter schools.  Opponents are already circulating lists of questions (here and here) for her confirmation hearings.  I’d like to call your attention to a couple of interesting articles (here and here) about charter schools.

In case all of the above stresses you out, here is an article about teacher stress and a recommendation for combatting it 😉  !!  Very “New Age” …

Happy New Year!

Author: David Kristofferson

Retired Ph.D. scientist, teacher (after retiring from industry, taught in private and public high schools and then worked a decade in my own private tutoring business), bioinformatician (managed both the NIH-funded GenBank National Nucleic Acid Sequence Databank and the BIONET National Computer Resource for Molecular Biology), IT director at Eos and Raven Biotechnologies, software product manager, AAAS Fellow, avid cyclist, and backpacker!

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