Good Schools For All by Voice of San Diego

Good Schools for All is a podcast about education. Hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn from the Education Synergy Alliance cut through the jargon and debate to get to the news and ideas that matter. Good schools are at the heart of our democracy and economy. We are about good schools for all kids.
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Good Schools For All by Voice of San Diego


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Dec 8, 2016

A special episode of Good Schools For All.

Nov 3, 2016

Effective learning strategies can vary from child to child — but youth brain studies reveal new clues that can help educators improve students' academic achievement.

On this week’s podcast, Timothy Brown, assistant professor of neurosciences at UCSD's School of Medicine, joined co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn to talk about youth brain development, the impact of childhood trauma and technology's role in brain studies. Brown said increased collaboration between neuroscientists and educators can lead to information breakthroughs.

"If you can capture some of these problems early, you might be able to develop programs that help kids," Brown said. "With certain targeted training programs that just focus on these lower-level sound discrimination tests, it has been shown some kids get better. They become better readers, they become better speakers."

Lewis and Kohn also play a speech by Patricia Kuhl, professor and co-director at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, in which she explains how brain studies can predict when a child is ready to learn to read.

Lewis and Kohn also discuss the benefits of encouraging bilingual youth to use their language skills when they're at home and school — instead of switching languages based on location.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

25 percent, 70 percent and 92 percent: Those are the percentages of how much a child's brain weighs from birth to age 5. At birth, a baby's brain weighs 25 percent of its adult brain weight, then increases to 70 percent of an adult brain weight by age 1 and reaches up to 92 percent of an adult brain weight by age 5.

What’s Working

Home Visiting Programs: San Diego-based programs Nurse-Family Partnership, First 5 First Steps and Project Concern International send visitors to homes of babies, toddlers and pregnant mothers to help parents understand how they can support their child’s development, including brain development.

Oct 20, 2016

It's almost Election Day, and thousands of students are counting on voters to make good decisions.

On this week’s podcast, co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn discuss state and local ballot measures connected to education. Locally, Measure I, for instance, allows voters to help choose the fate of San Diego High School, which is located on dedicated parkland.

"If you don't care that San Diego High School is there, and you don't care about this broader principal about whether we should be able to change the charter to hand over parkland, then just vote for it," Lewis said. If Measure I is voted down, however, the school will have to move by 2024 and the land where the school sits now will return to Balboa Park.

Meanwhile, Proposition 58, a statewide measure, focuses on bilingual education. If it passes, it'll restore flexibility to school districts so they can choose the most effective approach to teaching English-learners.

Lewis and Kohn also discuss San Diego Unified trustee candidates for District E, LaShae Collins and incumbent Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, as they campaign to win over voters citywide.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Sep 22, 2016

When it comes to giving students with disabilities the best education possible, early intervention and early detection are crucial – but not all families are equipped to access the resources they need.

On this week’s podcast, Shana Cohen, assistant professor of education studies at UC San Diego, joined co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn to talk about how children from different cultures sometimes receive varied levels of services for developmental disabilities.

"A lot of times, it's an issue of advocacy," Cohen said. "So a lot of white middle-class families, they know where to go to get the services that their child needs. A lot of Latino families or African-Americans families might not know where to go."

There's also an information gap when it comes to looking out for symptoms of developmental disability, Cohen said.

Seth Schwartz, an attorney who works with families of children with disabilities, also joined the podcast, and Lewis and Kohn discuss a study by the National Center on Education Outcomes that found special education students can perform at grade level with adequate accommodations.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

12 percent: The percentage of K-12 students in San Diego County receiving special education services, an increase from 10 percent over the past five years.

What’s Working

Healthy Development Services, through the American Academy of Pediatrics, sends providers to engage with San Diego County families and identify and treat children with mild to moderate disabilities.

Sep 8, 2016

A couple years ago, the state got rid of the California Standards Tests and opted for a new way to check in on student progress.

On this week’s podcast, Steve Green, senior director for assessment, accountability and evaluation at the San Diego County Office of Education, joined co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn to talk about the Smarter Balanced Assessment System, the state's new standardized testing system. The test aligns with Common Core Standards and is more rigorous than the older California Standards Tests, Green said.

"The standards we had before and the way we were assessing was through multiple choice," he said. "The new assessment really does get at critical thinking and application. There are open-ended items where students have to write a response in. There's the performance task, which is very sophisticated. That's where students are truly demonstrating what they know and are able to do."

Since implementing the new assessment standards, San Diego County increased student performance in math and English language arts and literacy at a rate matching the rise seen across the state. The county is ahead of the state in overall performance, Green said.

Lewis and Kohn also discuss achievement gaps between high- and low-income students and between different racial groups.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

62 percent and 49 percent: The percentages of Chula Vista Elementary School District students who met or exceeded English and math standards, respectively, on recent standardized tests. The district outscored San Diego County and the state.

What’s Working

EdSource is a California news and research organization focused on education. Their online source provides snapshots of academic performance data for schools and districts across the state.

Sep 1, 2016

High school graduation rates are up – but students' access to quality courses still varies from school to school.

Last school year, the San Diego Unified School District touted a 92 percent high school graduation rate – an increase despite the district's new, tougher graduation requirements. The new standards mean students must successfully complete the same high school courses required for admission into California State University and University of California schools.

But it seems not all students in the district receive equal support to succeed within and beyond the new standards.

On this week’s podcast, Andrea Guerrero, executive director at Alliance San Diego, a social justice organization, joined co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn to talk about education inequity across San Diego Unified and how her organization pushes the district to raise expectations for more students.

"Your ZIP code is not your destiny and we needed the school district to understand that," she said. "There's still a disparity in AP and IB course offerings ... these are the courses that go beyond making you eligible for the UC and CSU [colleges], these are the courses that make you competitive. You can have a high-performing school ... look inside and understand that not all of the students are getting the same kind of access to programs."

English-learners and refugee students are most at risk, Guerrero said.

Lewis and Kohn also discuss the pros and cons of measuring school success by graduation rates.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

952: That's the number of students last school year who passed San Diego Unified School District's multilingual test as an alternative to the requirement of passing two years of language courses –four times more students than the previous year.

What’s Working

California State University San Marcos signed an Alliance to Accelerate Excellence in Education, which guarantees admission to students from 10 school districts who meet admissions requirements. San Diego State University offers a similar admissions guarantee to local students.

Aug 25, 2016

We need a lot more teachers.

Fewer folks want to be teachers, even as the demand increases. In San Diego County, about 32 percent of teachers are 50 years old or older. As more teachers retire, we have to replace them.

On this week’s podcast, Heather Lattimer, associate professor at the University of San Diego's School of Leadership and Education Sciences, joined host Laura Kohn to talk about ways to recruit students into the teaching profession.

Lattimer said the education field is in a battle to attract students – despite financial concerns and stigma surrounding the career choice.

"The larger issue that I hear over and over is, 'Why do you want to become a teacher?' I hear that from students," she said. "I also hear it from students' parents. Often the students that we encounter who are interested in teacher education and becoming teachers have to combat their parents who are concerned that, 'Hey, this isn't going to be something where you'll be able to A, earn the money, but B, have the respect that we think you deserve.'"

Only about 5 percent of nationally surveyed college-bound high seniors say they're interested in entering the education field, the lowest percentage in decades, Lattimer said.

Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn also discuss the 30 percent decline in teacher credentials by San Diego County's higher education institutions between 2010-2011 and 2014-2015 fiscal years.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

22,000: The total statewide teacher shortage California school districts anticipate for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.

What’s Working

The San Diego Unified School District created a teacher pipeline task force a few years ago to improve teacher recruitment, retention and evaluation methods. The pipeline is designed to encourage and support students in the district to enter the education field and return as teachers.

Aug 11, 2016

Superintendents don't stick around for long.

2014 analysis by EdSource, a nonprofit advocating for public school improvement, found that two-thirds of superintendents at California's largest public school districts served three years or less.

Increasingly, though, it's up to these newbie superintendents to persuade more students and their families to stick around at traditional schools, and resist the urge to transfer to one of the growing number of charter schools in the state.

On this week’s podcast, Luis Ibarra, superintendent of Escondido Union School District, joined host Scott Lewis to talk about competition between traditional and charter schools. The Escondido Union School District serves about 17,000 students, down from previous years. Ibarra is in his second year as superintendent.

"We're starting to look at, 'What are we doing systemically throughout our district to make [traditional schools] more appealing, reach our students more and make education innovative and creative for our students?'" Ibarra said.

The district recently created a task force to find out why parents are taking students from traditional schools and enrolling them in charter schools.

Lewis and co-host Laura Kohn also discuss an interview with Louis Freedberg, executive director at EdSource, about the huge turnover rate of superintendents and whether those changes impact students' quality of education.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

11: The number of San Diego County school districts that will have new superintendents in the 2016-2017 school year.

What’s Working

Superintendents Kevin Holt of the San Marcos Unified School District and Francisco Escobedo of the Chula Vista Elementary School District are long-serving superintendents in the county. Holt began in 2008, Escobedo in 2010.

Jul 28, 2016

Thanks to a funding surge, more California schools are launching career academies, or programs that combine academic and technical skills.

On this week’s podcast, Rob Atterby of ConnectEd joined co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn to talk about “linked learning,” a strategy to prepare students for both college and career.

Jul 21, 2016

There's a link between school discipline policies and students who enter the justice system. Folks call it the school-to-prison pipeline.

Mid-City Community Advocacy Network, or Mid-City CAN, is a City Heights-based organization that advocates for restorative justice, a new approach to school discipline that hopes to disrupt that flow.

On this week’s podcast, Diana Ross, executive director of Mid-City CAN, joined co-hosts Laura Kohn and Mario Koran, who sat in for Scott Lewis, to talk about the organization's efforts to keep more students in school.

"The kids who continue to get expelled and suspended are still majority kids of color. ... There's a huge disparity," Ross said.

She said San Diego Unified School District recently announced its plan for a districtwide rollout of a restorative justice program.

Kohn and Koran also discuss a speech about school discipline that Nancy Hanks, chief of elementary schools in Madison, Wis., gave to Teach for America alumni.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

34 percent: That's how much suspensions in San Diego County dropped in three years, between the 2011-2012 school year and the 2014-2015 school year.

What’s Working

The National Conflict Resolution Center and the Old Globe Theatre partnered to bring Anna Deavere Smith to San Diego for a preview performance of her stage show about the school-to-prison pipeline. Also, a quick correction, Kohn says Deavere visited Lincoln and Crawford high schools. The visits actually happened at Lincoln and Hoover.

Jul 14, 2016

Fewer young Americans are working summer jobs than in decades past, and fewer of those jobs are going to the teens who need them most.

San Diego Workforce Partnership is a nonprofit organization that funds and operates youth employment programs.

On this week’s podcast, Andy Hall, vice president and chief program officer at San Diego Workforce Partnership, joined co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn to talk about the nonprofit's approach to assisting youth seeking employment skills and experience.

Hall said San Diego has "53,000 16- to 24-year-olds who are not connected to either education or employment."

Lewis and Kohn also talk about schools' role to prepare youth for careers.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

21.6 percent: That was San Diego’s youth employment rate in 2014.

What’s Working

McKinley Elementary School is a model for parent-led fundraising efforts. The money they helped raise saved the school's prestigious International Baccalaureate Program.

Jun 23, 2016

Teacher evaluations are crucial, but also controversial.

The Poway Unified School District, though, has a new approach to its teacher evaluations.

On this week's podcast, Candy Smiley, president of Poway Federation of Teachers, and Michele Manos, a teacher and leader of the district's teacher evaluation system, joined co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn to explain Poway's evaluation programs.

One part of the program, for example, pairs teachers with their peers.

"We wanted our focus on professional learning for teachers. How do we make teachers get the best opportunities for their students by improving their practice? That's really what our whole program is based on. It's a growth model, it's a strength-based approach, taking a look at multiple measures," Manos said.

Lewis and Kohn talked about the latest in teacher evaluations and what could change on the state level as well.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

1 out of 5 and 1 out of 17: A national survey out of Brown University and Vanderbilt University demonstrates how principals rate teachers. Principals said about one fifth of teachers were not proficient and needed assistance and support. But the same principals only gave one out of 17 teachers less than satisfactory proficiency ratings.

What’s Working

UC San Diego's CREATE center houses researchers, youth mentors and professional development experts who work with local teachers to help them get better at their craft.

Jun 9, 2016

The Sweetwater Union High School District is the largest secondary school district in the state. A few years ago, the district decided to move its schools onto the same calendar system.

On this week’s podcast, Karen Janney, superintendent of the Sweetwater Union High School District, joins co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn to talk about how she helped develop the district’s common calendar and the impact the change has had on families.

“Before 2007, we had families on up to three different schedules. So they could be at an elementary school district on one calendar, at a middle school on another calendar and at a high school on another calendar,” Janney said. “It just wasn’t good for families.”

Families faced challenges with calendar misalignments such as planning for varied bus schedules, attempting to transfer students to schools to make up credits and trying to plan summer vacations.

“A lot of time the older siblings take care of the younger siblings and if they’re on two different calendars, it makes it even that much tougher for families,” Janney said.

But under the common calendar system, the district provides students with an aligned school schedule and about six weeks of summer vacation.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

Two-thirds: According to a 2007 study by Johns Hopkins University, two-thirds of the ninth-grade reading achievement gap can be attributed to summer learning loss; the other third comes from gaps that arise in early childhood.

What’s Working

Diamond Educational Excellence Partnership, sponsored by the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, has worked with San Diego Unified to put in place a summer enrichment program for rising second and third graders that has been successful in sustaining and building reading skills for more than 90 percent of participants, according to an evaluation by UCSD.

Jun 2, 2016

The Barrio Logan College Institute is an after-school program that serves low-income disadvantaged students from across the county and prepares them to go to college. One way the organization says it transforms students’ lives is by educating and empowering parents to exercise school choice.

On this week’s podcast, Barrio Logan College Institute Executive Director Jose Cruz joined co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn to talk about school choice and how to create a so-called college-going culture.

May 26, 2016

Every kid learns at his or her own pace. They each need something different when it comes to education. Personalized learning has emerged as a response to kids' individualized needs and their varied pace of learning. It's a radically different educational approach that's been gaining steam lately thanks to technology that allows teachers to better track students and provide them with personalized educational experiences.

On this week's podcast, co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn talk to someone who’s putting the personalized learning approach into practice.

May 19, 2016

Normally, the County Board of Education race isn’t one that makes it into headlines. But this year, four of the five spots on the board are up for grabs. And things are heating up.

The folks elected to the County Board of Education wield some power. They do things like approve the San Diego Office of Education‘s annual budget, select and choose the very powerful county superintendent. The board also serves as the appeals board for charter schools that have been denied the right to open by a district in San Diego County.

In this week’s podcast, co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn tried to put on a debate between District 1 incumbent Gregg Robinson and his challenger, Mark Powell.  District 1 represents most of the city of San Diego on the board. Only Robinson accepted the opportunity to debate. But Lewis and Kohn got Powell on the phone after to ask why he wouldn’t face off with Robinson.

One hot topic in the race is charter schools and whether the candidates would support more of them in San Diego.

“I’m sure there are really good charter schools and there’s really bad charter schools,” said Powell. “I would give a fair evaluation if, in fact, an appeal does come to the county board.”

Robinson, a professor of sociology at Grossmont College, says he, too, supports charter schools, but only when they’re effective.

“Charter schools have been very helpful with low-income students in inner-city areas,” he said. “So I support them in those kind of circumstances if they’re doing the job they’re really designed for, but I’m not a rubber-stamp for charter schools.”

Number of the Week

 1,600: The number of at-risk students currently enrolled in San Diego County Office of Education schools. About 12,000 at-risk students cycle through County Office of Education schools over the course of the school year.

We also have a Number of the Week correction. In our May 5 episode, we said 75 percent of middle and high school students are long-term English-learners. The correct number is 75 percent of middle and high school English-learners are in long-term programs.

What’s Working

John Spiegel, science coordinator at the San Diego County Office of Education: County schools are beginning to adopt dramatically different standards for teaching science. To help make the transition, Spiegel and his staff have provided professional development opportunities, online resources and more to teachers and schools. For more on this, listen to our March 31 interview with Trish Williams.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

May 5, 2016

Damian checked a little box when he registered his son Ethan for kindergarten. It indicated that the family predominantly spoke Spanish at home.

At the time, Damian had no idea his son would be classified as an English-learner, and that the designation would follow his son around, having a profound impact on his education.

It's been difficult, Damian said, to get the school district to recognize that, although his son still speaks Spanish at home, he's a smart kid who's excelling in many ways.

"That's my major concern is that I can't describe my kid to this bureaucracy in the right way," he said.

This week, hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn take a new approach to the podcast by weaving Damian and Ethan's story into the larger question of how our city, state and country is educating English-learners.

In November, voters will weigh the California Multilingual Education Act. The measure would essentially gut Proposition 227, the controversial statue that banned bilingual education in most classrooms unless parents specifically opt in.

Conor Williams, the founding director of the nonprofit New America's dual language learner national work group, joins the show to provide some statistics and context on the issue. Williams drops a bombshell when he shares which state is actually leading the way when it comes to its approach to English-learners.

"I'm amazed every time I say it – I can't even believe it myself," he said.

VOSD's education reporter Mario Koran also makes an appearance to talk about his New America fellowship and the future of his weekly column, The Learning Curve.

What’s Working

We've mentioned duel-language immersion schools in the past. There are 82 schools in San Diego that educate students in two languages. Two schools doing it well are the EJE Academies Charter School in El Cajon and the Chula Vista Learning Community Charter School. The two schools are recognized nationally for their efforts in providing a bilingual education to a diverse body of students.

Number of the Week

75 percent: That's the number of California students in middle and high school who are considered long-term English Learners, which means they've been designated as English-learners for at least seven years.

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Subscribe to Good Schools for All on iTunes or get the RSS feed here Stream it here.

Apr 28, 2016

The move from play-based preschools to increasingly rigorous kindergarten classrooms is rough, for both kids and parents.

A Good Schools for All listener, Sally Cox, called in to share her story about a particularly jarring transition from preschool to kindergarten. She said she thought her son was well-prepared, but kids in his kindergarten class were expected to be reading by October, and her son quickly fell behind.

“I think the alignment issues between expectations in kindergarten and how children are prepared in preschool really need to be dealt with,” Cox said.

Hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn dig into the big transition problem, which is worsening thanks to a ratcheting up of academic expectations for kindergarteners. Transitional kindergarten, or TK, a public-school program offered to kids born between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 as the first step of a two-year kindergarten class, has been one attempt at closing the early education achievement gap. 

TK is great for the small number of kids who happen to be born at the right time, Kohn said, but as a public policy it’s pretty terrible.

“It’s this privilege, this entitlement that’s only available if you happen to get pregnant and give birth in a certain little window,” she said. “What we’re giving away is a free, extra year of public schooling to the oldest incoming kindergarteners.”

Kohn’s not the only one with a TK pet peeve. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed combining three state-funded programs: preschool, transitional kindergarten and a rating system. He wants to strip away existing requirements and give local school districts more control over how they use the money as long as they prioritize providing early education services to low-income and at-risk kids.

One big problem with the proposal is the lack of any additional funding, said Matt Doyle.

Doyle’s the executive director of innovation at Vista Unified School District. He came on the podcast this week to talk about Brown’s proposal and share some of the things his district has been doing to help ease the transition between preschool and kindergarten.

“We have actually identified the transition from preschool into kindergarten as probably the single greatest transition the child can make as they develop their cognitive academic abilities for college and career,” he said. “So for us this is the No. 1 issue.”

Got thoughts, opinions or experiences with this? Call 619-354-1085 and leave your name, neighborhood and story so we can play the voicemail on future episodes.

Number of the Week

6,846: That’s the number of transitional kindergarteners we have in the San Diego region. The program just launched three years ago and it’s seen a big increase since its inception. There was a 67 percent increase in TK enrollment from the 2013-2014 to last year, and this year’s numbers are expected to see an even bigger jump.

What’s Working

The Quality Preschool InitiativeThe program rates the quality of state-funded preschools and head start programs in San Diego County. It’s working because the San Diego County Office of Education is implementing the program effectively. The results of the program aren’t publicly available yet, but they will be soon.

Subscribe to Good Schools for All on iTunes or get the RSS feed here.  Stream it here.

Apr 21, 2016

Education technology is exploding. This week in San Diego some of the major players in technology companies, their investors and education leaders gathered in San Diego for the ASU GSV Summit to talk about disrupting classrooms. We grabbed one of the attendees on his way to the talks.

Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart, an organization that advocates for innovations in learning, joins the podcast to talk about how technology is increasingly entering and improving the educational system.

He said the dubbed EdTech movement is finally ready for real, widespread implementation in schools across the world.

"That revolution started 20 years ago but we're finally beginning to understand how to incorporate all these new tools into schools," he said. "Both in K-12 and higher ed."

An example is the adaptive learning approach, he said, which uses computers or tablets and game-like software that, with just a few initial questions, understands a student's reading or math level then adjusts and makes follow-up questions harder or easier. The software also uses engaging graphics and makes the experience fun to keep students interested.

The result is a personalized learning experience for students and real-time data for teachers and parents who can easily track a child's progress and adjust accordingly. The ability to offer effective personalized learning makes the current obsession with making sure students are at the appropriate grade level in every subject seem outmoded.

The technological future of education Vander Ark describes sounds dreamy, but there's one big problem.

"The future is here – it's just not very evenly distributed," he said, quoting cyberpunk sci-fi author William Ford Gibson.

Not all schools are progressing at the same pace when it comes to using technology, Vander Ark said, and even when school districts do bring tech into classrooms, merely replacing textbooks with laptops isn't enough – there needs to be an entire tech ecosystem, which includes smart software, data tracking and innovative teaching techniques.

"That's the big challenge and a big reason progress has been relatively uneven," he said.

Also on this week’s podcast, co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn talk about a recent parenting win, the seductive attraction of the project-based learning approach used by schools like High Tech High and the uptick in private startups looking to invest in education technology for public schools.

Number of the Week

4 percent: That's the projected proportion of private capital that's expected to be invested in education technology in the next decade. Right now, the number's just .4 percent, so that's a 10-fold increase in the next 10 years.

What’s Working

TEDxKids@ElCajon: Organized by the Cajon Valley Union School District, the annual event helps kids find what's unique and special about them and asks them to present to their community. Students from kindergarten through high school participate and it's become a successful, student-centric event.

Mar 31, 2016

You might not have any idea what the California State Board of Education does. I didn't.

That is, until we talked to Trish Boyd Williams, a member of the board.

Williams lives in San Diego and has a major role on the board and she explained it to me for the latest episode of Good Schools for All.

It was that board, of course, that is the reason Common Core was adopted in California so we took the opportunity to break down how it's going and how the board determines its standards. My co-host Laura Kohn was screaming at the TV during a recent Republican presidential debate as they went on about Common Core. Take a listen to hear what she says they got wrong.

Williams said it's having a major impact in the state.

"What’s different about the Common Core state standards in English, Language Arts and Math over the previous standards in English and Math is that it shifts the focus. There’s less memorization of isolated facts, and there is more focus on bigger ideas, and on discussion, analysis, arguing from evidence, and critical thinking skills," Williams said.

Williams is also spearheading the adoption of new science standards for schools.

What’s Working:

Devin Vodicka, the Superintendent of the Vista Unified School District, and was named Superintendent of the year by the California Association of School Administrators in 2015. Devon and his team are making thoughtful but ambitious changes in the schooling system. They are working from a “blueprint for educational excellence,” and are creating a very positive impact.

Numbers of the Week:

The achievement gap refers to the difference in educational achievement between different races or demographics. 72% of Asian students read at grade level last Spring, and only 30% of black students did. In 8th grade math, 73% of Asians students met grade level standards, and only 22% of black students did.

Mar 24, 2016

I've always sensed a disconnect between school and life. For my own life, I came to understand it as a kind of convergence of lines — school is one of the lines, and if you follow it long enough and well enough, it will eventually converge with life and propel you forward.

In his film "Most Likely to Succeed," Greg Whiteley approaches the disconnect differently. As he tries to demonstrate in the film, the school line not only doesn't converge with the life line but is harmfully off track. Standardized tests and the so-called Prussian Method of education, where each subject — reading, math, social studies and science — is taught separately and aimed at building a base level of knowledge for everyone.

The movie centers on San Diego's High Tech High and its project-based teaching approach.

Whiteley is the filmmaker behind the critically acclaimed documentary "Mitt," an inside look with exclusive access to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. It turns out Whiteley and his wife and children live in Point Loma, and he dropped by for an interview with Laura Kohn and me for the latest episode of Good Schools for All.

If you enjoy the show, please consider searching for it on iTunes and rating it.

Number of the Week

503,848: That's the number of students enrolled in public school in San Diego County. That’s more students than 20 other states.

What Is Working

Del Lago Academy: A 3-year-old high school in the Escondido district that focuses on biomedical and health sciences for students. They use project- and work-based learning, integrate technology and are a great example of a school system that is delivering innovative and inspiring education for children in a non-traditional way.

Mentioned in the Show

Mar 15, 2016

Studies have shown that the first five years are the time that will define a child’s ability to constantly learn throughout the rest of their life. When children learn a lot and frequently at an early age, it lays down patterns in their brain that will continue to be repeated throughout their life, allowing them to learn more and more. This is why that time of life is so important.

Professor Heckman recently published results that at-risk children who don’t get high quality early childhood experiences are 25% more likely to drop out of school, 40% more likely to become teen parents, and 60% less likely to attend college.

Not only is this time pivotal in a child’s life, but the average cost of education between ages 0-5 is actually nearly the same as the amount spent on a child’s college education. But at that age, parents have had a lot more time to save for the expense, whereas parents of preschool-aged children are often caught off guard by the expense.

San Diego, and California in general, has done a lot to make federal aid available to the lowest income-bracket, but there are significant financial challenges to those upper-low income and middle range families that are looking to give their children the best possible start in the pivotal moment of their lives, and to make sure that there isn’t an achievement gap when children start kindergarten.


Number of the week:

$359: What San Diego County is investing in each zero, one, or two year old child. In contrast, we’re investing over $9,400 in every school age child, 6-12.


What is Working:

Educational enrichment systems: A non-profit provider of preschool and other early childhood programs for 1,100 kids across San Diego County, serving as a network of preschools.