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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Jun 26, 2017

“The culture of the district was basically based on retaliation, intimidation. Those are the two words that I can think of,” said former Sweetwater school board member Bertha Lopez.

Exactly six years have passed since Sweetwater schools superintendent Jesus Gandara was terminated at 2 a.m. on June 21, 2011 following seven hours of closed door meetings.

A raucous crowd of 500 people gathered in a high school gymnasium the evening before to attend the Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting, many to demand better from their school district leaders. Some hoped Gandara’s departure would close a dark chapter in the district’s history dominated by stories of malfeasance.

But what was supposed to be the end was only the beginning of the end for leaders of California’s largest secondary public school district, which spans from the city of San Diego to the U.S.-Mexico border.

An investigation of Gandara’s activities, as well as the Sweetwater school board and contractors by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office would last a few years and end in various criminal charges, including felony bribery and conspiracy. A couple Sweetwater leaders landed behind bars.

Much has been written about the DA’s case, the outcome and the troubling decision-making that occurred on Gandara’s watch.

But there is a story behind all those stories that has yet to be told, about the six individuals who set the whole thing in motion by demanding accountability from their local school leaders and going to the district attorney for help.

“I felt like if we didn't do it, nobody else would, and these folks would continue to get away with crimes,” said parent Stewart Payne.

“The public has more power than they think that they do,” said parent Maty Adato.

“Did I think justice was served? No. Not only no, but hell no,” said grandparent Kathleen Cheers.

Payne, Adato and Cheers were part of a group of mostly parents and concerned community members who spent years faithfully attending public school board meetings, scouring documents and sounding the alarm when students were shortchanged by district leaders.

To mark the six-year anniversary of Gandara’s termination, we put together a special podcast to allow them to share their story, their motivations, challenges and the sacrifices made along the way. They also have advice for others who want to see change at their local government agency.

Read the full transcript of the podcast interviews here.

Jun 23, 2017

Entering the real world is difficult for many young adults, but for some that transition often leaves them stuck in limbo.

The term "opportunity youth" is now being used to describe the growing number of 16- to 24-year-olds who don't attend school or have a job.

A few institutions in the region have started noticing the problem of disconnected youth and new programs serving the population are in the works. San Diego Continuing Education, a school that provides adults with different job and education alternatives, is one of the organizations testing out a few different solutions.

On this week’s podcast, cohosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn sit down with Carlos Cortez, president of San Diego Continuing Education, to talk about how the school is helping guide students who struggle with the transition into the so-called real world.

"Many [students] have so many gaps in their educational development that it really requires simultaneously providing foundational skills and support, while also providing them with the job training that's going to help them to land a job that pays a livable wage," Cortez said.

Number of the Week

9.6 percent: The percent of 16- to 24-year-olds in San Diego County who are considered opportunity youth. That's almost one in 10 of the 43,000 students in the county.

What’s Working

The International Rescue Committee: An organization that helps refugees settle in cities across the country, but also makes sure young adults have the tools to succeed in American schools.


May 1, 2017

There's no one comprehensive strategy behind educating English-learners in California. Instead, it's a mishmash of programs, many of which leave students struggling to learn English for years.

This week, cohosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn discuss what research is showing to be the best ways to educate English-learners.

Author and education expert Ruby Takanishi joins the show to talk about a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that examined the most effective ways to educate English-learners.

Takanishi said that even though more and more educators and researchers are promoting multilingualism at schools, school districts in several states are still lagging in providing adequate resources for students who don't speak English.

"It is very clear that (English-language learners) in all states throughout the country are really at the bottom of the charts," she said. "They have widest achievement disparities among different groups, including racial ethnic groups and economic groups."

Takanishi chaired the committee behind the report, which found that it takes an average of five to seven years for a student to become proficient in English. On top of the academic challenges that presents, the report showed that many English-learners continue to struggle once they enter the workforce.

Number of the Week

1 in 7: That's the number of long-term English-learners in California. Long-term English-learners are those who enter kindergarten as English-learners and don't speak English fluently for more than six years.

What’s Working

Chula Vista Learning Community Charter School: A local trilingual immersion school highlighted was in the report for its effective multilingual education program and its sophisticated approach to instruction, which includes problem-solving and project-based learning.

Mar 16, 2017

The Cajon Valley Union School District has nailed personalized learning.

The approach gives more control to students and lets them build on their own strengths with the help of technology tools and a flexible curriculum.

This week, hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn talked to David Miyashiro, superintendent of Cajon Valley, about how the district is working to meet individual students' needs.

Miyashiro also discussed his district's refugee demographic. He said roughly 900 refugee children entered the Cajon Valley District last year.

"The newcomers to our district and the diversity of our community really add to the experience of every student and every person in our city," he said. "I think the strength in diversity has made us stronger, has allowed us to open our eyes to bigger things that just standardized test scores and I think we're better because of it."

Lewis and Kohn also dug in to the layoffs happening at the San Diego Unified School District.

About 1,500 district employees will be cut, but not much is known of what comes after and who will take on all the responsibilities of the educators and other staffers who are being pushed out.

Number of the Week

13: That's the number of meetings students who sign up for TED-Ed Clubs go through. The meetings help students identify and research ideas, then put them into a quick TED-style talk.

What’s Working

Community: Miyashiro said getting city and community leaders together to talk about important issues is what works best when building strong schools and neighborhoods.

Feb 23, 2017

The controversies surrounding Betsy DeVos' strong support for school choice hit home just as she took office as secretary of education.

When Diane Ravitch, an education researcher, suggested that DeVos visit successful school districts like San Diego Unified, local teachers unions were furious to find out that the invitation was actually extended on behalf of the district's board of trustees. Outcry from local teachers eventually caused that invitation to be rescinded.

In this week's podcast, co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn talk more about DeVos and concerns about funneling education funds from traditional public schools into private schools and charter schools.

Voice of San Diego's education reporter Mario Koran also joins the podcast to explain how San Diego Unified's impressive 92 percent student graduation rate brings up concerns about the district's connections to credit-recovery charter schools.

"If a kid is coming up to graduation time and they're not on track to graduate, we see a number of those same kids leaving the San Diego Unified schools and going to these credit-recovery high schools," he said. "It gets those students off the San Diego Unified graduation rolls. So they don't count anymore. They're virtually excluded when they go to the charter school."

Koran said this leads to a bigger question – how prepared are students when they graduate and what is the district doing to help those who are struggling?

Number of the Week

Five: That's the number of states that provide school choice vouchers just for low-income students.

Feb 1, 2017

Hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn discuss Betsy DeVos and what her nomination as Secretary of Education could mean for in California. In the second half, Lewis and Kohn speak with Miles Durfee, Managing Regional Director of the California Charter Schools Association.

Jan 20, 2017

Hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn speak with Dr. Sandy Husk, CEO of the college preparatory program AVID, Jill Anderson, Principal of O'Farrell Charter's Middle School Academy and Chuy Gomez, an AVID student at O'Farrell.

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.

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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.”

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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.

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