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CORRECTION: State eyes public school overhaul

Corrects title for Marc Winger, superintendent of the Newhall School District

Posted: September 24, 2012 5:03 p.m.
Updated: September 25, 2012 9:34 a.m.

A report out from state education officials proposes overhauling the California public school system, including stepping up teacher accountability and raising standards for school administrators.

“The effort behind the whole report was to really take a broad and comprehensive look at the teaching profession itself,” said Paul Hefner, communications director for the state Department of Education. “The report was really kind of meant to be a call to action.”

While the report doesn’t propose specific measures for school administrators or state legislators to take, it addresses standards that, in some cases, are more than 40 years old, Hefner said.

It also calls for increased teacher accountability and looks at new models for a teacher-tracking system. One such model is currently used at Long Beach charter school Marshall Academy of the Arts, Hefner said.

Officials at the Long Beach school created a series of goals on several different levels for teachers to use for improvement, Hefner said.

“(Teachers) start by setting goals for themselves at the department level, the school level and the district level, where if you’re a math teacher then you know your goal for the year, and it’s a very transparent process. They use multiple measures,” he added.

The report calls for an expansion of such systems’ usage.

Locally, school officials are still discussing the state’s 96-page report by the Task Force on Educator Excellence.

A significant issue is the standardization of the administrator credential process — California is the only state that allows a principal to become licensed through a written test alone, according to the report — a practice that dates back to the 1970s.

“The key to success in education is who’s in the classroom and who’s in the principal office,” said Marc Winger, superintendent of the Newhall School District. “So any time you’re talking about higher educational standards and higher training — that’s a good thing.”

Educators are in favor of raising the bar, he said. But how it’s done is still a source of controversy that divides academics.

Winger said he was recently in Sacramento at a statewide superintendents’ meeting, where several of the reforms mentioned in the report were discussed.

When the proposal to strengthen the requirements for principal testing came up, two schools of thought emerged.

“Here’s the two schools — one is that a test will narrow the pool of possible people, and perhaps eliminate people that could be perfectly fine administrators,” Winger said.

The other side feels a more stringent test would “standardize the preparation and programs” between differing statewide and countywide expectations, he said.

Administrators represent a pressing concern for several reasons, according to the report.

Recent statewide events — including baby boomer retirements, layoffs and different pay practices — have thinned the ranks of administrators, creating a potential shortfall for districts in the future, according to the report.

“This is something that’s occurring all over California,” Rob Gapper, assistant superintendent of instruction for the William S. Hart Union High School District, said during a recent interview on the topic.

Locally, the Hart district created an administrative academy to address the increase in retiring baby boomers — approximately 40 percent of Hart district administrators are nearing the state’s retirement age.

Through recruitment and a districtwide training academy for administrators, the Hart district seeks the best possible candidates, hiring from within whenever appropriate, according to Gail Pinsker, Hart district spokeswoman.

“The district’s philosophy is that an assistant principal can come from within or externally — we want to hire the best available,” she said. “But for principal, we try to hire from within because they have a familiarity with the district.”

The report brings up widespread implications, but the nature of the state’s bureaucracy could mean a long time before the practices suggested actually become mandated, Winger said.

“At the state level, a lot of this will depend on the budget,” Winger said.

“There are some wonderful recommendations, but everything is going to cost money. And that’s kind of the situation with everything right now.”




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