Southern California Public School System’s Increase Security

Several schools in Southern California have been victims of mass school shootings in recent years. In 2014 the University of California Santa Barbara a student killed six and injured 14 before taking his own life. Similar incidents occurred at Los Angeles High school in 2012 and Gardena High school in 2011. Apart from government efforts to improve gun laws several public school system’s have taken it upon themselves to adjust safety precautions.

 

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Gardena High school has experienced this frightful event two times, once in 2002 and the other in 2011. Gardena High math teacher, Mrs. Anagu has seen how this affected the school’s security over time. “We have cameras in classrooms and hallways which I pull student’s attention to. I like students to know we are being watched. Drop down drills and lockdowns are also enforced if there are police activities around school.” said Anagu.

The staff and faculty have made it a priority to be extra attentive of students and the classroom environments they provide. “I am now very careful to keep classroom conversations focused on classwork and the curriculum, no side bars. I am also mindful of awkward behaviors of students or anybody in the classroom.” said Anagu.

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Another math teacher who was working at the time of both shootings recalls the events and the lasting impact they left. Due to privacy reasons and school regulations regarding the press, he asked to be anonymous. “I’ve been a teacher here for more than 15 years and recently we have been instructed to stand by our classroom doors during passing periods in order to report any suspicious activity” he said. Unfortunately after reaching out the Los Angeles Unified School District’s media relations never responded.

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Courtesy of csba.org

According to csba.org there have been 59 K-12 school shootings in California since the year 1992, resulting in a total of 56 casualties. Out of those 59 shootings 12 are reported to have occurred before or after school on school grounds. Unfortunately it is difficult to prevent these types of occurrences, which is why many schools encourage teachers to invest time in their students. “Could someone had done something or said something to have stopped these incidents in time? The depths of my thoughts concerning the waste of human life can never be put into words” said Anagu.

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Warren High School located in Downey has never experienced this national tragedy but has been faced with threats in the past. “Last year we had a student threaten to bring a gun to school and commit an act of violence. The young man posted a message on his social media that caught the school’s attention. Students and parents were advised immediately and the school was equipped with police officers the very next day ready to arrest the student” said Spanish teacher Jay Waldren.

The Press Telegram reported the ninth grade student posted “theres gonna be a shooting” on his Instagram account. The student also claimed this would occur on March 20th of 2015. Students from the school quickly noticed the post and shared it with classmates. Nicole Romero is one of many students from Warren High School who saw this post. “This is something that you think will never happen to you, I heard about this post and told my mom she was so scared she didn’t send me to school that day. I am kind of glad the school administrators here are really nosy and on top of things. I guess since you never know what can happen they just want to make sure we are careful” said junior Nicole Romero.

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Bianca Favela is a student who has since then graduated but attended the school at the time this threat was made. “I actually didn’t go to school that day because I was scared something was going to happen. I read in the news that this threat was supposed to be a joke but I don’t know why anyone would joke about this especially when people have actually lost loved ones in school shootings” said Bianca Favela.

According to the Press Telegram’s report the Downey Police released the student that same day pending legal proceedings at a juvenile courthouse in the area. Police found the student’s remarks were intended as a joke. Public relations coordinator for the Downey Unified School District, Ashley Greaney explained how facilities is in charge of facilities. Nothing major was done as a direct response to this specific incident,  additional security was imposed due to a general need.

Schools such as Gardena High School and others have taken the measures necessary to provide a safe learning environment. This change in their security has been a result of criminal offenses on campus or recent increase in violent school crimes in society. There are different kinds of security measures used in America’s public schools, two mentioned previously are security cameras and communication between parents, teachers and students.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics the percentage of school’s that used one or more security cameras in the years 2013-14 was 75 percent whereas 2009-10 where it was 61 percent. Also the amount of schools that had an anonymous threat reporting system and electronic notification system in case of emergencies was significantly higher as well. Other safety practices implemented in 2013-14 was control of access to school buildings and requiring staff to wear badges or picture IDs. The restriction of cell phone use during school hours was also one that more schools began to push.

Last October we saw president Obama overcome by grief and shaken up by the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. After this specific incident Obama took time to address the nation. “Each time this happens, I am going to say we are going to have to do something about it. And we are going to have to change our laws.” said President Obama. Unfortunately mass shootings specifically in public schools has been a recurrent crime over the past few years.

According to a report by CNN’s Stephen Collinson, Obama has made over 15 addresses regarding mass shootings during his time in office. This type of crime has made headlines many times but the public has yet to see a direct response. Collinson wrote, “Obama gave no details of a new push to get gun laws and legislation requiring more comprehensive background checks through Congress. And it appears unlikely he will be successful in forging any type of gun legislation before he leaves the White House in January 2017.”

There has been much debate on the amount of security that should be allowed at our public schools in light of this national tragedy. Suggestions that have been mentioned include arming teachers, placed armed guards in every school building, locking down the school with bullet-proof glass and training faculty and staff on what to do during an attack.

The Post Star reports on the need for a balanced approach when dealing with school security especially in a time when school budgets are tight. This report also stresses the idea that most school were not designed with security in mind much less a system that is specific for attacks. Advancing security was not the only response by the public school systems. Many schools now come equipped with a counseling center specifically for when tragedies like this occur. For more information on this issue theiacp.org offers a guide for preventing and responding to school violence.

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The Fight Behind American Currency

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Courtesy: TWC News Charlotte Twitter

Last June,  The Secretary of Treasure, Jacob “Jack” Lew announced a plan to feature a woman on the $10 note, in the hopes that he could “encourage a national conversation about women in our democracy.” Lew’s announcement did just that.
Since Treasury Lew announced his idea to America, a campaign known as Women on 20’s quickly backed the big changes coming to American money and gained thousands of supporters.
After 10 months of roundhouse discussions and countless recommendations, the US Department of Treasury has decided that Harriet Tubman will be the face of the $20 bill. President Jackson who was formally on the front of the note will be found on the backside. The decision was made official on April 20, in Secretary Lew’s letter to the American people.

Tubman will be the first woman represented on American currency since the United States $1 Coin Act of 1997 was passed, placing Sacagawea on the front of the gold coin.

When Lew’s official letter was released, countless conversations on social media and other platforms took off. Everybody from news anchors to college students expressed their feelings on the monumental change.

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Courtesy: Hillary Clinton Twitter

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Millennial feminist, Alyssa Wilbert took to social media to share her frustration about Jackson’s replacement. She expressed that slaves never had access to the US currency that “was used as a mode for the oppression of women and the perpetuation institutionalized racism.” in a Facebook post, Wilbert summarized her post, adding that she felt “putting Tubman on American currency flat out doesn’t make sense.”

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Ben Carson, former republican presidential candidate wrote an opinion article, Harriet Tubman Has a Legacy Worth Upholding expressing his disapproval for the face swap.

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Courtesy:GOP Endorsement 2016 Twitter

“Harriet Tubman would likely be turning over in her grave if she knew she would be the new face of American debt slavery. She would revile the cheap trick being pulled on African Americans in getting them to support this nearly bankrupt symbol of American debt. It is amazing how, just as the currency dwindles down to near worthlessness – all of a sudden the Government wants to invoke Harriet Tubman as a symbol on the twenty dollar bill.” He wrote.

Carson feels the freedom fighter should not be directly linked to the endless slave battle that today’s American people face-debt.

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Courtesy: The Wrap Twitter

Fox News anchor, Greta Van Susteren, expressed her disapproval of the big change in an “off the record” video during her show On The Record with Greta Van Susteren. She stated, “They (the Obama administration) went stupid again by booting Jackson off the bill.” Susteren predicts that the decision will cause an “unnecessary divide” between American people that are happy with the the seventh president being the face of the $20 bill and those who want to honor a woman. She proposed that the Obama Administration create a $25 bill to honor Tubman.

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Courtesy: @Micnews Twitter

On an episode of her show, Full Frontal, Samantha Bee, American-Canadian comedian blatantly disagreed with Susteren. Bee doesn’t understand how the change could spark any controversy. “Yes! Finally a black woman making a white man move to the back … He (Andrew Jackson) was a genocidal (censored word) who forced the relocation of non-whites and fulminated populous rebellion.” she said. Bee continued jabs at President Jackson, comparing Jackson to “Trump with better hair.”

Andrew Jackson is referred to as a genocidal man because on top of being a known slave owner, he passed The Indian Removal Act of 1830.

According to the library of congress, this act allowed the president to “grant unsettled lands (for replacement of the Native American tribes) west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders. A few tribes went peacefully, but many (Native American Tribes) resisted the relocation policy.” The resistance led to The Trail of Tears which notoriously claimed the lives of 4,000 Native Americans. This could have been the key reason why Jackson was nixed from the $20 opposed to Hamilton on the $10 bill as Lew originally planned.

While supporters of the Women on 20’s campaign agree that crowning Tubman as the face of the twenty is historic, they’re not completely satisfied. In a press release, the group stated that “the promise of replacing the slave trading, Indian killing Jackson with a woman on the $20 fifteen years down the road is not the suffrage centennial celebration we were looking for.”

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Courtesy: Coco Toribio

With the negative backlash that Jackson is getting, it may be confusing as to why he is still being featured on the $20 bill. Despite all the talk, America’s 7th president isn’t only known for his failures. Biography.com says that he is “known for founding the Democratic Party and for his support of individual liberty” earning him the title of the “People’s President.”

 

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Courtesy: Coco Toribio

According to Politico, Treasury Lew said Alexander Hamilton would be replaced simply because it was the next bill up for remodeling. Lew received backlash from Hamilton fans after he publicly announced his plan especially after the broadway show, Hamilton hit New York.  The support for Hamilton is likely what led to him remaining on his throne as the face of the $10 bill.

The backside of the new ten will honor Women. Modern Money stated that Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott who helped pass The 19th Amendment will also be included the new design.

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Courtesy: Coco Toribio

Although Lincoln will remain on the front the $5 bill, the note will receive a makeover as well. “The bill will highlight historic events that occurred at the Lincoln Memorial.”-Modern Money.  By 2020, the back of the bill is set to pay respect to  Dr. Martin Luther King’s who gave his I have a Dream speech there. Marian Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt are also expected to be on the new bill.

The Women on 20’s stated that keeping Hamilton and Lincoln on the front of the $5 and $10 notes are “teaching a generation of schoolchildren that women don’t have the same shot as men.” Making it clear that they feel being pushed to the back of the bill is unacceptable.

The drastic design changes are a huge step for America’s war against gender inequality. The supporters of Women on 20’s will continue to fight until all of the American bills honor the three ideas listed on their website.

  1. Commemoration of the inclusion of women in the American democracy and as full citizens in 1920 on a redesigned $20 dedicated to women’s history in this country.
  2. Recognition of the contributions of women to our country.
  3. Removal of symbols of hate, intolerance and inequality to enable equality that will bring forth the full potential of all people regardless of gender, race ,ethnicity, sexual preference or identity.

    An official layout of Tubman’s $20 bill has not yet been released, but many ideas have surfaced online.

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Courtesy: @Olimba_Medina Twitter

 

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Courtesy: @Blackvoices Twitter

Teen sexual assault prevention enforced in California

After Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León established the ‘Yes Means Yes’ affirmative consent law at the college level last year, his natural next step was to expand the concept to California high schools. The democratic leader of the state’s 24th district implemented Senate Bill 695 at the beginning of the year, which states all high schools that require a health course for graduation must teach sexual assault and violence prevention.

“[de León] feels a really strong connection with the issue in terms of assault and women, and feels a strong sense that men need to step up and have this conversation,” de León’s Senior Education Consultant Kimberly Rodriguez said. “It shouldn’t just be a women’s issue. It should really be both genders embracing it.”

The original bill and the high school adaptation that followed were spurred by de León’s concern for his then college-aged daughter. The bill, which was supported by nine organizations, specifies classes must teach different forms of sexual harassment and violence, prevention strategies, ways to report cases and resources for victims.

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Senate Bill 695 was supported by nine organizations. Information provided by Tanya Lieberman of the Assembly Education Committee. (Gina Ender Graphic)

Rodriguez said though not all schools have health courses, the three largest districts in the state, of which Los Angeles Unified is the first, do require the class for graduation. She said long term, de León hopes the bill will establish healthy relationships and help inform students about the law’s existence.

In hopes of beginning this education earlier, Legislative Women’s Caucus Chair Hannah-Beth Jackson, who worked alongside de León in implementing bill 695, is working on a new law. Bill 1435 proposes relationship courses begin in middle schools. Rodriguez said she believes this age is not too early to instill respectful and healthy relationships as it will help to prepare students for their interactions in high school, college and beyond.

“You should [know] how to deal with your peers and how to treat each others before you get [to high school],” Rodriguez said.

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From left to right, statistics provided by the Journal of the American Medical Association, U.S. Department of Justice and American Association of University Women.  (Gina Ender Graphic)

Michael Wagner, Monrovia High School’s Health and Wellness teacher for the past 12 years, said he has been teaching these values for as long as he has been an educator. He said he instills in his students that no matter what decisions they make, they have to care about other people.

“I hope [other educators] understand there are certain things that need to be covered, whether you’re uncomfortable with them or not, and we need to leave our private agendas at home and try to teach,” Wagner said.

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(Gina Ender Photo)

Wagner said he believes the new bill will be beneficial because it will universalize the curriculum in all high schools.

“It’s not going to be based on the homophobic teacher that doesn’t want to talk about gender issues, or it’s not going to be based on the person who is pushing gay agenda,” he said. “The playing field is going to be level.”

He said while the implementation may take up to a year to reach its full effect, the law will quickly stir important discussions in district offices. He said for years, there were never clear specifications of what to teach beside a basic outline, which left the standards up to teachers’ interpretations. He said the new law should enforce the importance of sharing all information with students regardless of a teacher’s comfort level.

“Math teachers aren’t going to leave something out if they are not good at it, and I think that’s what we’ve seen in health for years,” Wagner said.

Wagner said Monrovia High anticipates eliminating the health requirement in the future as many other schools have done. If that happens, he said he will incorporate the information he teaches in his health class in biology or physical education.

Azusa High School stopped requiring a health course for graduation several years ago. The school’s health clerk, Rose Araiza, said students have turned to her with sexual education questions since then. She said she believes bringing back the class would be beneficial to teach students about abuse sexually, mentally and physically.

“Health would cover all of that,” Araiza said. “It would be an asset to the kids.”

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(Gina Ender Photo)

She said she has multiple students confide problems concerning romantic and familial relationships in her and the school psychologist. She said there is a general lack of education about sex among many students, especially regarding abuse and protection.

Brittany VanDeVrugt, a Heritage High School junior, said her experience with health class was minimal. She said she was encouraged by her teachers her freshman year to take a fast track health class which she attended twice a week for a semester and then tested out of the second semester. She said she believes it would be beneficial for students to take more in-depth courses to learn about sexual harassment so they are able to identify it when they see it.

“I would tell [other students] to understand what sexual harassment is and the severity of the situation,” VanDeVrugt said. “People blow it over like it’s nothing, but it’s not always nothing.”

VanDeVrugt said she believes students often overlook the seriousness of sexual assault, but said a classroom setting would change students’ perspectives. She said in her experience, most teachers avoid having conversations about touchy sex education topics.

“It’s kind of like a ‘don’t go there’ region,” she said.

She said if she were to have questions concerning sex education, she would most likely turn to a book before a person. She said most teachers treat the topic as taboo, and she thinks they would want her to be more private about her questions than she would like to be.

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(Gina Ender Photo)

Tahquitz High School senior Mady Martinez said she has been informed of the medical aspects of a sex education in anatomy class and has been told about the social aspects in psychology class, but has not had a formal health class since elementary school.

“I know right from wrong, but I was never taught,” Martinez said.

Martinez said she believes it is necessary for students her age to learn about the emotional aspects of sex education. She said Tahquitz offers assemblies about bullying, and she thinks dedicating a class period every so often for a sexual assault assembly would be beneficial.

“I think if we can cover social abuse, I don’t see why we couldn’t cover sexual abuse.”

“I think if we can cover social abuse, I don’t see why we couldn’t cover sexual abuse,” she said.

Hemet High School senior Saige Darrow said her school gave her a choice between taking health and AVID, a college preparatory class, as a freshman. She said she chose to take AVID, but she wishes she would have taken health because she now feels uninformed.

“I think there’s a lot of things that I could have learned that I did not learn,” Darrow said.

She said as she never received instruction from a health class, she would not feel comfortable approaching a teacher with questions about sex education and would prefer to talk to her parents. She said she talks with her friends about issues such as abuse and harassment occasionally, but it is not a frequent topic.

“It’s not a regular discussion,” Darrow said. “It’s talked about, but not as much as it should be.”

For confidential counseling regarding sexual assault, call 800.656.4673 or visit Rape Abuse and Incest National Network.

California’s public libraries resilient despite lacking funds

In response to California budget deficits in 2011, Governor Brown cut direct state funding from public libraries, slashing funds from the California Library Services Act (CLSA), the Public Library Foundation and the state literacy program. Since then, California’s legislators have gradually allotted funding back into the state library fund, but these funds come with restrictions that inhibit local libraries’ freedom to decide how to use the money for improvements.

With a lack of direct state funding, Azusa City Librarian Reed Strege has seen public libraries suffer, facing cutbacks in the form of fewer full-time staff members and decreased hours.

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Established in 1959, the Azusa City Library is located down the street from Azusa City Hall. Photo by Maureen Wolff

“They used to just write everybody a check, but they don’t do that anymore. It’s competitive, and you write grants,” said Strege.

Governor Jerry Brown’s California budget proposal for education in fiscal year 2016-2017 adds $4.8 million in funding for public libraries. About $1.8 million of this sum will be added to the state library budget baseline. The remaining $3 million will be a one-time fund for the upcoming year, intended to help libraries move toward improved technology and digitalization.

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Governor Brown’s budget proposal adds almost $4.8 million to one-time and ongoing funds to state libraries via the California Library Services Act. Courtesy of the California Department of Finance.

“It probably sounds like a lot of money, but if you really think about it, it’s really not,” said Strege. He explained that once distributed, state funding doesn’t go very far among public libraries.

Of the $170.7 billion expenditure budget proposal, Governor Brown allots approximately $51.6 million total for the State Library Fund—about .03% of California’s budget.

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The total funding for California’s libraries for fiscal year 2016-2017 is projected to be approximately $51.6 million. Courtesy of the California Department of Finance

Like other public libraries, the Azusa branch must use its grant-awarded funds for projects that are specifically delineated by the state. Though limited in amount and scope, state funding for the Azusa City Library has been effectively put to use in areas such as the library’s adult literacy program and the improvement of broadband internet networks.

Often, additions to state library funding are not given through permanent additions to the budget baseline. Instead, much of state funding comes in the form of one-time grants, the money from which must be used up for a specific project within the year it is given. Neighborhood Connections is one of Azusa’s current programs that is funded by a one-year grant, with funding coming from federally-based Library Services and Technology Act (LTSA) money that has been filtered through the states. The program allows the Azusa community members to consult with a bilingual Community Resource Specialist who can help provide information about health care, housing, employment and more.

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Photo by Maureen Wolff

Seeking to offer its visitors up-to-date content and programs, the Azusa City Library branch offers free WiFi and access to computers. While Strege emphasized that it’s the people themselves that make the libary thrive, he also stated that budget limitations can inhibit access to key resources. Other than the addition of desktop computers, Strege said that the library looks much the same as it did when it opened it 1959. He pointed to poor lighting, scuffed-up bottoms of doors, and worn-out carpets in the library classroom.

“We can get by day to day with the money that we have,” he offered, citing the library’s offering of after-school tutoring, children’s story time, citizenship classes and computer workshops. But when it comes to facility improvements, the money just isn’t available in the city or state budget.

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Courtesy of Maureen Wolff

The city of Azusa granted the library just over one million dollars for the past fiscal year, and as of 2013-2014 estimates, about 91 percent of the library’s funding is local. In addition to funding from the city, the library receives grants from the Canyon City Foundation, an Azusa-based foundation that supports arts and education.

Less than one percent of the Azusa City Library’s funding coming from the state. Because this small allocation of state funding comes with such strict parameters, sometimes the city’s budget is simply insufficient to address the scope of the local library’s needs.

Chair of the California Library Association’s Advocacy and Legislation Committee Sara Jones points to another issue facing public libraries: the disparity in support and resource distribution between cities and counties across California. While the library Jones directs—the Marin County Free Library—is amply supported, areas such as Kern County struggle to maintain taxpayer support.

While state funding additions will not solve all problems, Jones said, they can help build momentum. “The greatest extent it has is to leverage collaboration and cooperation,” she offered, believing that the real strength in libraries does not come from money, but from librarian and citizen advocacy.

While Strege allows that the Azusa library building is “badly outdated,” he hopes that the city will eventually prioritize funds to replace the facilities. Despite the lack of funds, Strege looks forward to future programs and improvements.

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Photo by Maureen Wolff

“I think the library is moving more toward an educational model and a community meeting space,” said Strege. “I would like to see more classes about more topics, and more direct assistance programs to help people learn about important topics like technology, personal finance, health…We do a lot right now, especially with how little time and money we have, but I think we could do more.”

Director of the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries Miguel Figueroa said that while economic downturn has had negative effects on state and federal funding for libraries, California’s libraries are on the forefront of adapting their roles to reflect larger trends.

“The future is technology, but it’s also lots of other changes that are happening,” said Figueroa, asserting that many of the innovations happening in the nation’s libraries are not technologically based. While libraries are still grounded in the culture and rhythms of sharing information, many are encouraging not only reading, but doing. Many libraries are providing what Figueroa calls “maker spaces,” allotting room within their facilities for visitors to create and experience learning and expression beyond books.

Public libraries have adapted to a lack of funding with agility, but the fight to save state funding for public libraries is far from over. Governor Brown’s 2016-2017 budget—and specifically his allotment for state library funding—remain open to revision. His proposals for state library funds are expected to be reviewed by the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance on May 4, according to a CLA press release.

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Children use the computers in the youth section of the Azusa City Library. Photo by Maureen Wolff

In the meantime, Governor Brown has expressed strong support for California’s libraries, declaring April 10-16 of this year “California Library Week.” He stated in a proclamation, “California’s 1,112 libraries provide a multiplicity of important community functions: fostering a love of reading in people of all ages and walks of life, providing academic support to schoolchildren, teaching literacy skills to adults and serving as a safe haven and connection to social support for our most vulnerable citizens…I applaud all of our public libraries’ efforts to modernize their services, and my budget continues to provide support for library broadband access.”

CLA is calling on all state library supporters to write to legislators on the budget subcommittee, asking them to approve funding proposals and to allocations additional funds for broadband connection grants and adult literacy programs. The budget will receive final approval this summer.

 

 

 

California suspends the CAHSEE

Photo: Camille Frigillana

Photo: Camille Frigillana

Amid the numerous laws that are set to take effect this year, one of these included the suspension of the California High School Exit Exam, or the CAHSEE. Passing this test, which is typically given to students in 10th grade, has been one of the requirements in getting a high school diploma.

Senator Carol Liu introduced the bill, called SB- 172,  in February 2015 and it was signed by Governor Jerry Brown later that year in October. Sen. Liu’s Education Policy Adviser Ed Honowitz explained that the bill came out of a need to adjust testing in light of the new Common Core implementation.

“Students were being taught based on Common Core standards but the CAHSEE test was not aligned to those standards, so that was where the underlining issue was. Since it was no longer aligned with what the kids were learning, it didn’t seem to be a sort of high stakes sort of test to give to people,” Honowitz said.

Photo: Camille Frigillana

Photo: Camille Frigillana

Common Core is, according to their website, “a set of clear college- and career- ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. Other states began implementing Common Core standards in 2010 and California followed suit in 2012.  With these new changes in learning standards, there was a new disconnect forming between what students were learning in the classroom and what they were being tested on in the CAHSEE. SB- 172 gives California more time to close that gap.

“The bill was really to create a hiatus in the testing. It’s giving the state a chance to make some determination on what would be the next version of a high school exit exam and what would be appropriate given the change in the state standards and such,” Honowitz explained.

Although the issue of dealing with the relationship between Common Core and the CAHSEE was the main one to be tackled, there were other concerns that were being raised in terms of students who were not able to get their high school diploma because they had not passed the exam.

“There was some emergency legislation passed that said that if you passed all of your coursework and met all of the other state and district requirements but didn’t pass the CAHSEE, you should still be able to get your diploma,” Honowitz said.

John Marshall High School (Photo: Camille Frigillana)

John Marshall High School (Photo: Camille Frigillana)

For Adriana Carovska, an 11th grade student at Los Angeles’s John Marshall High School, it does not seem fair to her that people are able to get their diplomas without passing the CAHSEE test.

“I am a terrible test taker so I hate tests and I also don’t like how teachers base your intelligence on tests. But at the same time, I think that everyone could pass the CAHSEE because it’s just that easy of a test. Plus, I think that it’s a good wake up call for students who aren’t taking school seriously that tests actually do matter,” Carovska said.

But Honowitz argued that the test can also be difficult for those who are not proficient enough in a certain subject because of reasons beyond their control.

“In some cases you had English learners who were able to pass everything except the English Language portion. A lot of them haven’t been in the country long enough to have all of the skills required to do that,” Honowitz said.

The CAHSEE, according the the CDE website, consisted of two multiple choice sections involving English language and mathematics. In addition to the English multiple choice section, students must also write an essay in response to a specific prompt.  The maximum points that a student can get in each section is 450, and students must get at least 350 points in those sections in order to pass the entire test.

“The reading portion included vocabulary; reading comprehension; analysis of information and literary texts. The writing portion covered writing strategies, applications, and conventions. The writing task called for students to provide a written response to literature, to an informational passage, or to a writing prompt.

The mathematics part included statistics; data analysis and probability; number sense; measurement and geometry; mathematical reasoning; and algebra. Students were required to demonstrate strong computational skills and a foundation in arithmetic, including working with decimals, fractions, and percentages.”

-cde.ca.gov

Between the years of 2006-2015, an average of 78.58% of English learners passed the CAHSEE as a whole. An average of 48.9% of English learners passed the English language portion of the test, while 61.98% passed mathematics.

This table depicts, by demographic, the percentage of students who passed the CAHSEE between 2006-2015 (Courtesy cahsee.cde.ca.gov)

This table depicts, by demographic, the percentage of students who passed the CAHSEE between 2006-2015 (Courtesy cahsee.cde.ca.gov)

Honowitz believes that the circumstances that certain students are in can prove to be a disadvantage when it came to taking the CAHSEE, and that by failing the test can have serious consequences.

“The negative repercussions of not having a high school diploma kind of cuts off access for a lot of people to a whole set of things including additional education options or entering the military. There were people that had their lives significantly changed based on a couple of points on a test when they had essentially passed their other requirements,” Honowitz explained.

Photo: Camille Frigillana

Photo: Camille Frigillana

With SB- 172, students who were in the graduating class of 2003-2004 and other subsequent years are now able to get their high school diploma so long as they had fulfilled other requirements needed from the school and the district.

The bill will span over three years, and during this time a committee consisting of those part of the CDE will meet and formulate a new test that will better align with the Common Core standards.

According to the bill itself, SB- 172 “would add a new requirement, that the Superintendent [of the CDE] convene an advisory panel consisting of specified individuals to provide recommendations to the Superintendent on the continuation of the high school exit examination and on alternative pathways to satisfy specified high school graduation requirements, to those recommendations to be submitted by the Superintendent.”

“That group has been meeting and they are doing some work to try and determine what should be the next step and what would be aligned to the new California content standards,” Honowitz explained.

Even though there is no official testing that high school students need to pass in order to graduate, the possibility isn’t counted out for the future. Carovska hopes that some sort of testing will start up again.

“High school isn’t a joke, and people need to learn that early on. Sophomores should have some kind of wake up call, and one that’s actually on a sophomore learning level instead of it being super easy like the CAHSEE was,” Carovska said.