Claremont COURIER/Saturday, April 14, 2012 7
CFA president weighs in on education trends, policies
time worried about this year’s test scores Claremont did not. It did not prove to be
laremont Faculty Asso- rather than longterm learning for students. effective. Ten years later, LAUSD is re-
ciation President Joe We feel pressured to put things like sci- versing the trend of these totally scripted
Tonan agrees with Los ence, social studies, art and music on the language arts lessons.
backburner to make sure we cover topics Q. How has Claremont been impacted
Angeles Unified School District on the test. by recession-era budget cuts?
Superintendent John Deasy on If a school doesn’t do well on the test, A. The district has had to make some
2 key points: there are penalties for very drastic cuts and that’s hurt teacher
School districts must address any site- Q&A the school. I think morale. Supply budgets have been
by-site inequities that prevent school- teachers know what slashed. Any aides have been slashed.
children from receiving a top-notch comes up on the test year after year. You Q. What’s the combined effect of hav-
education. Also, Californians should look make sure you cover those subjects, even ing larger classes without classroom as-
to the state’s past educational excellence, Claremont Faculty Association Presi- if for the individual child, it might not be sistants?
making support and funding for schools a dent Joe Tonan spoke with the the best thing for them to be learning now. A. There are 34 students in the class-
COURIER recently about the state of For example, in 4th grade I know that room with me alone the whole day. You
top priority. public education in Claremont as well there are going to be 3 genres they’re
When it comes to Mr. Deasy’s views on wouldn’t trust a babysitter with 34 kids.
as his reaction to the ideas of LAUSD
faculty assessment and school-site auton- Superintendent John Deasy. going to choose from for the writing test. With 34-1, classroom management be-
omy, however, Mr. Tonan takes serious Teachers are going to teach those 3 gen- comes a much bigger issue.
issue. His concerns only deepened when carded. res, even if a group of students is excited When I taught 20 students, I was able to
he heard the LAUSD head speak at Clare- “Teachers work in the trenches, day-in about another genre, say poetry. know more about their reading level in 6
mont Graduate University Monday. and day-out, [so] I had great problems Q. With No Child Left Behind falling weeks than I now know by the end of the
with Mr. Deasy’s exclusion of teachers’ into disfavor, do you think we’ll see the year, because it’s difficult to work in
The trouble with autonomy right to look at policy,” Mr. Tonan said. teaching-to-the-test trend reverse in the groups. If you are working with a group of
Mr. Deasy spoke of his belief that pub- Mr. Tonan also disagrees with Mr. next few years? 4 students, you have another 30 students
lic schools should enjoy the type of site- Deasy’s data-driven method of evaluating A. I’m not hopeful unless parents you have to keep one eye on.
by-site autonomy employed by charter teachers based on a combination of stu- across Claremont, across the state and Q. What’s a recent district happening
schools. dent and parent input and on standardized across the nation really stand up and say, that has heartened you about the value the
He expressed pride in a deal struck in test scores. Under “value-added” assess- “My child is more than a test.” city places on education?
December 11, 2011 between the LAUSD ments, past scores are analyzed to predict Q. Has Claremont succumbed to the A. Mr. Tonan noted fundraising efforts
and members of United Teachers Los An- future scores. The difference between the pressure of following any education trends on the part of local schools, including the
geles allowing schools to waive portions prediction and the actual scores is deemed that you disagree with? recent Walk for Wellness event held at
of the district contract on a site-by-site the “value” the teacher has added or sub- A. I think that Claremont’s kept fairly Oakmont and Vista del Valle elementary
basis. tracted. independent. Our school board has done a schools, which raised a combined
Under this agreement, a school opting The value-added method was originally good job of not buying into everything $11,000.
for an alternative governance model can devised to measure the effectiveness of LAUSD has done over the years. About “You look at the community doing that,
substitute its own “thin contract” for the fertilizer, which is apt, he said. “It works 10 years ago, the LAUSD went to totally it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s the lower
district one if 60 percent of administrators, when you have everything else controlled, scripted language arts lessons—teachers socio-economic part of town, but parents
faculty and staff approve the move. Fac- but you can’t control all the variables.” had to read and follow along. are out supporting the schools, doing what
ulty members who wish to be employed at Sometimes, good teaching yields re- Other districts were buying into this. they can.” —Sarah Torribio
such a site—as well as new hires and sults that are not quantifiable, he noted.
transfer teachers—must sign a commit- What’s more, numeric measurements tend
ment to the plan. to belie the efforts of teachers faced with
Thus freed, the school can determine an student challenges, as in the case of an in-
array of factors: class size, curriculum, structor who gets a new crop of English
teaching methodologies, budget alloca- language-learners each year.
tion, teacher assignments, internal school “[Mr. Deasy] looks at teaching as a sci-
organization, student discipline and the ence that you can replicate,” Mr. Tonan
length of the school day. said. “I think good teaching is more of an
Alternative governance schools can de- art than a science.”
cide which teachers to hire and which to
transfer to another location. Administra- State of public education in Claremont
tors are encouraged to award raises and Despite budget cuts and the lack of a
tenure on the basis of performance rather steady Claremont Unified School District
than seniority or additional degrees. superintendent in recent years, Mr. Tonan
Mr. Tonan expressed his concerns that is optimistic about the state of public ed-
site administrators can exert undue influ- ucation in Claremont.
ence under this agreement, which gives “I think teachers are still positive about
principals veto power over the institution, students and love to come to work on a
modification or termination of the model. daily basis,” Mr. Tonan said. “I think
He went on to say such a policy cir- overall parents are happy with the educa-
cumvents the collective bargaining tion that children get in Claremont. Things
process, which represents the strongest are in a lot of ways getting better.”
voice faculty members have with regards Mr. Tonan is in the second year of a 2-
to district policies. year term as president of the CFA. He’s
“Teachers can be highly pressured by a also a 12-year CUSD classroom teacher,
site administrator to go a certain way,” Mr. currently sharing a 4th grade team-teach-
Tonan cautioned, noting that tenure and ing post at Sumner-Danbury Elementary
employment are “based upon buying into School along with Dalet Ramos.
whatever the site has determined.” He recently took some time to speak
Mr. Tonan warned, “It can [result in] with the COURIER to discuss his views
weeding out people, not just for incompe- on the state of education in Claremont.
tence.” Q: Have Claremont schools suc-
Mr. Tonan envisions a worst-case sce- cumbed to the teach-to-the test climate
nario, where issues teachers have been that has infused public education in the
fighting for over the last 30 years such as wake of No Child Left Behind?
student-to-teacher ratio limits are dis- A: I think teachers spend too much