State Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said yesterday that California can become more competitive and stop a future shortage in college-trained professionals by simply investing more to improve the public school system.
Torlakson cited findings from "A Blueprint for Great Schools," a 31-page report with a myriad of long-term and short-term recommendations to improve California's public school system.
It was prepared by Torlakson’s Transition Advisory Team, a 59-member group of key teachers, parents, administrators and labor and business leaders that Torlakson assembled to help identify areas that are vexing to the state's K-12 system.
Surrounded by many of the team members yesterday at the Department of Education, Torlakson pledged to working closely with the governor's office and Legislature to implement the report's suggestions, including those deemed politically difficult or economically challenging.
“We are setting our sights high because our students deserve it,” Torlakson said. “As our 'Blueprint for Great Schools' shows, there’s no substitute for investing in our children’s education. But we owe our students much more than just money. We also owe them our leadership, our best thinking and, above all, our very best people.”
The study argues that teachers are singularly important to improving student outcomes and calls for a new statewide commission to study and design ways to improve teacher quality. Other recommendations in the document include:
- Develop better teacher recruitment, preparation, support and evaluation systems.
- Launch a program to improve collaboration between unions and management on education reforms.
- Revise state curriculum standards, frameworks and assessments to better reflect the demands of a knowledge-based society and economy,
- Work with higher-education partners to establish college and career readiness standards and improve K-12 assessments for college admissions and placement.
- Develop an infrastructure for a birth-to-third-grade system that expands access to programs designed to meet quality standards.
- Facilitate access to health insurance for all eligible children, support school-based health care, and encouraging better nutrition and increased physical activity within both school and home environments.
In total, the findings represents a sort of marching orders for Torlakson, who insisted the work would not sit on the shelf to collect dust:
I hope you find the team's recommendations as invigorating and inspiring as I did. You may not agree with all of them. Some may take longer to accomplish than others. But together, they offer a vision of where we can go as Californians united for the future of our students and their schools.
David Rattray, senior vice president of education and workforce development at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the advisory team, said the ultimate goal is to fine-tune the state's schools so that young people possess all the skills to be successful.
"California's businesses need workers who can solve problems and get things done," Rattray said. "The 'Blueprint for Great Schools' is designed to make sure success in a California classroom today means success in college and a career tomorrow."