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State of California June 8, 2010 Election
Smart Voter

Fixing California's Public Education System

By Grant Mitchel McMicken

Candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

This information is provided by the candidate
Questions, Issues, and Viable Solutions to California's public education system.
Not all California schools are broken. Thirty percent of high school graduates meet the requirements to attend a college in the UC/CSU system.

From this fact, questions arise:

What is happening to the other 70% of the high school graduates?

What percentage of students from disadvantaged and low income families meet the requirements for entrance into the UC/CSU system?

What can be done to help students in traditionally disadvantaged groups and low income families or from program improvement schools to succeed in school?

What can be done to help the 188 schools listed by the State Board of Education as the lowest performing schools in California?

I do not believe California needs to "Race To The Top", I believe California needs to "Race From The Bottom".

The California public school system has five major interrelated issues which must be faced in order to improve all of California's schools: (1) the Achievement Gap, (2) the Drop-Out Rate, (3) Early development of ELA and basic arithmetic skills, (4) school bullying, violence and gang affiliation, and (5) funding reform.

These issues are major, but there are viable, interrelated solutions. The solutions require a different approach to education, a thought process that is "out-of-the-box".

About seventy-five percent of educational funding comes from state, federal and lottery funds.

Proposal: All school staff become State of California employees. This would allow teachers and all other school staff to transfer anywhere in the state without loosing seniority or salary placement. It would also, standardize benefits and make teaching a more desirable occupation.

There is one DOE, 58 COEs, and 1000 school districts in California. The 1,000 districts give rise to 1,000 school boards, 1,000 associate superintendents of curriculum, 1,000 associate superintendents of personnel, and tens of thousands of support staff. The cost of the school districts is over $4 billion a year.

Proposal: Eliminate the school district infrastructure, replacing it with autonomous schools overseen by the COE. Each school would be governed by its school site council comprised of administrators, teachers, support staff, and parents.

Many model schools succeed because they have a low teacher-student ratio. The Urban Academic Academy of Chicago (mentioned by Secretary Arne Duncan, CNN: Fixing America's Schools, April 18,2010) has 445 only male students with 91 staff, The Promise School of Harlem has a teacher-student ration of 1:7, and Grant McMicken (Alisal High School, Salinas, CA) has class ratios of 1:37, 1:37, 1:37, 1:36, and 1:30.

Proposal: Reduce class size without additional funding by:(1) Retrain the tens-of-thousands of district staff (including superintendents, etc.) to work in the classrooms of California schools; (2) Require all school administrators and counselors to teach at least half of the school day; and (3) give college students who have successfully come from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds and/or low income families tuition credits for working as teacher associates,in program improvement schools with high Title I funding.

Schools, especially secondary schools, need to be more interesting and relavent, increasing a sense of belonging and empowering students to be able to make good choices for their post-secondary life.

Proposal: Implement CTE (vocational training) course on par with a-g courses requiremented for college entrance. Use district properties to leverage developers to build small schools within the structure of business and industrial complexes to allow students to actively learn about the various levels and educational requirements of the business/industry.

The State Board of Education does not need to impose sanctions on program improvement schools, but needs to give them the resources to improve.

Proposal: The CDE, in conjunction with the SBE and COE should create task forces of highly-qualified teachers, university educators, private sector best-practices authorities, business and community professionals, and parents/grandparents/interested student relatives to work with the school staff to develop and implement a plan for improvement. Each task force should be assigned to the school for a minimum of two years.

Not all children develop, physically or mentally, at the same rate. Mental maturation for complex and abstract thinking can not be legislated. In 2007-2008 over 38 thousand high school juniors took the Algebra I CST test. There were no advanced scores and only 3% proficient for the entire 38,000+ students. For many this was the end of their second or third year of Algebra. And nearly 38% of high school sophomores fail the CAHSEE which only requires a 55% to pass. One of the best books I have ever used to teach high school mathematics and "Mathematics for Elementary Teacher Candidates" was "Mathematics, A Human Endeavor", Harold Jacobs, circa 1980.

Proposal: Rescind the legislation requiring completion of Algebra I as a high school graduation requirement, replacing it with a two year mathematics requirement which may include Algebra I, but have its primary basis in problem solving, career applications of mathematics (including algebraic processes) and a more liberal arts approach to learning mathematics.

Teachers and schools are held accountable for student achievement, so why not hold students accountable.

Proposal: Move the CST testing to the very end of the school year as a summative evaluation. For single subject CST tests in secondary schools, require a minimum score of Basic to receive credits for a course. In elementary classes, use the summative assessment as one measure to mandate placement in the next class or to begin a process of "special educational" processes to ensure every student is given the educational opportunities to succeed at his/her maximum potential.

The next California State Superintendent of Public Instruction must be able to think-out-of-the-box to form a new vision of public education; must be able to enlighten the next California governor, the state legislature, and labor councils and education associations to meet the interrelated issues facing California public schools; must demonstrate compassion for our children; and must be able to foster a spirit of passion for teaching in the educational community.

My name is Grant McMicken and I am the person California needs to lead its public education system in the "Race From The Bottom".

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