The San Diego, California, Blueprint For Success is Dead
How much longer will the Alan Bersin-Tony Alvarado-Carmen Farina District 2 "Miracle" receive $millions in corporate and political PR money?
The San Diego Unified School District "Blueprint for Success" is Dead!
La Prensa Editorial, July 9, 2004
The "Blueprint for Success" is a colossal failure and as the old saying goes 'the rats are abandoning the ship.' First it was Anthony Alvarado, the supposed architect of the Blueprint who left last year. The San Diego Unified School Board of Trustees with a 3-2 majority which steadfastly supported the Blueprint, consisting of Sue Braun, whose political career was sunk with her poor choice of words (Under pressure, Braun left the board in 2003.), Ed Lopez, and Ron Ottinger all decided not to run for re-election as they took note that the teachers, parents and the Unions were strongly opposing the "Blueprint for Success". Ultimately, Superintendent Alan Bersin decided it was time to seek employment elsewhere and will soon be gone.
All the candidates running to fill the three seats of the outgoing board have all gone on the record voicing a vote of no confidence in Alan Bersin and opposing the Blueprint, with exception of one. With the seating of a new board in 2005 and a new majority opposing the Blueprint, this will officially mark the end of this experiment.
The intent of the Blueprint was to educate and prepare an effective work force with an emphasis on reading, writing, and math to the exclusion of all other aspects of education. With the Hispanic community rapidly becoming the bulk of the future workforce particular attention was supposed to be devoted to educating this segment of the community. The goal of the Blueprint was developed on the East Coast where it was utilized on a much smaller school district with some success. San Diego Unified (with a student body of 140,753) was to be the ultimate test that the Blueprint would work in major school systems. With the anticipated success of the Blue for Success, this program would then be rolled out to other school districts that face similar challenges in educating a large diverse student body. Towards this end there was a camera crew video taping the changes and a writer documenting the progress for a 'how to' documentary.
Instead of a 'how to' documentary what we now have is a 'how not to implement change' documentary. From the very inception of this plan the Blueprint was a quagmire of problems, obstacles, dissension, and disconnect with the parents, in particular Hispanic parents, teachers, administrators, and with the citizens and residents of the San Diego Unified School District.
At this juncture, we have to go back as to why Alan Bersin was hired and by whom. Least we forget, the Bersin hiring was orchestrated and supported by the major corporations, the Chamber of Commerce, the Union Tribune, the Republican power structure, the developers and all those who stood to gain from the spending of millions of dollars. Supt. Bersin was hired behind closed doors, with virtually no public input. To protect the vested interests, strings were attached to the "Blue Print for Success" that neither Supt. Bersin nor his New York Assistant, Anthony Alvarado could not get fired during the life of the "Blue Print for Success".
While Bersin will take the body blows for this debacle, there is plenty of blame to go around for this education failure. But those who will pay the ultimate price will be those students who lost years of education to prepare them for college and/or be able to enter into gainful employment opportunities.
As we have documented in the pages of La Prensa San Diego, the State-run educational system in the State of California is failing our children. Change is absolutely needed. We now know how not to bring about change, it is time now to look for answers as to why our schools are failing the majority of the students in particular Latino/Hispanic/Black children, the under privileged children. Education should be color and racially blind and not be depended on the wealth of the parents.
Avoid the San Diego Model of Alan Bersin and Tony Alvarado
To The Editor
The New York Times
July 31, 2002
Cc: Anemona Hartocollis
From Michael McKeown
I read with interest Anemona Hartocollis' article (July 30) on the appointment of businessman and antitrust lawyer Joel Klein as head of NY City Schools. There are good reasons for bringing an outsider and non-educator to the system, but he or she must bring effective classroom practices, not just business management skills to bring about real improvement.
As a long time resident of San Diego, I note that the example of a similar change, Alan Bersin's work with Tony Alvarado in San Diego, is not a smashing success. Before they arrived, California had put all the pieces in place: Standards, textbooks aligned to the standards, money to buy them, and a plan for yearly testing and accountability. Success in this context is not just marginal improvement, but doing better than others who have the same tools. By this measure, San Diego has failed.
State test results from the years 1999, 2000, and 2001 (http://www.eddataonline.com/StarComp/, 2002 is not yet available) reveal that San Diego's rate of improvement, particularly in math, lags behind San Diego County and the state as a whole. For example, in elementary school math (grades 2-5), the state moved 4.75% more students from below national norms to above them than San Diego did. In doing so, the state nearly caught up with San Diego in grades 2 and 3 and actually passed San Diego in grades 4 and 5.
If a good start in school is most important for future success, recent trends are even more distressing. Between 2000 and 2001 San Diego's grade 2 and 3 math and reading scores dropped while California's continued to climb.
Alan Bersin has garnered an impressive amount of support in the business and newspaper communities. That is not enough. Bad curriculum and labor management choices have limited academic success of his students relative to their peers around the state. For New York's sake, I hope Mr. Klein does better.
I am a Professor of Medical Science at Brown University. Prior to that I was on the faculty of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego. My 3 children attended San Diego City Schools for a total of 31 years before we moved to Rhode Island in 2000. I was a member of the committee which wrote the California Mathematics Advisory and the committee which drafted the San Diego Mathematics Standards. I am a co-founder of Mathematically Correct, and have spoken across the country on issues related to mathematics education, including last fall at the Education Leaders Council annual meeting and this year at a forum on math education organized by Lynne Cheney held at the American Enterprise Institute.