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For State Superintendent of Public Instruction

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I believe every child can succeed under the right circumstances, and I want to use my depth of experience in education to make California’s public school system amongst the top in the nation.

I believe that schools are making progress and with a better system of unity, we will be able to maximize opportunities for all students to be successful. I believe that it is imperative for our governor, legislators, State Board of Education, Department of Education, and Commission on Teacher Credentialing to work collaboratively to resolve the issues confronting our 1,000 school districts. I believe in the power of collaboration and working toward one common goal.

The following issues are at the top of my agenda:

  • Special Education
  • Teacher recruitment and retention
  • Teacher tenure
  • Teacher preparation
  • Universal design for learning
  • Bilingual education
  • Social and emotional learning
  • Online learning
  • Community-based centers
  • Universal preschool for all
  • Homelessness
  • Technology
  • Curriculum re-alignment
  • Local Control Funding Formula
  • Local Control Accountability Plan
  • Education and Entrepreneurship
  • School safety

Please read through the sections below to read in detail about the Issues:

Special Education

For the last 21 years, I have worked to ensure students with disabilities receive a quality learning experience that prepares them for post-secondary education, community integration, and gainful employment. My journey as a special education classroom aide, teacher, principal, researcher, university professor, and founder of two nonpublic schools has given me the philosophical tenets to institute large scale educational reform for our students with exceptionalities.  Given the complex network of federal, state, and local regulations governing special education, it is imperative for California to have a leader with experience and the knowledge to focus reform efforts where it matters the most. There are inherent concepts that develop as the result of experiences with children with exceptionalities, and I intend on using this body of knowledge to work with the state’s special education division to make California’s delivery system the best in the nation.

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Funding

Many schools, especially those in rural areas, are struggling to stay in compliance with the law while providing equitable services to their students with exceptionalities. This not only represents a significant problem for students attending such schools, but there is a greater concern amongst parents that their children are receiving a second class education. Funding should never dictate the quality of education a student receives, but the federal government has allowed this crisis to permeate at a rate beyond comprehension. It’s time that we take more calculated steps to hold the federal government responsible for its default on special education funding. Since this issue not only affects California, I would commission a task force to address this problem with other practitioners across the country. I realize that this is a very complicated matter, but now is the time for immediate and deliberate action.

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Additional funding to Special Education Local Planning Areas (SELPAs)

SELPAs are great entities that support our school districts. We must continue to invest dollars so that our schools have ongoing access to tiered levels of support. Many of our SELPAs also provide training to nonpublic schools, charter schools, and parents. As we know, training, technical support, mediation, and other special education related expenditures can be very costly. However, SELPAs provide a means for districts to share these expenditures, which is significant for our smaller school districts serving students with exceptionalities. It should be a shared goal of the legislature and governor to ensure that our SELPAs have the resources they need to offer a full continuum of support to students, teachers, and school districts. The blueprint for adequately funding SELPAs was outlined in a report generated by the Statewide Special Education Task Force. Many steps have been taken to implement the recommendations but there is still much work to be done, especially in the area of funding. The recommendations delineated in the report called for SELPAs to continue to receive funding based on ADA with an increase in the amount of dollars being allocated per student. The report also highlighted the need for funding levels to be commensurate with the fluctuation in enrollment in multi-district SELPAs. I support all of the recommendations outlined in the report and will work with the special education task force to implement reform so that our SELPAs can operate efficiently.

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One Special Education Credential

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) is leading the way in making significant improvements to how general education teachers are trained. These improvements are a direct response to the need for general education teachers to be better prepared to teach students with exceptionalities. I support the Teaching Commission’s efforts as it will ensure special education is not treated as a silo and provide greater opportunities for advancement toward the “One System” approach outlined in the Statewide Special Education Task Force report. CCTC has also started working on revising the Education Specialist (special education) credential. As the next Superintendent of Public Instruction, I would work collaboratively with CCTC to explore how the Education Specialist credential could be broaden to provide districts with greater opportunities to serve their students with exceptionalities without having to hire long-term substitute teachers or risk the possibility of being out of compliance with regulatory statutes.

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Exempt all students with severe cognitive disabilities from taking the California Alternative Assessment

The test has failed our students with severe disabilities. Data results disaggregated from the 2017 testing period show that 66% of our students with disabilities have a limited understanding of basic math concepts, and over half of the tested students don’t have an understanding of core concepts in English. Does this mean that these students are failing? The answer is “no.” The test simply does not measure the true academic and cognitive skills of our students with profound disabilities that adversely affect their ability to access curriculum. Also, it fails to account for the regression that these students often experience as a result of medical, physiological, and behavioral excesses. I support a system that is more dependent on results generated from Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meetings. By law, IEP teams are mandated to track and determine whether or not a student has made progress on his or her individual goals. The IEP process offers a more practical view of a student’s individual performance and is strength-based rather than punitive. 

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Teacher Recruitment/Retention

I believe these are effective ways to increase teacher retention and to advance recruitment efforts:

  • Increase Teacher Pay
  • Eliminate or shorten the length of Clear Credential Programs
  • Streamline the process for authorizing out-of-state credentialed teachers
  • Create online trainings for professional practice that have embedded pre & post tests
  • Establish a new alternate route that replaces Short-Term Staff Permits  (STP) and Provisional Internship Permits (PIP) with 3-year waivers
  • Ensure all schools have professional learning communities
  • Support County Offices of Education who want to open credentialing programs
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Teacher Tenure

I am firm supporter of our current tenure system which grants teachers permanent status after two years of receiving successful evaluations. I also support our seniority based lay-off system. Our teachers are the most important individuals in the K-12 education system and we need to treat them as such. Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs in California as evidenced by our current shortage, especially in high needs areas such as special education, math and science. It is imperative that we continue to adopt policies which support teacher growth, content knowledge and professionalism. The conversation about teacher tenure has been grossly misguided by individuals who have no experience with developing new teachers. However, many bureaucrats want us to believe the problems of a few ineffective teachers justify a major overhaul of our current system, and this simply is not the case. While I do believe there is a small subset of teachers who should be terminated immediately, I don’t believe we should use this as the basis for extending a teacher’s probationary period or eradicating a system that guarantees a right to due process.  Based on my classroom experience and work at the university level with teachers, I, too, can relate to the feeling a teacher endures upon initial entry into the profession. It’s an inherit sentiment that prevents new teachers from speaking out against: unfair conditions, inadequate resources, overpopulated classrooms, and a host of other marginalized conditions. Our teachers should not have to walk on eggshells for two to five years in fear of reprisal for doing what’s in the best interest of their students. The true conversation should be oriented towards how we front-load support to teachers during their first two years in the classroom, not how do we get rid of them. Policies and practices that aren’t aligned with this ideology represent a threat to all of our teachers and students across the state. As a licensed California teacher, administrator, and former university professor; I will continue to advocate for policies that protect our teachers and their interests.

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Teacher Preparation

Teacher efficacy is at the heart of providing a quality learning experience to all students. However, our preparation programs are doing a poor job of refining our teachers’ skills so that they can meet the challenges of today’s classrooms. I can speak from experience as I once was a professor and contributor to this very faulty preparation system. From my 13 years of experience of training teachers, I have come to realize that we need to recalibrate how our teachers are being prepared. Our teachers should leave their preparation programs with an immeasurable level confidence. They should also be able to persist through challenging classroom situations and have the skills to cultivate a quality learning experience for all students, including those with disabilities.  As the State Superintendent, I would work with the California Teaching Commission, State Board of Education, and University officials to revamp our current preparation requirements. I would advocate for a training program that allows a teacher to spend 50% of their time in the field and the other 50% learning content knowledge pertinent to the profession. Instead of placing a teacher in the field during the final phase of preparation, I believe teachers would benefit significantly if they had an opportunity to co-teach with skilled teachers during various phases of their program. The cooperating teachers would earn a stipend for their contributions to the development of the teacher candidates. After 4 - 5months of co-teaching, the teacher candidates would then return back to the classroom to reflect on their experiences and how they relate to the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP). This not only will afford teacher candidates the opportunity to bridge theory with practice, but it will also enhance our candidates’ abilities to cultivate a learning environment conducive to high student achievement outcomes that is inclusive of students with special needs and language barriers.  

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Universal Design for Learning

Now that we have one common set of standards, it’s time for us to adopt a common instructional approach.

Since the inception of the Common Core State Standards, many teachers are struggling with providing students with a quality learning experience. This is because the standards only define what students should be able to do, and make no mention of how teachers should teach. The standards also don’t define the full range of required supports for English Language Learners or students with special needs. Equally important is the fact that they don’t provide intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below grade level. Gifted and talented students have been underserved by our current mainstream curriculum which lacks appropriate academic rigor for high performing students. Universal Design for Learning augments these deficiencies by providing teachers with a scientifically valid instructional framework. The design is based on the power to be very flexible, allowing multiple choices and for things to be presented in different ways. We know our students aren’t disabled, it’s our classrooms and curriculum which creates disabling conditions. UDL simply asks teachers to systematically think about the goals, materials, methods, and means of assessment for each lesson. The scope of our focus should be to ensure all students succeed in education. The best way to achieve this objective is to teach to students’ learning modalities while providing them with the opportunity to make choices that fuel their interest and autonomy for learning. UDL works across a wide spectrum of learners. It provides a guaranty that all learners will reach subject matter competency and is the key to effectuating change in our 10,000 schools across the state.

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Bilingual Education

After several years of experiencing a moratorium on Bilingual Education, the state has finally recognized the importance of using students’ native language as a means to help them acquire standardized English. However, there is still much work to be done in this area as districts have local control over whether or not they want to offer bilingual programming. We know that it will cost more for schools as they begin to offer dual language models of instruction. We know that there is a shortage of bilingual teachers. We know that many of our bilingual education teachers have sought employment elsewhere. However, I believe in the power of organizing parents and community members for causes that matter most to our schools. Under Prop 58 guidelines, we can do just that…organize! If 20-30 parents petition for bilingual education, individual schools must offer it. Our teachers also have a voice in the process as they, too, can make recommendations. We should never revert back to measures like Proposition 227 which existed for nearly two decades because our leadership and legislature were detached from those of us working in the field. My goal as your next State Superintendent of Public Instruction is to share best practices amongst districts to ensure our 1.4 million English Language Learners receive a quality education.

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Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) allows practitioners to focus on the whole child. The growing body of research between academic performance and SEL shows that students who are able to manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships tend to have better outcomes in school and life in general. Our state is moving in a direction in which teachers, administrators and other educational practitioners will have a framework for teaching students critical competencies which focus on their emotional well-being. For years, school districts have relied on my schools to teach their students social and emotional skills and now that there is a dramatic shift toward incorporating SEL into every classroom, the state needs a leader with proven experience to move this initiative forward.

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Online Learning

Most institutions of higher learning offer online courses within various disciplines of study. Our students who matriculate to the university system or a trade school should be equipped with the prerequisite skills to successfully access these courses. With a heightened emphasis on career and college readiness, it’s time for us to rethink how students are being prepared. My focus would be oriented towards providing students with access to at least one online course prior to graduation. Our students need to be prepared to take on the challenges of 21st century learning, and I’m committed to ensuring they have the independent skills to be successful in college and the workforce.

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Community-Based Centers

Our students don’t come with manuals and the complexity of parenting a child can be overwhelming.  Many of the problems in education today are a manifestation of what’s occurring in our communities. A significant component of my work in K-12 education has been focused on parental engagement. While schools are prioritizing methods to get parents involved, it is imperative that we fortify these efforts by establishing community-based centers which provide a variety of options to support families. The centers would essentially serve as an extension of the K-12 school system but use a holistic approach to ensure our students enter their classrooms each day ready to learn. The centers will provide educational tutoring to students, family counseling, career exploration opportunities, college admission guidance, drug and alcohol training and a depth of other resources to families. If these options are customized to the needs of the community, I believe achievement scores and parental engagement will reach new heights.

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Universal Preschool for All

We’ve known for quite some time that early literacy is the key to success in education. However, many districts can’t afford to offer preschool programming due to a lack of funding. Our children living in low-income neighborhoods should have access to high quality early learning programs prior to entering kindergarten. I believe this should be a fundamental right for all students regardless of socioeconomic status, disability, or native language. It’s time for California to prioritize universal preschool so that all students have the foundational skills they need to be competitive, competent and confident throughout their journey in education.

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Homelessness

I have always had a deep concern for our homeless population of students. Having grown up in the California foster care system and underprivileged, this is a very real and personal plight for me. Our schools need additional resources to ensure they have the means to directly target homelessness. Throughout my career in education, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a multitude of homeless students. While California has adopted policies to further support students in need of shelter and basic living essentials, districts are still struggling to resolve this issue. In areas of the state where there are instances of high levels of homelessness, we know that children living in these communities need a higher level of attention and resources. My efforts to address this epidemic will be specifically geared toward collaborating with community leaders to ensure all students have safe, clean and healthy living environments.

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Technology

Technology tools, resources, and practices are transforming teaching and learning in classrooms across the country. Computers have become an essential component of our daily life, commerce, and modern economy. Many school districts have adopted STEM and STEAM programs to further assist students with becoming more technologically advanced learners and to keep up with the changing demands of our society. Such programs assist students in a number of ways with integrating and applying taught concepts to real-world applications. They also promote innovation across disciplines and help prepare students for college and post-graduation endeavors. While interactive whiteboards, the internet, mobile devices, iPads, and other emerging technologies have radically changed the education landscape, some classrooms don’t have an adequate amount of computers to fully engage all students. If teachers are expected to utilize technology in their classrooms, we must continue to broaden our investments in the infrastructure, hardware and software applications that will make technology more accessible to all students. We must also provide proper training to our teachers so that they are more inclined to use technology-embedded instructional plans into their learning environments. I support STEM and STEAM education initiatives and will work to ensure our teachers have adequate training and support. I will also work to ensure our state has firm partnerships with industry leaders like Apple, Intel, Google, and Amazon.

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Charter Schools

I believe charter schools represent a key component to our educational framework. However, I believe that we should place a moratorium on the number of charter schools approved throughout the state. I believe charter school authorizations should be made at the local level as individual school districts understand what is best for the needs of their communities. I believe that we should ban for-profit charters throughout the state. I find it troubling for billionaires to proclaim how schools should run and teachers should teach. Charter schools should also be required to fully disclose board meeting minutes and related financial information. I also believe that charter school administrators should be required to have administrative credentials.  

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DACA

I support DACA and will make sure our schools are safe havens for childhood arrivals. I received my first job from Josephina R. Uriza who arrived to California on a passport from Mexico and eventually became a United States citizen through the naturalization process. Josephina is 103 years old and the mother of my 4th grade teacher, Nancy Uriza, who had a profound impact on my life. I will always fight for the rights and dignity of childhood arrivals and under no condition will I stop protecting these students.

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Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)

It has been important for educators and community members to have input in resource allocation decisions, as well as budget development and strategic planning processes. However, implementation of the LCAP is becoming more difficult for districts to manage. In essence, the LCAP has become more of a compliance document rather than a strategic plan. I believe we should allocate more resources to County Offices of Education so they can better assist districts with implementing their plans. Effective strategies for increasing parental engagement and community participation in the LCAP process should also be shared across districts and counties.

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Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP)

It has been important for educators and community members to have input in resource allocation decisions, as well as budget development and strategic planning processes. However, implementation of the LCAP is becoming more difficult for districts to manage. In essence, the LCAP has become more of a compliance document rather than a strategic plan. I believe we should allocate more resources to County Offices of Education so they can better assist districts with implementing their plans. Effective strategies for increasing parental engagement and community participation in the LCAP process should also be shared across districts and counties.

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School Safety

All students should feel safe when they enter our school buildings. However, this is not the case in many school districts. Our students are still being bullied, harassed and pressured to engage in illegal activity. These acts tend to have a profound impact on students’ psychosocial functioning and should not be tolerated to any extent. As the next State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I will use an aggressive approach to ensure parents, students, teachers, and communities that our schools have the appropriate personnel to keep our students safe.

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Curriculum Re-Alignment

For quite some time, I’ve grown concerned about how we prepare our students for college. While our high school graduation rate is trending upward at a rapid pace, our college graduation rate remains stagnant. Although there are many variables that can negatively impact one’s ability to graduate, I believe that there is a sensible way to increase our graduation rates. This new plan calls for a re-alignment of our core curriculum. It makes no sense that students are taught math, English and science differently throughout the various grade levels, including college. We need to backwards map our K-12 curriculum to coursework being offered at the university level. This is not too difficult to accomplish. However, we need for someone with in-depth knowledge of K-12 curriculum and university coursework to bridge the gap between the two institutions of learning. As a professor for two universities and founder of two schools, I believe my expertise and experience will allow me to move this vision forward with substantial support from educators across the state. 

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Education & Entrepreneurship  

  • Beginning in Kindergarten, we need to teach students how to own a small business in California.
  • Provide schools with the resources and support to implement Project Lead the Way (PLTW).
  • Re-establish trade courses within all middle and high schools (California’s lawmakers must understand that a 4 year degree program isn’t for everyone).
  • Internships for students to learn job skills that could eventually lead to higher education.
  • Functional skills training classrooms on all high school campuses for students with special needs.
  • Increase Workability Grant funding for students with special needs to acquire job related skills in supported employment settings.
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Research Practitioner at the Department

The state has a very robust data collection system. The question is what are we doing with this information and how can it be used to improve outcomes for all students? The data needs to be disaggregated and disseminated so that it’s useful to all practitioners.  We should be looking for themes in the data to better understand the complex issues that contribute to low student achievement outcomes. As a researcher, I will utilize my experience to identify and determine if new programs are needed and what types of implementation models would best support learning outcomes for individual student growth. The data will also be used as points of discussion to establish statewide training initiatives.

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