August 9, 2011
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Offers A Blueprint for
Report Puts Focus on Effective
Student Support, 21st Century Learning
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today unveiled A Blueprint for Great Schools, a report by his 59-member Transition Advisory Team calling for California to foster excellence in teaching, provide community support for families, and retool schools to make more students competitive in college and the workforce.
"We are setting our sights high because our students deserve it," said Torlakson. "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 31-page report was prepared by Torlakson's Transition Advisory Team, composed of leading teachers, parents, school employees and administrators as well as community, labor, and business leaders. The team was co-chaired by Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond and David Rattray, Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce Development for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
"The first step in reaching a goal is setting one," Torlakson said. "We've taken an honest look at where we are and where we want to be, and created a vision about how to get there—with a focus on 21st century learning, meeting the needs of the whole child, and building the ranks of California's teachers with resources and respect."
The Blueprint notes that California has established several innovative training and support programs for teachers that have withered amid ongoing budget cuts. The report recommends creating a statewide Commission on Educator Quality to outline how to design and implement effective teacher recruitment, support, and evaluation systems.
"The Blueprint for Great Schools lays out the challenge before us: rejoining the ranks of high-achieving states by investing in quality teaching and creating a system that meets the demands of 21st century learning with forward-looking standards, curriculum, and assessments that ensure students are college and career ready," Darling-Hammond said.
"Teaching is the most important job there is, so our goal is straightforward: We want a great teacher for every child," Torlakson said. "Creating a comprehensive system of teacher recruitment, training, support, and evaluation will take some hard, thoughtful, and ongoing work, and a statewide commission to lead this discussion will be a sound first step."
Recognizing that California faces a potential shortfall of up to one million college-educated workers by 2025, the Blueprint calls for steps to focus rigorous school curriculum, materials, assessments, and accountability measures on problem-solving and critical thinking skills that are vital to college and career readiness.
"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."
Torlakson noted that the California Department of Education (CDE) already had begun work on several areas highlighted in the report, including an overhaul of the state's school accountability system and by taking a lead role in a consortium of states developing the next generation of student assessments aligned to the new Common Core State Standards.
The report also makes a wide range of recommendations to foster community partnerships and other efforts to provide students and their families with literacy, health, nutrition, and other services—before, during, and after school.
"Great teachers know you have to meet children where they are, so the Blueprint looks at the steps communities can take to meet the needs of the whole child, to give every student the best chance to succeed," Torlakson said.
Torlakson made A Blueprint for Great Schools public at a news conference at CDE headquarters in Sacramento, where he was joined by teachers, business leaders, superintendents, and representatives of community and education organizations.
He also posted the report on the CDE Web site at A Blueprint For Great Schools Report - A Blueprint For Great Schools and created a special e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org to encourage feedback and input.
The transition advisory team did not estimate the cost of carrying out the report's recommendations. Torlakson said that he would work with the Governor, the State Board of Education, and members of the state Legislature as well as staff at the CDE to set priorities about carrying them out over time.
"My top priority continues to be restoring California's investment in education, and the Blueprint makes it clear that while some ideas will cost little, or even save money, much of what we want to do will take resources," Torlakson said. "We also have to consider the cost of not providing a vision for education in this state, and that would place the future of California and its children at risk."
No taxpayer funds were used to create the report or support the team, whose work was funded by donations from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, The California Endowment, the Stuart Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation.