California’s schools are not doing what they should to prepare the state’s more than 6 million students for a society in which technological advances are occurring at lightning speed and business can be conducted around the clock, anywhere in the world, Jack O’Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction, said last week.
During a State of Education Address that was at times harsh on public schools, he cited the achievement gaps between black and Hispanic students and their white peers in elementary grades, noting that the gaps widen as students get older.
It was Mr. O’Connell’s third such address since being elected to the post in 2002.
“Quite simply, in the demanding global economy, the achievement gap not only threatens the future of our students, but also the future economic health and security of our state and nation,” Mr. O’Connell said. “The simple yet terrible fact is that the population of students that is growing the fastest in this state is the population that is lagging the furthest behind.”
The state, he said, is facing a serious teacher shortage, one that will be made worse when an estimated 97,000 teachers retire over the next 10 years.
Mr. O’Connell, a former Democratic state lawmaker, said he would work with the legislature and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He called for “fully funding” regional teacher-recruitment centers and for incentives to lure talented educators into the classroom, particularly in low-performing schools. He also called for expanding professional-development programs for teachers in science, history, and the social sciences, and recommended $53 million in new spending to provide academic coaches in all subject areas in struggling schools.
Mr. O’Connell said he would also work with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to establish new pathways for becoming a teacher.
“Not long ago, a job opening for a high school principal would get 50 or more applicants,” he added. “Today, only a handful of applicants will appear.”
Mary Perry, the deputy director of EdSource, a nonprofit policy-analysis organization in Mountain View, Calif., said Mr. O’Connell’s ideas might be well received since he’s proposing programs that were halted when the economy was in trouble. But there will still be the “question of how much money is available,” she said.