Now I go to a wonderful school. It has dedicated students, phenomenal faculty, a rather small library, but that’s compensated for by the amazing view from the upper levels that, unfortunately, most people fail to notice.
Academically, it has an API score of 949 out of 1000. I missed more points on the SAT than my entire school did on this API thing. And it’s a nationally distinguished school and has a ton of awards that I don’t really want to take the time to name.
But there is one aspect of my school that is really odd; it’s a public school. To the folks at Monta Vista, this might not seem like much, but really, it’s actually quite amazing that a public school in California, the state that was the next to last in public education among the 50 other states in 2009, is that good.
Now I’m not going to go into why Monta Vista is unnaturally good at what it does. I’m sure there are plenty of theories about that around Cupertino, many of them involving the word “Asian” in some way shape or form. What I am concerned about, however, why other school are not able to do this. Why can’t the rest of California be better than Massachusetts in education? Why do we have to be a state in which 1 in 3 students will not graduate high school?
The reason is not funding. State’s have it easy, you see. We don’t have to spend a ton of money on defense; the federal government does that for us. That’s why 51% of our current California budget is attributed to education. About 41% is for K12 education, and 10% is to higher education. We spend a lot of money on education, but the problem is, we’re not spending it correctly.
Last year there was a history teacher at my school named Chris Chiang. His students would take the history final exam in April; they’d be done way before the school year ended. Chiang would use his background in psychology to help introduce methods that would improve the speed in learning.
With something like the Presidential Race plowing forward we tend to overlook our state elections. Currently, Mr. Chiang has announced his candidacy for a seat in the California State Senate. He, a teacher, wants to go to our state Senate, and start changing things with regards to education.
First of, he wants to invest current education funds in training teachers and principals. You can have the best schools in the world, with the best technology and the best students, but if your faculty is not capable, your school will fail. At Monta Vista, you can see these things happening. Of my seven teachers this year, I can confidently say that my Spanish teacher, my Biology teacher, my Literature teacher and my Calculus teacher are all exceptional teachers. That’s one of the things that makes Monta Vista competitive as a public school, even against private schools.
Next, Chiang wants to stop teaching to the test. Every year, in California, we have the STAR tests. Students at Monta Vista really like this test because, first of all, it’s a joke for most of them, and second of all, it slows classes for a week. In our school, teachers don’t teach material because it’s on the STAR test, but in other schools, teachers, wanting to show results, place their emphasis on the STAR test, which really stifles creativity and creates a tunnel-mentality in terms of learning. What Mr. Chiang wants to do is to create a system in which major tests will be administered only three times: one to pass elementary school, one to pass middle school, and one to pass high school. This will allow most of the grades to work on things without the threat of tests.
And finally, Mr. Chiang wants to get money directly to the classroom. Teachers, the specialists in their topic, should be able to allocate funds, rather than Sacramento. Of course, the accountability would still be there, with a detailed report of spending per classroom. If the resources are sent to responsible, well trained professionals, they will be used extremely efficiently.
Mr. Chiang’s plan, like most plans, isn’t completely perfect. There will be inefficiencies and discrepancies that aren’t present in theory but inevitably appear in practice. Yet, Mr. Chiang’s plan is significantly better than what we have today, and it is a far better way to spend 51% of our budget.
So, for what it’s worth, which really isn’t much, The Global Genesis endorses Christopher Chiang for California State Senate representing the 13th district of California. Best of luck to him.