California's Secretary for Education Alan Bersin Addresses Koret Task Force

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Calling himself an "optimist about public education," Secretary for Education of the State of California Alan Bersin said that "education won't look the same in 50 years." This generation, he added, needs to hand education over to the next in better shape.

Bersin, the featured speaker at a dinner hosted by the Koret Task Force on K–12 Education on September 8, began by offering an overview of what Governor Schwarzenegger is likely to present as an agenda for K through 12 education over the next year. He outlined three areas that will be emphasized: accountability and transparency, innovation and improvement, and competition.

On the subject of accountability he stated that there is a need to harmonize federal and state accountability systems. Another goal, Bersin said, is to develop a system that identifies schools that are not making progress and schools that are making some progress but are not yet performing satisfactorily. Along with this is the need to create an intervention framework to respond to these schools, he added.

Bersin also noted that 4 percent of the school districts have 70 percent of the lowest performing students. He believes that there is a need for district reform and perhaps putting some schools in receivership. He cited the Oakland school district as a model of what can be done to improve schools.

In regard to competition, Bersin discussed the role of charter schools. Charter schools, he noted, promote competition and need to be strengthened.

Before Bersin spoke, the Hoover Institution's annual Rita Ricardo-Campbell and W. Glenn Campbell Uncommon Book Award was presented to this year's recipient, Diane Ravitch for her book The Language Police (Knopf).