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A Little History

Up Next

A Little History

The late 2005 risk of an Altadena Unified petition being organized by those who would never understand that by itself, a legally successful petition amounts to nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs of low academic achievement in Altadena caused the current petition effort to be formed in 2006. Without time to dedicate to the effort, the chief petitioners allowed those who appeared to be the most agitated about the school closures to lead the charge, providing them with opportunities to lean into the activities that professional educators have long known resolve the underlying cause of so many PUSD parents fleeing Altadena public schools, which is the horrific academic achievement gap. This gap, then and now, causes at least one-third of our nation’s low-income public high school students and at least one-third of Altadena’s student majority to drop out of school while the rest of their low-income peers graduate every year with, on average, eighth-grade skills.

With little traction anywhere in 2006 regarding how to describe for public consumption what works to close the achievement gap, the Altadena petition landed on the vague “Sign The Petition – Get The Review – Get The Facts” tagline. A similarly vague brochure and website were prepared that initially did little more than harvest local anger over school closures while the words to promote the solutions Altadena so urgently needs remained in hot pursuit behind the scenes. Meanwhile Altadena Schools gave presentations showing general education students enrolled in PUSD elementary schools in Altadena were half as proficient academically as their peers in special education on the other side of the arroyo in La Canada. All those comparisons did was inspire howls of denial. Altadena Schools then turned to talking about the “100 things” the circa 2000 voter mandate for PUSD Charter Reform said that PUSD must do, which PUSD treated as something to swipe and forget like a day’s to-do list. As predicted, the “100 things”, like all words tested before, proved too much for most busy people to comprehend and the achievement gap was preserved.


Move ahead to 2011 and everything – except for the achievement gap in Altadena – has changed. The words to describe the needed changes in layman’s terms are falling into place nationwide. And while most among the general public still can’t bring themselves to let go of their biases, embrace what repeatedly closes the gap, or to say the words (see the Altadena Declaration, even politicians – the nation’s most notorious followers – inspired in part by the considerable media surrounding the 2010 movie Waiting For ‘Superman’, are now pushing legislation in several states and in Washington to bring about the first steps towards the much-needed change. Most of these legislative changes focus on the small but increasingly popular “value-added” subset of Altadena Declaration Point #1

For Altadena, the end point of all this much-needed change is the Every Child To And Through College by 2020 goal. We urge everyone to consider what might have made even President Obama outline a similar goal for education in his 2011 State of The Union address: By 2020, the US will have almost 125 million high-skills jobs to fill and only 50 million people qualified to fill them. This is one reason the McKinsey Company has said: “These educational gaps impose on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.”

So when Altadena Schools says Every Child, does it really mean Every Child? I can assure those who know our special needs son that my wife and I fully realize he is not UCLA-bound. But from our experiences raising our son, and from working with many other parents of children with special needs, we can also assure you there is no need for any of these parents’ sake to clutter the “Every Child” message with “Every General Education Child”.

But for the parents of the 90% of all public school students who are enrolled in general education, we absolutely do mean Every Child. The data from schools across the USA that repeatedly close the achievement gap is unmistakable. When academically prepared to make an honest choice for or against college, 9 out of 10 students from low income households – virtually every child enrolled in general education at these schools – chooses college. Petitioning Back To School nights at public schools with the largest high poverty and minority populations in Altadena also reinforced how vital this goal is for these families. The preliminary merger of the Altadena Schools and Registrar data sheds even more light on the importance of this goal. More on that in the next section.

Next Up

Going forward, the following items will remain Altadena Schools priorities regardless of how much the team moves the needle in the upcoming audit of the Registrar’s signature challenges:

1. Audit the Registrar’s challenges and reset the petition signature goal accordingly
2. Overhaul the Altadena Schools brochure to align with the lessons learned from 2006 to present
3. Use petitioning to promote the Altadena Declaration. Getting signatures is as secondary to 2020 as it ever was.
4. Look for additional ways to stay on track for the Altadena 2020 goal. One possible lever: the Parent Trigger.
5. Execute our share in bridging the “not invented here” biases common to education reform groups
6. Continue applying lessons learned from engaging voters in the Altadena Schools message

Speaking of the upcoming audit, the Registrar has provided most of the data Altadena Schools needs. While it is still too early to draw conclusions, a few potential findings from this Flash Altadena Schools Summary follows:

 Petitioning over 100’ from polling places on election days produced half the rate of challenges as other venues
 The Registrar’s most frequent type of challenge was petition signers signing more than once
 One notable exception to the most frequent type of challenge was on Back To School (BTS) nights

Petitioning on BTS at Altadena schools with Altadena’s highest numbers of low income families showed how the mere mention of college meant that there would be no stopping these parents from signing! These venues therefore produced an amazing number of “Not Registered” challenges.

Regarding signing more than once: Who would make such a mistake? The names include doctors, judges, district attorneys, members of elite SWAT teams, spouses of volunteers, and voters from every corner of Altadena. One retired PUSD principal even signed the petition three times! When one investigates the data for multiple signers, a likely pattern emerges: people are busy. They forgot they signed, so they signed multiple times. Thankfully the Registrar accepts the latest signature for each of these signers.

In closing, do you know what is in the Altadena Declaration? Are you willing to help lead the way by supporting the Declaration? Not a single PUSD board candidate has a clue what puts Every Child on the road to college. We have our work cut out for us. To become an Altadena Schools volunteer click Get Involved!

About Altadena Schools
Altadena Schools is a grass roots organization of over 160 volunteers who are collectively as diverse as Altadena. The Altadena Schools team includes many current and longstanding PUSD parents, tutors, active participants in Pasadena Unified district-wide advisory committees, and numerous others from around the community. The Altadena Schools goal is to get Every Child On The Road To And Through College By 2020.

Altadena Schools
Bruce Wasson, Chief Proponent



Official website of Altadenans For Quality Education (AFQE, AUSD Now!)