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What's Changed?


With the presidential election settled and six months since our last report to volunteers, what’s changed? While the overall pace of change remains unacceptable, we’ve seen a few encouraging signs from unexpected places. Please read on for the latest:

Creative Destruction

Type “Pasadena” into the search box at and you’ll see that the academic distance between PUSD schools and their top demographically comparable public schools in California remains as immense as ever. Type “KIPP” into that same search box and you’ll see that the KIPP members of Pasadena Unified’s top demographically comparable schools are still among the state’s academic best, right there with the rest of PUSD’s top comparables.

What’s also unchanged is the rate at which low-paying jobs are being destroyed and high-paying jobs are being created. The jobs that are being destroyed are those that can accommodate the majority in California who can barely reach proficiency in 6th, 7th, and 1st semester 8th grade skills (a.k.a. the demographic majority that fails often and almost universally struggles to pass the CA High School Exit Exam). So too is the rate at which we are failing to educate all of our students for the high-paying jobs of the future. Evidence of this can be found in the 30% unemployment rate for high school graduates and the 4% unemployment rate for those with a college degree. But no matter how many Proposition 30s we pass in the future and no matter when construction jobs eventually return, today’s unemployment disparity will never disappear so long as our education priorities are spent in ways that assure our growing failure to prepare the next generation.

To give a specific example, my employer will soon move from an 80K square foot warehouse to a new 200K square foot warehouse. Manual activities in the old warehouse will be replaced by automation in the new warehouse. No existing employees need fear for their jobs. But I guarantee you while we search endlessly for information technology candidates who can thrive in the high-paying jobs we are making available, the no-college children of the existing warehouse’s employees will never work there. The cost advantages of automation, including robotization, have become too great. The only thing that will slow the conversion will be the mistakes we’ll make along the way. The end result is assured.

The Implacable Fringe

The Economist commented in their tepid endorsement of President Obama that the Tea Party was the Republican’s biggest handicap. The Economist went on to say “the Democrats have their implacable fringe too: look at the teachers’ unions.” While recognition of a portion of what afflicts American public education remains too sparse to effect necessary change in Altadena or elsewhere, we can take some comfort in knowing that recognition of the solutions is becoming global, much as we’ve seen in the over 400 comments about the videos on the Altadena Schools You Tube channel from among over 200K viewers from over 150 countries.

Real Leadership

You may have noticed that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently won an important labor concession on teacher evaluations from Chicago Public Schools teachers. Former teachers union attorney and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has pushed for the same reforms at LAUSD and in the face of much resistance. When one stops to think how much these two men depend on the support of teachers unions for their own campaign finances, their bravery is almost unthinkable. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, whom Mitt Romney would have retained had he been elected, also knows what Emanuel and Villaraigosa know. It will be interesting to see what an Obama administration, unconstrained by the demands of reelection, does with education in the next four years.

In their Nov 9 article, the LA Times also reported that since Proposition 30 won “He (Jerry Brown) wants to lift some of the policies Sacramento has inflicted on local schools — often at the behest of the Democrats' labor allies — so they have more flexibility in deciding how to operate.”

We can only hope that Jerry Brown, who really seemed to understand the solutions to education’s problems as Oakland mayor and saw some of PUSD’s top demographically comparable schools get off the ground there, finally shows some courage as California’s governor.

In summary, waiting for enough politicians to put their careers on the line to win our nation’s key civil rights battle while the public at large sits on their hands is unacceptable. Conversely the fine efforts of Altadena Schools volunteers to form an Altadena Unified confirmed that our community is completely unprepared for anything but the transient emotional equivalent of dumping tea in the Boston harbor.

Are you ready to step up to the hard work of convincing our neighbors of the urgent need for what only a handful of brave politicians are risking their necks for? It’s the same three points on the Altadena Schools team’s Education Declaration. This too has not changed.

About Altadena Schools

Altadena Schools is a grass roots organization of over 40 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. Students who graduate from High School at grade level proficiency matriculate to college. Students who graduate High School below grade level proficiency do not. The goal of the Altadena Schools team is to get every child to grade level proficiency by 2020.

Altadena Schools
Bruce Wasson, Chief Proponent




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