“Linked Learning” at Oxnard Union High School District- discussed at City Council meeting

By George Miller

Oxnard Union High School District, encompassing six area schools, has developed what they claim might be the most advanced and comprehensive “Linked Learning” Program in California. At the 3-24-15 City Council meeting, District Superintendent Dr. Gabe Soumakian did a very brief summary of the program and the City then declared itself a “Linked Learning City.” See: Staff Report (pdf 223 KB). But just what IS linked learning?  Well, in turns out that is a career- focused approach consisting of:

– Multiple academies, with focused curricula, eventually concentrating on 22 different specialties.

– Integration of teaching, so that subjects are taught together as much as possible.

– Industry partnerships, where local industries provide input to the curriculum and other resources to get students up to speed on various academy subject areas.

– Internships, to give students real-world experience and facilitate better and faster transition to productive employment.

– Inclusion of the Common Core State Standards (supported by federal Stimulus funds and additional state money). This was not discussed at the meeting.

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Oxnard Union H.S. District Superintendent Dr. Gabe Soumakian (2nd from right) and some of his team involved with “Linked Learning” (Photo: Dan Pinedo)

Councilman MacDonald later told me that he believed that Common Core is not part of Linked Learning. However, these have been combined in into the OUHSD educational offering and were both part of a previous Linked Learning presentation done by the District.

The “Common Core State Standards” are highly controversial.  They did not mention them at the meeting (in fact Soumakian, in a previous session, said not to even mention its name), but CCSS may possibly be the biggest K-12 educational change in a century-  done in almost complete stealth (from the public’s perspective)- no federal or California legislative approval, little school board involvement in many districts. Critics claim that the Association of Governors did not actually develop them, as stated on the District web site and that the organization’s name is not truly indicative of the membership base.   Two companies actually own the standards, which are copyrighted, cannot be changed, although states can add up to 15% to them.  This suggests that they control the “toll gates” to access. The use/license of CCSS is controlled by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). It appears that a relatively small number of companies will provide most of the materials used.

The CA State Superintendent of  Public Instruction (not any legislative body) handled the introduction of CCSS to CA via the U.S. Department of Education -Arne Duncan. Stimulus funding was used to help finance it. Reportedly, it was offered in return for dropping No Child Left Behind compliance. Some say that this was an illegal diversion of taxpayer federal funds and a de facto bribe. No real public notice, explanation, buy-in, was ever done. It was initially accepted by 45 states- 10 trying to leave or already left. But we know it was implemented, know CCSS was contained in previous District presentations (see links below), but  well after acceptance and implementation were underway.  Otherwise, the rest of the linked learning program has gained good acceptance, although the results won’t be known for some time.

The CCSS have never been validated, never before tested, even on a pilot basis, to our knowledge. Yet they are being fully rolled out to most of the nation of 320 million people, with many millions of students affected.

One of the  most objectionable aspects of CCSS to civil liberty interests is the so-called “data mining,” or collection of large amounts of data about both students and teachers, ostensibly for effective tracking, recording and evaluation of results, vs. subject attributes. This information may be accessed by a host of school and third party organizations in government and the private sector.

There is also some controversy about the testing regimen, known as “Smarter Balanced Assessments,” which would replace existing testing, impose a de facto national standard, but also provide consistency in measurements nationwide. Multiple organizations, such as Concerned Parents of Conejo Valley,  have developed “opt-out” approaches to the “data mining” and “Smarter Balanced Assessments” and are encouraging parents to opt-out their kids from these.

On the flip side of all this, advocates cite a consistent national standard, which they say is higher than what many states are delivering now, a shift toward better outcomes, more practical reading materials, more rigorous approaches and more. Some of the issues mentioned herein were covered in the debate video linked below.

 

At publication time, there was a problem with the 3-24-15 Council meeting video for that item (only 4:18 video for a 6+ hr. meeting), so we can not show you the meeting activity yet.

Name Date Duration Agenda Minutes Video
City Council Meeting March 24, 2015 04h 18m Agenda Minutes Video

A previous presentation done by Dr. Soumakaian and others:

Radical Transformation of education: presented at Port Hueneme Chamber of Commerce

Radical Transformation of education: presented at Port Hueneme Chamber of Commerce

By George Miller- Dr. Gabe Soumakian, Oxnard Union High School District Superintendent, keynoted this interesting presentation on “Linked Learning” to the Port Hueneme Chamber of Commerce on January 28. He said that Linked Learning is not just to prepare students for college, but a gateway to careers, too. He said: “If I ask myself: ‘when am I […]

“Linked Learning” Launches at Oxnard Unified High School District (OUHSD)

“Linked Learning” Launches at Oxnard Unified High School District (OUHSD)

By George Miller Dr. Gabe Soumakian, OUHSD Superintendent, presents “Linked Learning” at Oxnard High Schools The focus is on career planning, using civic/business leaders to help extend education outside the classroom, including a work-based component/internships. Includes Common Core, but he barely even mentioned it this time (read of a previous session down below). OUHSD uses the […]

 First-ever California Common Core Public Debate, at Thousand Oaks High School

Who stands to profit from Common Core?

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George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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