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School officials lash out at goals

Group of employees and teachers say resources aren’t available to make gains laid out in the district’s annual goals.

October 21, 2009|By Max Zimbert

BURBANK — Dozens of Burbank Unified School District employees and teachers last week pushed back against proposals to raise student achievement goals even higher than the tough benchmarks met last school year, arguing they had already tapped out available resources to make those gains.

The amount of dejection and exasperation thrown at the proposal to further boost student achievement, attendance and college admission rates would likely delay an agreement, some board members acknowledged.

“I think the scrutiny it received is going to force some change in the game plans,” said Dave Kemp, president of the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education. “We’re going to have to get together and decide what it is on these goals we can absolutely support and defend.”

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Kemp said it was the most feedback he’d seen in the 6 1/2 years he’s been on the board.

Also fueling teacher frustration were accountability and data-driven devices that measure teacher effectiveness, which many teachers consider unfair if they’re based significantly on student performance.

“A pharmacist’s pay is not based on whether the patient takes the medicine or not,” Jerry Mullady, president of the Burbank Teachers Assn., said at the meeting.

The district set goals last summer as part of an annual process to put more students on a college admission track and increase test scores that last year ranked higher than the state and county averages.

“We are now coming down from the brief praise we received for our achievements of last year, which was instantly followed up with ‘We have to do better next year,’” said Lori Adams, a math teacher at Burbank High School. “Now, we have to improve from our best.”

Putting all of Burbank’s high school students on a college admission track would require additional math, science and foreign language classes. It could undermine elective opportunities and in some cases nudge a student toward dropping out or transferring, some educators said.

“I think every student has the right to be able to go [to college]; whether they go is up to them,” District Supt. Kevin Jolly said. “I want the opportunities to be available to them upon graduation. Our kids deserve the very best, and the more we provide our students with a world-class education, the more likely they’ll be able to realize their dreams.”

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