Cal State

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K-12 Education

California State University Northridge

Transcript of President Blenda Wilson's remarks


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Return to transcript of Dr. Klein's welcoming remarks.

Dr. Wilson: Thank you very much, Dr. Klein and welcome to all of you to Cal State Northridge.

In December 1997, the state of California adopted new standards for Reading and Language Arts and Mathematics content, and in October 1998 standards were adopted for Science as well. This conference is designed to explore the implications of those new standards for education in the state, and to reflect upon the ways that universities like Cal State Northridge can help implement the standards in its future programs. Whether you are an educational administrator, teacher, a business or government leader, or a parent of school age children, these proceedings are designed to help you become better informed about the future of K-12 education.

We are all aware that California students in the public school system rank among the lowest in the nation. In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests of fourth grade reading, eighth grade math or fourth grade basic skills, even when comparisons controlled for ethnicity, California youngsters scored at the bottom of national averages. (Kevin Starr cited in "Paradise Lost," p. 69.) Clearly, our society is not preparing this generation of students for the challenges and opportunities of the next millennium. We believe that optimal levels of student achievement are imperative if our nation is to maintain its economic and ethical leadership in the world. Every American has a stake in the success of this and successive generations.

I have a personal passion and point of view about academic standards that led me to support this conference despite the intense emotions and disagreements that will surface no doubt during todayís discussions. I am convinced personally that all children, if properly taught, can learn. Moreover, I believe that our society has a moral obligation to assure that the system of education that served a previous homogeneous society well will adapt and become adept at serving a diverse population equally well. We have no choice but to figure out how to attain high levels of achievement for all students. And central to that obligation must be a recognition by everyone who has a responsibility for the wellbeing of children that we all -- and by all, I mean parents, students themselves, teachers, administrators, professors and public policy makers -- we all must agree to support our children in achieving their full potential. Clear and high standards, with support and excellent teaching can, I believe, enable us to achieve that goal.

Those of us in higher education know that the strongest pre-college predictor of whether a student will persist and earn a baccalaureate degree is not his or her score on a standardized test, or high school grade point average and class rank, but the academic intensity of the studentís high school courses. This factor is true for all economic classes, racial and ethnic groups.

The National Center on Education Statistics has compelling longitudinal evidence that confirms this fact. The Center analyzed graduation rates for black students in 1982 who had earned bachelor degrees by 1993. What they found was that of the black students who were in the top 40 percent of their class based on grades, 59% earned college degrees. Of black students whose standardized test scores placed them in the top percent of test-takers, 66% earned college degrees. But of black students who had completed trigonometry, precalculus and calculus and/or were in the top forty percent of their class, 72% earned bachelorís degrees. The content of a studentís curriculum does make a difference, and that is why the subject of this conference is so important.

I want to thank Professors David Klein, Aida Metzenberg and Stan Metzenberg for organizing this conference, and for Dean Ed Carrollís support and assistance with their efforts. As I walked in, I saw an old friend, Bill Honig, former State Superintendent of Schools, as well as many nationally known faculty and educators. I believe the array of distinguished speakers and panelists who are here for this two day conference will help us focus on the most important task facing our democracy -- educating a diverse student population for a global world economy.

I would like to conclude by quoting Peter Schrag, the author of ìParadise Lost: California's Experience, America's Future.î He noted the contrast between what was called the Golden Age of education in California --the 1950's and 60's-- and the current state of academic achievement. He also shares my view that we must invest in education and achieve a new consensus about human investments if we are to maintain our economic prosperity and civic order. We are eager to explore the implications of the new standards because, in his words: ìThings had better work here, where the new American society is first coming into full view, because if it fails here, it may never work anywhere else either.î

I regret very much that Maureen DiMarco was not able to be with us. She has been a great friend of Cal State Northridge and CSU, and a wise and provocative policy maker around education issues. We know illness prevented her from being her, but if she were, you would have been impressed, I know, with what she would have said.

In her stead, and to conclude my brief remarks, let me just say welcome again and I hope you have a very, very invigorating two days with us. I would like to introduce Ed Carroll, Dean of the College of Science and Math, who has been very instrumental in planning this conference. Thank you all. (Applause).

  Mr. Carroll: Thank you very much, Blenda. I would like to make special note. Fact that many of you may not know, Blenda has accepted a fine position at another institution and will be leaving Cal State Northridge and her presidency here. I would like to publicly give her a fond send off. I've enjoyed working with you so much, it's been educational and I've enjoyed it from the moment of my interview. Another round of applause. (Applause)

At this time I would also like to acknowledge the help and assistance of our Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Louanne Kennedy, who is sitting at the back of the room. And again, as many of you may not know, she will be our Interim President, so this is a perfect transition from one to the other.

I would like to now introduce the first speaker of the conference, regarding topics of science and math and language arts standards. Janet Nicholas will be our first speaker. She is a member of the California State Board of Education and is involved in private business for her livelihood. She also will be covering two sets of topics. She will be talking about the history of educational reform in California and about the California Academic Content Standards. Janet (Applause).

Go to transcript of Janet Nicholas



Contact the organizers

Postal and telephone information:

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K12 Education

College of Science and Mathematics

California State University Northridge

18111 Nordhoff St.

Northridge CA 91330-8235

Telephone: (Dr. Klein: 818-677-7792)

FAX: 818-677-3634 (Attn: David Klein)