Cal State

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K-12 Education

California State University Northridge

Transcript of Gayle Cloud
(Edited by the speaker)
biography of speaker


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 Go back to transcript of Jeff Lee

Speaker: Gayle, as we discussed our experience, we found we could complete each other's sentences --.

Ms. Cloud: We have to quit hanging out like this. It is so interesting that such a diverse group of people have become such good friends, and that is what the education community needs to take a lesson from. We are a diverse lot, but focused on academics, and because we are focusing on academics, we are making a difference.

First and foremost. I am a parent. I am a parent of six. So everything that's been said here has somehow affected me one way or another. My oldest son is in medical school. It is true what they said yesterday. He is a science major. Most of the people in his field are foreign born nationals. He is a minority, white male. He is a late bloomer and missed the lousy curricula his brothers and sisters got. My daughter is finishing at a community college. -- My twins are of the fuzzy teaching CLAS test kind. These are my kids who are unfocused -- having a lot of fun but totally academically unfocused. I have a daughter in middle school and one in third grade. So not only am I a professional parent but I've become a professional driver as well.

As a parent, like everyone else here, I've become an education reformer because it has affected my children. The mama bear syndrome; whatever touches your kids, you get excited about. I wish more parents would get excited. We are active in real reform here in California- - not the reform coming from Washington, DC. We have heard a lot of talk about reform. There are two kinds, the real reform based on academics and the faux reform based on someone's pet theory. Parents should never be discounted in this struggle to maintain academic standards. We have the biggest investment and the smallest voice and they don't pay too much attention to us. I want to let everyone know that schools are partners with me. I am the parent. And anything they do needs to have my approval.

I have a teaching credential so I support teachers, as well. I support sound teaching. My story is not unlike everybody else's story. We have the principal who told us that calculators were wonderful and we didn't need to learn algorithms. We had the administrators who said our concerns were misplaced and that they were the experts and didn't need to hear from us. You name it, we've heard it. So I want to go on from there to talk about standards. As my husband quipped, standards must remain high standards or they are only guidelines. We are raising our children with standards of behavior and achievement. I didn't realize how important it was to have academic standards until the battle I'm in now took place.

It is important to have standards. Sure, not everybody will meet them. My kids don't meet my standards of behavior every day either. But it is important to have standards and for everyone to know what they are. Students have paid the price for our folly which is unfortunate because as everybody said, education is the way out of the ghetto, the way to have a better life. Nancy Ichinaga and some principals understand that. Unfortunately too many don't.

Standards for text books must remain high. I love pictures and activities, but you know I love text. I just do. I guess I'm an anachronism these days. Knowledge is power. And I think our young children know that. They love to learn big words and to know how things work. As Marion said yesterday, students have no shelf life and we have spent too long dabbling in fads which have left kids with diminished opportunities. Today in this place anyway, we understand what the "duh" factor is. Duh, we know what works, let's do it. We need to hurry or we'll be two generations away from a sound knowledge base. Public agenda polls consistently reveal the fact that parents want sound education. It's the college education professors who favor the fuzzy stuff.

I want to reiterate how important California standards are because these are the kind we have in Oregon: A student will demonstrate his ability making decisions and solving problems. What??? It's only as I look at other states' standards that I see how stellar our own are. I'm grateful for the effort expended on our children from the professors here today. Unfortunately most of those here today are not the run of the mill professors. And I want to say there is something wrong with a system that began with such a noble purpose in giving Americans the chance to be educated, to have declined to the point that money and politics, rather than children and academic fervor rule.

This thought world, I like your term Dr. Hirsch, is a good term for those who do not live in the real world where honesty is tested. It is dishonest to pretend students are learning to read when they are not and to prepare them for the real world by making them calculator dependent. It is dishonest to test on feelings and call it critical thinking and to want parent participation and not let them participate in real terms. It is dishonest to expect poor minority children to perform less well than other kids and use that as an excuse. It's dishonest to sell a program to teachers and parents without giving them informed consent and to tell students not to cheat and place study hints on the wall in preparation for the star test -- which is happening. We've been attempting to remake a child rather than enabling him to make truly educated choices. And all this dishonesty is going on in public education today. As discouraging as that is, I'm hopeful because I read Hirsch and Stotsky and talked to many here today. And I have met teachers who belie this trend. Those are many of the teachers my kids have had and I've been able to maneuver them through the system to access those teachers.

I want my children to have a love of knowledge. It's exciting to have a passionate teacher. In fact, it is a passionate teacher that turned my child on to biology -- not integrated science, mind you, but biology. That's one of the reasons he is in med school today. Parents can make a difference. There's many of us here today who are making a difference. Whether we can make a difference in our district might be negotiable. But we can make a difference at the state level. We can write op ed pieces. We can speak publicly. We can tell the truth. In this three steps forward two steps back battle, I sometimes feel hopeful and sometimes I don't, but I continue on because it is the right thing to do.

Our standards must remain high unlike those of other states who have succumbed to the false, self-esteem riddled standards which rely more on demonstrating and describing subjects rather than knowing them. I wish more teachers and parents were aware of the dangers lurking in the public school classroom: The bent toward profiling students with the tools of technology, the lack of scientific evidence undergirding much pedagogy, the lack of teacher preparedness especially with the reduced class size fervor. I wish there were more fixes. But, then, that's the purpose of conferences like this --to propose the fixes and to take a thoughtful look at the problems and try not to let another generation of students be academically devastated. Like so many students already have. Thank you.


Go to transcript of Jimmy Kilpatrick 


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)