Cal State

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K-12 Education

California State University Northridge

Transcript of Veronica Norris
(edited by the speaker)
biography of speaker


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Speaker: The next speaker is Veronica Norris who will share her thoughts on parental involvement and support.

Ms. Norris: Good morning. I like to say I live in the real, real world. I am a registered nurse, a former critical care nurse and aneducational law attorney who represents school children--but I'm here as a mom. I guess I wouldn't be here today if my own children had gotten a basic adequate education. However in the third grade I realized we were seriously off track when in April my daughter didn't know her multiplication tables but spent two and a half months as a flower in the Three Piggy opera during school hours. I could echo many many stories. You heard them all. I don't want to belabor those points, but all of us have had similar experiences to what the other panel members have described. Numerous times.

I also have the added advantage of having clients who deal with schools. Without exception-- without exception my clients tell me when they seek help for their disabled children, they are told, you are the parent, we are the education experts. Do not tell us what your child needs. We will tell you what your child needs. My response to those educators and -- I put my parents through boot camp -- one of the things my parents learn to say is "you may have expertise but I am the expert in my child."

We recently about a year ago -- I am from Orange Unified School District as a parent, our district is extremely conservative and I want you to know that I am a Democrat -- we started a group called the Academic Standards Advisory Committee. It is statutorily recognized in the California Education Code as an advisory committee and we advise the Board. I sit on that Committee as the Chair of Math and Science. We grappled initially with the ideas of standards, our directive was to create standards for the District. About that time I had gotten to know Martha and the gang who have been magnificent. The mathematicians and the folks with Mathematically Correct and outside have been extraordinary in the generosity of their expertise and I'd like to thank them. We began addressing the issue of standards, and to make a long story short, through our parent leader community advisory group we urged the Board to adopt all the California Standards that came out last year. The Board adopted all the standards.

Recently -- the Board made a decision to offer math choice so that our students would have the ability to elect algebra--in a traditional series, or integrated math. We had only integrated math prior to that. The Board so acted and the administration is phasing out the integrated math program. We were contacted by many, many parents in the district who approached this group and we would get approached in the aisles of Ralph's and the orthodontist office and everywhere about the difficulty with the math program.

I want to say a word about the Standards. The Standards are the target. Without these, parents have very little ability to go in and advocate effectively for their children. So the Standards give us what I'd like to refer to as the intellectual currency our children will need. I heard a lot of talk about how kids are damaged goods and we are requiring too much of teachers by imposing standards and I'd like to let everybody know that in the real world, people have to know stuff and they have to know a lot of stuff. And they have the technology to learn a lot of stuff that we never had. We still managed to learn it. So the anti-content movement is extremely detrimental.

Yesterday you heard from some of the finest minds in mathematics how we are approaching a near education meltdown, especially in the area of mathematics. To look at the big picture for a minute, this is an extraordinarily serious time. Because the children who are sitting in 6th grade where long division may have been banned in some schools will never be able to achieve certain technology and advanced science degrees. It simply will not exist for them if they lose out on the basic fundamental operations that they must learn along the way.

I want to talk a little bit about the expense of lack of content. As an education attorney, I deal with children who are facing felony charges in many many cases. This is a serious expense. It is an expense to parents. It's an expense to the schools and it's an expense to society when our children fall off the educational tracks. There are many studies which talk about learning disabilities in the prison systems. What I see is an educational remedy for these kids before they get that far. But what we are also seeing more and more of as special education attorneys are the children who have curriculum induced learning disabilities where learning disabilities are created by a lack of content. I don't know what's going to happen to those children, but I do know I see them.

There is an extreme emotional expense to litigation, but more and more attorneys are looking at litigation as a potential remedy. I really think the answer lies in legislation and in the mathematicians and the experts in the field stepping forward as they have so wonderfully done in this arena.

I also want to say that there are many many fine teachers, excellent teachers who don't deserve the bad rap they're getting from faddish programs. These faddish programs hurt the credibility of the profession and they hurt our children. We are creating a system that will necessarily lead to the haves and have nots of education with everything that goes with it. Gang activity, criminal activity. We cannot afford to cut out huge portions of our population of children by programs that fail them. I would like to say lastly that as parents our agenda is our children. And they cannot represent themselves. We are their voice. So don't permit your voice to be silenced.


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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)