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March 2004


SACRAMENTO - State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today joined key Senate leaders in introducing legislation that will refocus California high schools on improved student achievement.

"We need to provide greater challenges and opportunities to our high school students, and keep all of our schools on track toward higher student achievement," O'Connell said. "My High Performing High School Initiative will help us do a better job of making sure that all of our students are prepared after graduation for whatever path they choose - whether that path leads them to college or straight to a career."

O'Connell is sponsoring a legislative package of four bills that will make high school curriculum more rigorous for all students (see

More than half of students entering the California State University system are not adequately prepared in reading and math, while many California employers complain that high school graduates do not have the critical thinking skills, the communications, or higher level math skills they need to be successful on the job.

Less than 10 percent of our high schools have reached the optimum level of 800 on our Academic Performance Index. Over the past four years, California high schools have met annual goals for improvement only 40 percent of the time.

"We can no longer afford to hold high expectations for only our college-bound students," O'Connell continued. "Students who take challenging courses do better in school, are more likely to persist in schools, and do better in vocational and technical courses."

O'Connell's package of bills includes:

SB 1795 by Senator Richard Alarcon (D-Van Nuys) ensures that all students have equitable access to post-secondary options by requiring all high school students to take rigorous college readiness curriculum by meeting the "a to g" requirements. Schools that implement the program will be granted flexibility in the use of categorical funds.

SB 1405 by Senator Betty Karnette will guide high schools toward high-quality instructional materials by creating a state "seal of approval" for instructional materials that are aligned to California 's academic standards.

SB 1448 by Senator Dede Alpert (D-San Diego) reauthorizes the state Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program, reduces the burden of testing on school districts, and formally opens the dialogue with institutions of higher education on using the California standards test for credit, placement, or admission at CSU or UC.

AB 2225 by Assembly member Mark Wyland (R-Vista) will provide high school principals with intensive professional development and ongoing coaching and support to implement high-quality programs for high school students.

March 2004


Fresno - State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell this week is calling on the California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC) to support his High Achieving High School initiative and is challenging both systems to join him in creating an unprecedented partnership between higher education and the K-12 system to improve high school student performance.

"The most critical challenge facing us in California public education today is the urgent need to improve high school student achievement," O'Connell said in his presentation today to the CSU Board of Trustees. "We know that not every child is bound for UC, CSU or another college. But all of our students need the skills that college admissions officers demand, including critical thinking skills, the ability to communicate effectively, knowledge of algebra, and familiarity with a foreign language and culture."

O'Connell called for the establishment of a working group made up of representatives from higher education and the K-12 systems to focus on improving high schools by making more high school courses meet "a-g" requirements and offering more rigorous courses to all high school students. He also asked that the working group focus on expanding alignment of K-12 and postsecondary assessments and expanding the high-quality instructional opportunities for current and future teachers and school leaders.

O'Connell noted that currently too many of California's 1.7 million high school students leave high school unprepared for college or the workplace, resulting in high rates of remediation for freshman students entering CSU and lack of opportunity for those entering the job market.

To implement his High Performing High School initiative, O'Connell is sponsoring a package of legislation that will give high schools flexibility in the use of $450 million in categorical funds if they agree to focus on five goals:

  • Implementing high expectations for all students
  • Developing world-class teachers and school leaders
  • Improve high school instructional materials so that all students have access to texts that reflect California 's world-class academic standards
  • Working with higher education and middle schools to smooth the transition for students as they enter and leave high school
  • Developing a community of support to foster high student achievement

February 2004


SACRAMENTO – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell today delivered his first State of Education address, calling the state of California schools promising, but identifying three main areas of priority to make K-12 education stronger.

The three areas of focus are: improving high schools, reducing bureaucratic burdens on schools, and increasing student achievement gains.

“High school should be the gateway to opportunity for all students,” O’Connell said. “Yet, the majority of California’s 1.7 million high school students simply are not reaching the academic levels needed to succeed in the workplace, in college, or as effective citizens. Accordingly, I am proposing a series of tough, roll-up-our-sleeves measures aimed at improving high school student achievement.”

O’Connell announced that he will sponsor legislation to improve student achievement in high schools by giving high schools more flexibility over their budgets if they agree to focus on five goals: raising expectations; improving high school instructional materials; developing excellent teachers and high school leaders; smoothing transitions from middle school and to college; and creating a community of support for high achieving high schools.

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Last modified: , 2004

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