Tom Torlakson

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson joins us to talk about his new road map for educating California’s kids. The four-year plan is an updated version of his 2011 blueprint, and focuses on teacher shortages and hastens the state’s move toward Common Core standards.

State Schools Chief on His New Blueprint for California Schools 3 August,2015forum

Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, California Department of Education
Lorraine Dechter, news producer, KZYX in Mendocino; covering Rocky Fire

  • David

    Sorry I won’t be able to tune in throughout this program, but as a veteran California teacher who’s collaborated with teacher leaders statewide, I’m grateful that we have an educator leading California forward. Looking around the country we can see how many states have let their education policy bend in the winds of political trendiness, only to have divisive conflicts erupt, without improving schools. Our state is making progress through more local control and engagement, efforts to improve the teaching profession, and labor-management collaboration. National Board Certified teacher Martha Infante of LAUSD also deserves a shout-out for representing our profession so ably throughout this process.

  • Kurt thialfad

    Describe the challenges of the language situation. In order to educate a student, communication is imperative. What is the the impact of diverse languages on the success of California’s schools?

  • Skip Conrad

    Regarding the widespread free school lunches and breakfasts. My mother always sent me off to school with a lunch box. All parents did this. Are parents of today merely irresponsible? If a parent can afford rent, a cable tv subscription, and a cell phone, why can’t he spare a sandwich for his child?

    • Whamadoodle

      No; the parents are in poverty, tens of millions of them, because there aren’t sufficient numbers of jobs available that pay enough to afford sufficient nourishment. Wages have stagnated, or effectively sunk, for low-wage and middle-class earners, over the last several decades, and possibilities of changing class have gone away as well.

      • Skip Conrad

        The state has 40 million people. So you’re saying half the state is in poverty? If that is the case, then we have truly crashed as an economy, and as a place to live.

        • Whamadoodle

          No. The United States has tens of millions of people in poverty. California has over 9 million in poverty.

          California is one of the most prosperous engines of the country’s economy, but those among us who rely upon schools to feed their children are among those who are in poverty. In fact, 1/4 of California’s 38 million people are in poverty (see link below).

          The reason for this is the growing tendency among America’s rich to pocket their increased profits, instead of rewarding their middle-class and poor workers, who helped to bring them that increased profit. Therefore, the poor cannot afford to meet California’s cost of living, which has increased more steeply than other states’ costs of living.

          • Grainger

            Trickle down economics, working as intended.

    • kpwn

      Maybe the parent can’t afford rent, and relies partly on Section 8?
      Cheap cell service costs less than stationary, now. 3G is more than adequate for voice and text.

      “youtube” costs less than cable, but still requires broadband. If you have broadband, VoIP is $5 or less per month. For VoIP calls, you can use an old mobile phone with SIP app.

      You can also chat (voice, data, etc. It’s all data) through the internet. But I haven’t yet convinced relatives and associates to set this up. Skype is essentially this, but Skype is proprietary (less secure at consumer level)

      Some people grab old VHS and DVD players, and collect tapes and DVDs. HDTV is broadcast. I haven’t checked how antenna reception generally compares to reception before HDTV.

      Vendors usually help customers with all including the above, but obtain poor or no profit serving poor customers.
      Extended family only sometimes exists to assist.
      Thus we return to government and non-profit assistance as alternatives.

      But the general problem from the “families” perspective, is the child’s exposure to the weakness/shortcomings or negligence of the parent(s).

    • kpwn

      Are parents of today merely irresponsible Al Capone was probably not a good parent. We don’t know enough to compare quantitatively. Both ‘today’ and in the past, dead people don’t and did not talk.

  • jurgispilis

    This trend of private funding of public schools has a disturbing aspect because often this money comes with donor conditionality. How much control does the school board need to surrender to the donor in order to qualify for the cash?
    Wouldn’t it be better if the the rich were simply taxed more?

    • kpwn

      More efficient and liberating than attempting to recover wealth by taxing the evasive predatory class, would be stopping the current scheme whereby the predatory class ‘privately’ taxes the employed class.

  • Livegreen

    Many schools are in disrepair, affecting academic learning & basic safety alike. This is well documented by KQED’s “On Shaky Ground” series showing how the state has grossly underfunded seismic safety in schools across the State. Facilities for modern acadmics are in an even worse state.

    Will Tom Torlakson support a State Facilities bond for schools to help solve these problems?

    Will he also help supplement this with grant funding from foundations, like many private schools are somehow able to access? (Many as non-profits).

  • Bakul Soman

    There seems to be a notion that technology will be the solution to what ails education.

    However, a lot of meaningful progress can be made by making very simple changes.

    For example, with regard to standardized testing, whether it is computer-based or paper-pencil. Here are 2 things that confound me:
    1) Why is the testing done in April/early May, when the school year ends in June, and ALL the curriculum has not even been taught?
    2) Why can the results be not made available early in the summer so parents and students can actually act on the results. Say, my child did very poorly in specific areas in math or English, and I find that out in September, how does that help me use the summer vacation to reinforce/bring him/her up to speed so they can start the school year not already struggling…

    Technology is not the solution. Places like India which spend WAY less, and have very little technology in classrooms continue to produce top-notch STEM professionals.

    • kpwn

      School technology varies from school to school… though we don’t want children to be ‘technophobes’.

      Ideally, ‘someone’ can accommodate whatever are the enthusiastic productive interests of the growing child… musical instruments, game hacking, scooter motor mods, story-writing, animal husbandry…

      Can we assume that not every Indian primary school graduate is a top-notch “STEM” professional?

      What happens to the other Indian students?

    • kpwn

      Places like India which spend WAY less
      ‘way less’ when adjusted for living expenses in those ‘places like India’?

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    How will the requirement for vaccines affect enrollment?

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    The Vocabulary of Peace™ is a fresh, pro-active, positive (and nonprofit) approach to civic peace values education that can easily be integrated into existing English and Social Studies classes.

    Unpacking everyday words like “intelligence” and “respect” — and using their derivations to bring them to life — is a great way to counteract bullying and hazing behavior and attitudes — on or off line; in or out of school — and building a sense of self-interest in observing good will principles in daily life.

    An overview of the approach can be found at, on the Schools page.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor