Comprehensive Sex Ed Now Mandatory for California's Middle and High School Students

New legislation signed by Governor Jerry Brown requires California students in grades 7-12 to take sexual education classes unless excused by their parents. The new curriculum, set to go into effect on January 1, will include instruction on HIV prevention, sexual assault, intimate partner violence and sex trafficking. It will also require educators to "affirmatively recognize that people have different sexual orientations." We discuss what the new law will mean for teachers, parents and students.

Report: UC System Most Economically Diverse Among Nation's Top Schools

The University of California is an "upward-mobility machine." That's according to the New York Times, which last week issued its 2015 College Access Index ranking the economic diversity of the nation's most selective colleges. UC campuses took six of the seven top spots, based on the cost of attendance and the number of students enrolled who receive federal Pell grants. We speak with New York Times editor David Leonhardt about what UC has done to earn its rankings, what other schools might learn and about the role of education in helping people climb the economic ladder.

PBS NewsHour

Albuquerque hosts massive effort to send more to college

A worker at Southwest Creations Collaborative with her daughter. (Photo courtesy of Southwest Creations Collaborative)

A program at Southwest Creations Collaborative, a local factory in Albuquerque, provides mentoring and tutoring for children of employees, part of a mass citywide graduation effort. (Photo courtesy of Southwest Creations Collaborative)

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about higher education.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In a nondescript one-story industrial building surrounded by a neighborhood of engine repair and body shops, rows of seamstresses lean into their industrial sewing machines and cut and stitch fabrics for West Elm, New York’s Canvas Home, and other retailers.

This little factory, called Southwest Creations Collaborative, provides not only stable employment in a state where nearly a third of jobs pay at or below the poverty level. It’s also helping its workers’ children overcome the longer-than-average odds Albuquerque that they will graduate from high school and go on to college.

“We joke that the people who work here are simultaneously grateful, and that they’re also thinking, ‘Wow, you guys are really in our business,’” said Jessica Aranda, director of the collaborative’s Hacia la Universidad, or “To the University,” program. “What other employer asks you to bring in your children’s grades?”

The program offers mentoring and tutoring if those grades suggest it’s needed, takes families on tours of college campuses, and helps them navigate the application and financial aid process.

The results have overcome any unease: 98 percent of these factory workers’ children graduate from high school, compared to the Albuquerque average of less than 63 percent, and 86 percent go on to college, versus 69 percent of other Albuquerque high school grads.

From the bottom up

It’s a tiny step toward fixing a big problem. But as federal and state policymakers struggle to increase the number of college graduates from the top down, this and other efforts in Albuquerque are trying to succeed by doing it from the bottom up.

“Truly each community knows itself better than anyone else does, rather than having these lofty ideas from Washington that aren’t grounded in the experience of an individual person,” said Christina Griffith, who helps propel 40 local high school students annually into college as part of another small local program underwritten by the Simon Family Foundation.

Related: While Washington wavers, states provide detailed college ratings

In a downtown diner where she often meets with promising high school students over lemonade — and after having just come from consoling one whose college plans were teetering because of family problems, and another whose father lost his job — she said, “So often the presumption is that we need to bring in ideas from the outside, but that often happens with the exclusion of the people who really understand the problems.”

And the problems here are particularly complex.

Only 38 percent of adults in Albuquerque have college degrees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, far lower than the proportions in what the city considers its economic competitors, such as Austin (48 percent), Seattle (49 percent), and Silicon Valley (55 percent). More than half the population is Hispanic or Native American, groups with traditionally low rates of college-going and with high levels of poverty; a quarter of Hispanic adults in Albuquerque never finished high school. That leaves them ill-equipped to help their children navigate the complicated path to college.

But when advocates looked more closely at the gaps, they found that they were even wider than they seemed. Fourteen percent of children in Albuquerque are habitually absent from school, only a third go to preschool or pre-kindergarten, their scores in reading and math are very low, and 26 percent drop out before finishing high school.

So it was the United Way, which works with charitable organizations of all kinds, that convened a meeting in a windowless conference room in its offices near the airport and started hashing out some ways to tackle this. The model? A local collaboration under which different organizations that dealt separately with domestic violence — police, a rape crisis center, sexual abuse service providers, safe houses and shelters, drug and alcohol treatment services, food banks — had pooled their resources to confront that seemingly intractable problem from all angles.

Related: Employers step in to help low-income students get through college

The low numbers of students going to college seemed a logical next focus for this approach, called “collective impact.” So social service leaders sat down with the mayor, school, administrators, business and civic leaders, the newspaper editor, and anybody else who had ideas for dealing with the issue all the way from prenatal care to careers.

“It takes an entire community to come together to move the needle in a significant way,” said Katharine Winograd, president of Albuquerque’s Central New Mexico Community College, who was one of the people at that table.

One student at a time

That’s because locals can deal with one student at a time, instead of seeing them as impersonal statistics.

They also understand that “things come up,” said Aranda, of Southwest Creations, who had just graduated from Texas A&M University with a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. “There might be a problem with transportation, some families might be struggling to keep food on the table, or it might be simple—we really need to get Junior a summer job.”

Under the umbrella of what would become known as Mission: Graduate, the Rotary Club and Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce have supplied volunteers to tutor kids in reading. The local PBS station produced public-service announcements for a campaign to improve school attendance, which also ran on billboards provided by the highway department, and on the sides of city buses. Businesses provided internships. Local banks helped design the curriculum of a certificate program to train bilingual workers for jobs as tellers. The University of New Mexico, whose campus is in the heart of Albuquerque, sends reports back to individual high schools telling them how their graduates fare after they arrive on campus so teachers can see how their students are doing and correct any shortcomings in subsequent classes. And the community college is in talks to offer classes in Spanish at a neighborhood organization called Encuentro for people who want to become home health care workers.

Related: From pews to classes, a new push for higher ed in church

“It’s all about making connections,” said Andrea Plaza, Encuentro’s executive director, in the onetime St. Vincent de Paul thrift store that serves as its headquarters, with inspirational messages on the walls and cracks in the floor. “It’s a relationship thing. People are coalescing around this. They’ve made a commitment to it, not because their organizations need it, but because our community needs it.”

Now, said Concha Cordova, vice president of the education and training organization Youth Development Incorporated on the city’s southwest side, “You walk into those meetings and you know everybody and you know their work, and we help each other.”

And not only out of altruism. Businesses are having trouble finding the workers they need.

“We have a lot of self interest in this,” said Jim Hinton, president of Presbyterian Healthcare Services, the biggest health care company in New Mexico, in his office overlooking the field where the city’s famous annual hot-air balloon festival was about to take place. “We have to turn this beautiful place where we live into something beyond a postcard.”

New Mexico universities and colleges, meanwhile, are trying to stem a decline in enrollment — including UNM, half of whose students come from Albuquerque.

“Is it self-serving in a way? Of course,” said Kevin Stevenson, the university’s liaison to Mission: Graduate. “If we can prepare more students to go to college, and keep them here, that helps everyone, including us.”

A nationwide push

It’s also an extension of a trend by which, frustrated by dysfunction at the federal level, communities are taking matters into their own hands. At least 74 other cities nationwide, from Buffalo, New York, to Santa Ana, California, have efforts under way to increase the number of students going to college through something called the Community Partnership for Attainment. (The initiative is supported by the Lumina Foundation, which also is among the funders of The Hechinger Report.) This is happening at a time when an Obama Administration plan to restore the country to first place in the world by 2020 in the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees is far behind schedule. State efforts in many cases haven’t fared much better.

Community leaders, by comparison, “can very quickly identify the barriers, and try to break those down,” said Josephine De Leon, vice president for equity and inclusion at UNM. “The impact is much more direct, it’s much faster. We’re boots on the ground, every single day. We know what the issues are, and we know the faces of the people it affects.”

High school graduation rates are up slightly since the initiative began in 2010, as is the proportion of those graduates who go to college, and the percentage who, at UNM, stay there beyond the first year. And Mission: Graduate is already ahead of schedule in the number of people in Albuquerque earning college and university degrees, toward an ultimate goal of 60,000 new degree-holders by 2020.

Related: One struggling city’s bold effort to increase its number of college graduates

Challenges remain. Scores in third-grade reading and eighth-grade math have fallen, for example. And Luis Gomez, who overcame his own undocumented status and other problems to graduate in May from UNM with a degree in accounting, and who now volunteers to mentor kids like him in local high schools, said the students he works with “don’t think they can make it. They don’t have positive role models to look up to.”

Gomez, who worked at a fast-food chain and as a waiter in a restaurant to pay for his tuition, said, “It’s really sad. I see the potential in them. They’re mostly discouraged.”

But sharing his own story helps, he said. “That’s when they start opening up. Because the way things operate here is very different than in other places.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about higher education.

PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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For Gates, better training for front line workers key no matter the challenge

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Following their conversation for last night’s PBS NewsHour, Gwen Ifill continued to talk with Bill and Melinda Gates about lessons learned from their decade plus in philanthropy — especially their reflections on work to end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

One direction their philanthropy is moving in, no matter the area of focus, is empowering frontline workers.

“Whether it be a teacher in an inner city classroom or somebody in Liberia in a rural healthcare clinic — how do you get the latest tools out to them, making sure the investment in those tools is taking place, then the training programs and the feedback programs so they can be there on the frontline,” Bill Gates said. “They’re really the heroes, and we’re trying to build systems that help them do it better.”

Better training and more constructive feedback for teachers was a main focus of Gates’ remarks before educators, officials and Bill and Melinda Gate Foundations staffers gathered in Seattle yesterday for the group’s forum on education.

The post For Gates, better training for front line workers key no matter the challenge appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Bill and Melinda Gates on the political debate over Common Core standards

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 15:  Microsoft Corporation Chairman Bill Gates (L) and
         his wife Melinda attend a ceremony presenting them with the 2010 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding
         at the Library of Congress October 15, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Fulbright Prize recognized the Gates' philanthropic
         work through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and their work and charitable contributions in improving the health and
         education opportunities of people around the globe.   (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

GWEN IFILL: They have spent $35 billion so far tackling malaria and AIDS and Ebola abroad.

But here at home, their laser focus has been on education reform, which has catapulted them into the middle of a 2016 political debate.

I sat down today in Seattle with Bill and Melinda Gates.

Melinda, Bill Gates, thank you for joining us.

MELINDA GATES, Gates Foundation: Thanks for having us.

GWEN IFILL: For better or worse this year, education is a campaign issue. You can say that is good news, that’s bad news. How do you see it, Melinda?

MELINDA GATES: I think the fact that education is part of the public discourse in an election year is incredibly important, because education for us in America is the bridge to equal opportunity.

And so, if it’s not working for everybody, we need to be discussing that as a nation. So, in that sense, it’s actually a good thing.

GWEN IFILL: But the discussion is all about Common Core and about whether standardized testing, and however you choose to define Common Core, is the right idea.

Do you worry that the whole issue that you have pushed to support, this idea of raising achievement through standardized testing and other ways, do you worry that politics is obscuring Common Core arguments?

BILL GATES, Gates Foundation: Well, it is concerning that the facts about Common Core are often obscured.

The Common Core sets high standards for what math, reading and writing kids should learn in high school, and it helps get the progression down, so that even if a kid is moving from state to state, if they’re using online material, it’s all benchmarked the same way. And if a kid graduates from high school, they will know that they don’t have to go and take remedial classes.

So, it’s a very important advance. It’s a standard that is allowing for a lot of innovation, where people build elements that connect up to the Common Core. So, we’re seeing great results. Kentucky was the first state to go ahead with it. They’re actually the state that’s seen the most improvement in a lot of their test scores, and even in their high school graduation rates.

So, it’s rolling out. It’s a foundational piece that will help improve things.

GWEN IFILL: How did the worm turn on this debate, from so many states adopting it so quickly, to so many people, especially Republicans, saying, if you endorse this, it’s a disqualifying feature?

MELINDA GATES: Well, I think it’s important to look back.

It was the state governors and the state superintendents who, in 2006, said, this is right for each of our states. This is what we want, because if these are standards are set properly, we know that our kids are on a learning trajectory to learn what they need to know to be part of the knowledge economy.

So, that’s when it was set. There has been a lot of political debate about — and people have confounded it with, is it federal control vs. state control? No, it’s states who are deciding this. A few states have actually rolled back the Common Core, but it’s interesting. What they have put in, in place of it is 95 percent the Common Core. It just is a different word.

But 42 states and the District of Columbia are still doing the Common Core, because they know it’s right. And more important, quite honestly, than the political debate that goes on is what’s happening with teachers in the schools.

When you survey teachers across the nation whose states have Common Core in place, they say, we like it. It’s hard to implement, but we know it’s the right thing for our students. Our students are learning the things that they need to learn.

So, they believe in it. And so, in some ways, the political discourse just isn’t, thank goodness, trickling down to the reality of what’s happening in schools.

GWEN IFILL: How have you been able to — or have you been able to measure that these higher standards have led to hiring achievement?

MELINDA GATES: Well, so, Kentucky is a fantastic example. They’re the first state that put the Common Core into place statewide.

And what we’re seeing is that their graduation rate has gone up, and that’s incredibly important. But even more important is the college readiness rate. And that is, before — before they put the Common Core standards in, 34 percent of kids who graduated from their high schools were actually ready to go to college.

Today, that number is 62 percent. That means that kids are going into college and they’re succeeding. They know they’re ready to go and they’re not having to be remediated and then dropping out. That is a profound change in just a few years.

GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about what’s happening here in your hometown of Seattle, where the — there was a recent teachers strike, in part over some of these issues. And a judge struck down the charter schools that were supposed to begin here.

I wonder whether that — this example makes you rethink how you can sell what it is you have.

BILL GATES: Well, most states do have charter schools.

And although only about 5 percent of kids go to those schools, they have been laboratories where a lot of good things have been learned. For example, this idea of, how do you give teachers more feedback, how do you help teachers get better, a lot of charter schools really invested in doing that. And then — and we are seeing some of those now be adopted broadly, so that all students can benefit from them.

We are very disappointed that courts saw that the way that the charter referendum that the voters approved, the court said that the way it was funded was inappropriate. And so we’re hopeful that charters will be restored in the state. It’s possible they won’t. That would be a real disappointment to us.

We’re among the people who have invested. We have got 1,200 kids in charter schools whose fate are up in the air. Some people are trying to get those defunded, which is — for those nine schools that are in place, you know, that seems like a bad thing to want to shut those down.

But we do have charters in most states, and we think they can be a place where good learnings take place.

GWEN IFILL: What about the students who are opting out of these tests, especially here in Seattle, who are just saying, I don’t want to take part in this, there are too many tests?

MELINDA GATES: Well, I think you’re hearing that from some students and some parents.

And I think, when new assessments go in, you have to say, what assessments are we taking out? We have to have assessments. They are very important tests to know whether kids who are learning what they need to know against the Common Core standard, whether in fact they are learning the material, so we know by the end of the year.

But I think some of those are also myths about the numbers of kids dropping out. If you look at Louisiana, they talked about thousands of kids dropping ought. It turns out it’s less than 1 percent of the kids who dropped out of the state tests. That tells you how important parents and students know they actually are.

GWEN IFILL: When you say that some of the numbers have been skewed, is that because teachers who don’t want to be subject to those tests are the ones driving some of this unrest?

MELINDA GATES: Well, I think you get both parents and teachers who get concerned. I would be concerned if my child was tested too many times in the year.

But I think, sometimes, what happened with the Common Core is, it got rolled out. The standards — the teachers agreed with the standards. They believed in them. But then the tests came out very quickly thereafter. And teachers will tell you, teaching to the Common Core is hard. They have to step up their game in the classroom. And it takes a while to get that implementation down. And they need a few years before the testing begins.

So there were a few states that, quite honestly, went too fast with the tests. And I think that’s where you started to see some of the pushback.

GWEN IFILL: So, what’s the fix?

BILL GATES: Well, in fact, tests where students are told what they got wrong, and they use it as an opportunity to learn and see, OK, how should this concept work, tests are a very good thing done properly.

So, it would be very unfortunate out of this if people thought, oh, we shouldn’t test students, we shouldn’t test doctors, we shouldn’t test drivers, you know, tests are kind of this bad thing. You can make mistakes, particularly how many tests do you have that are those summative tests at the end, how — are those really that beneficial vs. the classroom time?

But, overall, testing is a fundamental piece. And it should be about making them better, instead of saying, OK, let’s just take the day off.

GWEN IFILL: In the years that you have been undertaking this enterprise to fix America’s education system, what would you say has been the least pleasant and the most pleasant surprise that you have picked up along the way?

BILL GATES: Well, it’s always so encouraging when you go in and see a great teacher at work, whether that’s in a charter school or public school, to see that energy and the sense of potential those kids feel when that teacher is not only educating them, but giving them confidence.

Then, when we see things that are designed to help teachers improve, that are, you know, pretty good, but there’s some fear about how those systems are run, when those are shut down, and teachers aren’t getting any feedback at all, that’s disappointing.

You know, we need to get to a point where teachers really love the professional feedback they’re given. And that’s a struggle, to design those systems, to keep them in place, until they get so good that teachers wouldn’t want to live without them.

MELINDA GATES: I think the most encouraging thing is, yes, when you see great teaching happen in the classroom, and we see great teachers across the nation.

And I think it’s encouraging when you hear from the kids what a difference their teacher makes to them, and they say, this person believed in me. This person helped me with my work. It was hard. It wasn’t easy. But he or she believed in me. And they helped me know that I could do this.

When you hear that, and you hear it from kids across the nation, no matter where they’re from, you say, wow, that’s encouraging. We know it’s possible. We know great teaching happens and is possible. Let’s figure out how to make sure that all teachers can be fantastic teachers and get the feedback they need, so they keep improving at their craft. And that’s exciting.

GWEN IFILL: Melinda Gates, Bill Gates, thank you both very much.

MELINDA GATES: Thanks, Gwen.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Next week, Gwen will have a report from Seattle that features one of the prominent voices that has been pushing back on the Common Core and encouraging parents to opt out of testing.

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Melinda Gates says Common Core pushback propelled by changing too much, too fast

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Tonight PBS NewsHour Anchor Gwen Ifill talks with Bill and Melinda Gates about their foundation’s influence on American public education and what they’ve learned in 15 years of supporting sometimes controversial reforms.

The couple have been criticized in some quarters for pushing changes that lead to too many tests. In this video clip, Melinda Gates talks about the lessons learned from the implementation of the Common Core in tandem with new tests and new teacher evaluations in many states. She said some states rolled out new tests too quickly and believes that’s one cause of the political push back against Common Core and standardized testing in the last year.

See the full interview tonight on your local PBS station or live on our home page at 6 p.m. EDT.

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