tv NBC Bay Area News Special Class Action NBC October 5, 2015 12:30am-1:01am PDT
an nbc bay area news special. tonight: "class action." san francisco's the first city in the state to make seismic safety rules for private schools. patrick otellini: at first, people realized that they're a little shocked that this isn't already required. announcer: the steps schools are taking to keep kids safe. david finn: an engineer had identified one of the sites as being at immediate risk. antwan wilson: that's the most important piece, that those young men, that they graduate. announcer: the biggest change to school funding in decades is rolling out across the bay area. angelica jongco: california is leading the country in terms of having a formula that provides more support for the students with the greatest need. announcer: more money and more decisions for local school districts. but are they ready? ryan smith: our biggest concern is that more people
don't know about it. announcer: plus. male: education has become all about filling in a bubble rather than unlocking human potential. announcer: a new documentary profiles schools shaking up the status quo. male: we went on this quest to rethink school, to try to see it differently than we've ever seen it before. announcer: now, here's nbc bay area's jessica aguirre. jessica aguirre: hello, and welcome to this news special in "class action." we cover the hot topics in education, and tonight is no different. we begin with an effort to make school kids safer when the big one hits. as we've showed you on "class action, public school buildings are highly regulated for seismic safety, and will likely hold up well in the event of an earthquake. but what about private schools? it may surprise you to know that private schools are not regulated except in san francisco. it is the first and only city in california to require private schools do seismic evaluations.
san francisco friends school has an unusual seismic story that starts with a historic old building. male: it was built to house levi strauss's blue jean assembly plant back in 1906. jessica: before the school moved in, it had to do a massive retrofit. male: we completely gutted the entire building, basically put the entire building, 82,000 square feet on stilts, and lifted it up off of its then foundation, and then created a whole new foundation and set the building back down. jessica: everything inside this old building is basically new. male: you see a lot of steel everywhere, in every classroom, in every office, in every common area. you'll see these huge steel i-beams that are holding up the building in addition to the original foundation, and preparing it to withstand an earthquake. jessica: an earthquake no one wants to experience, but everyone knows is coming.
simin naaseh: it's just a matter of time. it may not happen tomorrow, may happen, you know, the next day or 15 years from now, but we know that it will happen. that's one thing we're sure about. jessica: as part of san francisco's ongoing effort to reduce risk, the city has put in place the first law of its kind in california. private schools have to evaluate seismic safety. patrick: at first, people realized that they're a little shocked that this isn't already required. jessica: public schools have been regulated since the early 1930s, but not private schools. patrick: especially the parents that we surveyed, where you ask them and they assume because their kids were in private school and they were writing that check every month, that of course it must meet the same standards as the public schools, and that's just not the case. jessica: that doesn't mean private schools are dangerous. they're supposed to adhere to building codes, and a city report shows 43% of private school buildings are likely to perform well in earthquakes. but 33% might perform poorly. and for 24%, there just isn't enough information.
simin: i think a good first step is evaluating the buildings and assessing the nature of the risk and the magnitude of the risk. and that's what this ordinance is trying to do. jessica: there are an estimated 113 private schools in san francisco, many in older buildings. schools occupy a movie theater, a victorian mansion, a former mayonnaise factory, a wide variety of campuses facing the same deadline. they have 2 years to complete the earthquake review. patrick: the schools are going to do these evaluations, and they're probably not going to want to sit on them. jessica: that's exactly what happened at the archdiocese of san francisco, which operates more private schools than any other school group, 34 total. david: we got a call one day that an engineer had identified one of the sites as being an immediate risk based on the configuration of the building. jessica: the classroom was a kindergarten located on the bottom floor of a building used for other parish purposes.
it's permanently closed. david: the school was closed by the end of the day, that particular site, and the children removed. jessica: the archdiocese evaluated all of its schools ahead of the deadline. and it's not the only private school entity already correcting deficiencies. the fixes are voluntary. schools are not required to retrofit. the law simply doesn't go that far. patrick: we see schools in every type of building under the sun. and so, to come up with a uniform standard, a way to retrofit this, it's not fair because some schools will be very cheap to retrofit given their construction type, other ones might be very expensive. jessica: but experts say if the law spurs action, it's an important first step. simin: putting our head in the sand and ignoring the risk isn't going to help us. but knowing what are vulnerabilities are, and addressing them, and mitigating them will help. jessica: now private schools will file seismic evaluation to the department of building inspection, and those evaluations will be public information. a follow-up now on public school seismic safety.
last year, we were the first to show you the extent of the damage inside napa valley unified public schools after the napa quake. you may recall that that 6.0 earthquake struck in the middle of the night and school was not in session. it turns out, despite the earth roaring, none of napa valley unified's 30 schools suffered any structural damage. mark quattrocchi: that's the real testament to how well schools are built. but what was dramatic and what was hard to see was the contents, what happened inside those classrooms. jessica: these still photos, taken inside napa valley schools, showed debris littered across the classroom floors, a daunting cleanup to be sure, but also, some experts say, an alarming indicator of troubling problems. overhead lights fell to the floor. mark: some of them were not built the way that they were designed. jessica: bookshelves toppled and blocked exits. mark: you want to leave quickly, and suddenly a bookcase falls and blocks the exit. jessica: a file cabinet lurched forward onto desks. mark: it was pretty telling, pretty dramatic. jessica: now, since that report, napa valley unified
has made changes since our story first aired. all schools have been instructed to move those bookcases and furniture away from classroom exits. this creates a safety zone around the door so debris won't fall and block the way out. the district is also in the process of securing all furniture taller than 36 inches. okay, now to the perennial hot topic of funding public schools. one of the biggest changes in schools in decades is already underway, but odds are you haven't even heard of it. california's local control funding formula means more money and more decisions for local school districts. so, how's it working? well, we paid a visit to oakland to see that new money put to use. the classroom is outdoors at fremont high school in oakland. male: today, we're making salsa and we're going to eat it with chips, i guess. jessica: these young men are part of the latino men and boys program. miguel salmeron: it's like a small circle where everybody is,
like, pretty much in trust, so like--it's like a family circle pretty much. jessica: it's a circle that's about to get bigger thanks to extra dollars flowing in from the state. antwan: we get targeted funding from the state in order to support our most needy students. jessica: for the first time, oakland unified is investing newly available money, $200,000, in the latino program. antwan: that's the most important piece, that those young men, that they graduate from high school. jessica: the money comes from the local control funding formula, a landmark law now being put into practice across california. angelica: this is a historic change. it's the biggest change to our school funding system in the last 40 years. jessica: under lcff, many funding decisions shift from sacramento to local school districts. angelica: california is leading the country in terms of having a formula that provides more support for the students with the greatest need. jessica: districts with high needs kids get more money.
the extra dollars are for english learners, foster youth, and low-income students. jerry brown: equal treatment for children in unequal situations is not justice. jessica: at oakland unified, where 80% of students are high needs, funding incrementally increases from $7,500 to almost $12,000 per student over the next 5 years. however, in more affluent san ramon valley unified, where just 8% of kids are high-needs, funding in 2021 tops out at a little more than $9,000. ryan: our biggest concern is that more people don't know about it. jessica: he's right, most voters have never heard of the funding law, even though for the first time ever, it requires community input on how that money is spent. ryan: in order to get this right, because there's more flexibility in how funds are spent at the local level, people have to get involved and hold districts accountable. jessica: back at fremont high, these students say they're just happy to see their program expand. miguel: i think it's good that it's finally getting the
recognition that it needs because it's a really good program. male: that looks good. male: taste it. it's like what my mom makes. jessica: if you want to see how much money is allocated for your school district, check out edsource's online calculator. it's really good. it's at edsource.org. okay, we are just getting started. when we come back, we'll introduce you to the bay area filmmaker whose new movie premieres next week at the mill valley film festival. and she's got an important message about schools that you will not want to miss. [music]
jessica: and welcome back to this "class action" news special. a new documentary has its world premiere next week at the mill valley film festival. it's about education and it asks some hard questions about the way we do things in our schools. take a look at "beyond measure." male: you can't put 20, 30 kids in a room and expect them all to learn the same material, at the same pace,
with the same structure. everybody has their own learning style. everybody has their own pace. male: even though our achievement data has looked pretty good over the last few years, our students are struggling in college, so we're losing kids. we begin to think about what is it that we're missing. male: in traditional education, we have always been having a one-way conversation. there has to be a better way to get students engaged in this process. male: we have this small cohort of people who do extraordinarily well, and everybody else drifts away, and that is not a healthy society. male: the strategy of successive governments has been to say, "narrow the curriculum, standardize everything, and have more testing." systemically, it's not working. jessica: i'm joined now by vicki abeles. vicki is the director and producer of the film "beyond measure." and i know, vicki, that you make movies that are very close to your heart. you were here one time earlier before with your first film "race to nowhere," which really captured the rat race that kids
feel that they're on, and that movie moved so many parents. let's talk about "beyond measure." what motivated for you to make this movie? because i know your kids were an integral part of why you made "race to nowhere." vicki abeles: right, so i would say that this film, i set out to make this film in large part based on the screenings of "race to nowhere," and the passion that i saw for change. and yet, almost every screening i attended ended with the same question, which is, "where do we go from here?" i also set out to make a film that fills a void in what i see as a media story that's largely focused on what's wrong with education. it tends to lay blame on parents and educators and students, and to look to policy makers for the solutions. so, i wanted to take a journey and look for schools that were innovating and challenging the status quo. jessica: because one of the things that this movie touches upon is about that there's so much pressure in schools. a lot of it is about memorization, rote. and in that quote, you hear the man say the school is good for,
like, one group of people that do really well, and everybody else just moves away. so, what did you find when you went to look for these schools that are doing things differently? what are they--how are they making a difference that caters more to the child? vicki: so, what i found is a revolution brewing in public schools across the country, change makers at the local level: teachers, educators and parents coming together and pioneering a new vision, reinventing school as we know it, classrooms that look nothing like the classrooms you and i attended. you've got creative workshops instead of lectures, classrooms where students are leading the instruction, classrooms where homework has been replaced by projects that serve the community. jessica: that serve the community, so real projects that are out happening in the world? jessica: i bet the kids must love that. they must be so engaged. vicki: right, they're much more engaged. i think their experiences are much more meaningful and purposeful. and i think across the board at the schools that we filmed at, you found schools that trust in the ingenuity of students and
teachers to create learning experiences that are meaningful, and classrooms where the role of the teacher and the student has changed. jessica: so, what enables those districts to be able to do that, and why can't that be adopted by more schools? what is the impediment to getting school systems across the country to say, "okay, we know this isn't working. we have all these complaints. why can't we try what these folks are doing?" vicki: right, so i think that in large part, we're stuck in a mindset that school is best done as currently done. the things that we associate with traditional school, with the traditional bell schedule, lectures, and homework, and standardized tests, i think that many of us just conclude that we have very little we can do to push back on that. and what you found at these schools were some brave, courageous change makers who wanted something different for the students in their schools. jessica: now, you say in the film that what counts can't be counted. what counts can't be counted. what does that mean?
vicki: well, i think that our current education system is so driven by measuring our kids rather than nurturing their talents, and supporting their growth and development. jessica: so, when people walk away and look at this film, what do you want them to walk away with, with the idea that let's spread the revolution, let's make change? how do we do that in california? vicki: we want to empower individuals, parents, educators, and students, to be the change makers in their communities. i think that many people are going to be inspired by the stories in this film. these are educators and parents pushing back against the status quo, and creating something new and meaningful and, in the end, better preparation for the young people in these classrooms. importantly, because i know you haven't seen the entire film yet, jessica, these are films that are partnering with innovative models that have been around for the last decade or more.
these are proven models with track records. and so, i think that it's possible for any school, any classroom teacher looking to create change, to partner with a school that is a little bit further ahead, and to also understand, you know, we need to get schools to loosen the reins and to give schools more freedom. jessica: you talk about a lot of different models. did they have one thing in common? vicki: i think the thing that i would say is in common is the roles of the students and teachers have been changed. and connections. and what i would say is that all of these schools are fostering connections between the students, between the students and the teachers, between the schools and the communities that they serve in. jessica: so, as you know, here in california, the big thing now is the common core, and changing, getting rid of the rote memorization tests and trying to do a smarter balance test, which supposedly is supposed to test kids to see if they're really preparing them for college and if they're really getting meaningful education in the classroom.
what's your take on the common core as you see it right now? vicki: as i see it right now, i think it all depends on the implementation. i think the intentions behind it are good and i think that, you know, we're going to have to see how it's implemented in schools. but to the extent that it is still driven by high-stakes testing, then i'm not in favor of that. i'm much more in favor of giving the people at the local level the power to create meaningful experiences for the students and communities they serve in. jessica: and "beyond measure," you're going to have screenings throughout california? vicki: absolutely, so, we have the mill valley film festival is coming up in a couple of weeks. that's where we're premiering. and then we've got dozens of schools across the state that have scheduled screenings. so, here in the bay area, i know there's a screening coming up at san ramon valley high school, as well as in irvington high school. and this is the launch of a nationwide screening campaign, which we hope is going to inspire people across the country to create--to push back on the traditional model and create the schools that our kids need for the future.
[snoring.] ♪ don't fear my darling... ♪ the lion sleeps tonight. [snoring.] take the roar out of snore. yet another innovation only at a sleep number store. ica: a court fight over teacher tenure enters a new stage. as we first reported last year, a major lawsuit challenged long-standing teacher job protections in california. it's those job protections that are at the center of a major lawsuit filed by a non-profit called "students matter," founded by wealthy silicon valley entrepreneur david welch. david welch: i myself am a product of public schools. jessica: they're targeting three statutes: teacher tenure, earned after 2 years on the job; last in first out rules, which are layoffs in which the last teachers hired are the first fired; and a dismissal process they say is overly complex and too expensive for any one district. now, students matter won that lawsuit. it was a major victory, but the case is now in appeals court.
the teachers' unions are asking for a complete reversal of the decision. supporters of the unions have filed friends of the court briefs, so opponents have on the other side as well. oral arguments are expected this fall and the decision is likely to come next year. of course, we'll keep you posted. okay, now we go to our favorite stories about school architecture. students at corte madera are getting googled. yes, there's a school in marin county, and it's taking a page from the search giant's playbook. its campus is designed to mimic google's famous open workspaces. here's an encore presentation about the cove school. female: your goal for today is what? who knows what the goal is by the end? jessica: it doesn't take long to notice that things are different with the cove school, a new public elementary school in corte madera. mark: i'll tell you what it's not like, it's not like the schools of the last 100 years. female: get your town name done, and then we'll share those out at the end. jessica: folding doors divide extra-large rooms called learning suites, with a special nook this class calls the den.
some kids sit on stools with round bases, which allow them to wiggle while they work. there are no neat rows of desks. female: i want you to pick one street name. i came from a more traditional setting. jessica: inside and out, the cove school is designed for collaboration and flexibility, buzzwords in silicon valley, but less so in education. that's why the designers of the school took a field trip to google to get some inspiration. mark: it was remarkable to see the expressions on their faces, that little sort of aha moment when we could take them to some of these unique workspaces. jessica: the campus is open and airy, with a strong connection to the outdoors, and lots of places for kids to gather. interestingly, there are no bells. one of the cove school's philosophies is experiential learning. see-through spaces and open floor plans are the norm, just like at google. female: our son anderson just talks about it, sort of feeling like he's at home. female: i'm going to ring the chime and you're going to
quietly come back to your circle spots. male: and i'm going to bring the parachute out and we're going to spread it out like a big pizza. jessica: at the center of campus, an expansive hall gives new meaning to the old term multi-purpose room. michelle walker: it's designed for pe classes to be in there, performances, assemblies, as a gathering space where people pass through as the heart of the school, and that was something that we definitely took away from one of the main rooms that they had at google. male: good, lucy. female: so, who has a name for their town? jessica: but at the end of the day, learning still takes center stage, even in this decidedly 21st century classroom. kristin lerohl: i love it. it's fabulous and i told everybody, all my admin i don't want to go back. female: how about here? natureville. how about here? female: tropical triangle. female: tropical triangle, another alliteration. jessica: looks like a blast, doesn't it? now, many of the teachers at the cove school leave those dividers
between their classrooms open all the time. that means they have two teachers working together in one large classroom. back in a moment. [music] ♪my milkface is an elevated state.♪ ♪cinnamon is my soul mate. ♪no debate 'cause it tastes so great.♪ ♪that's why i got milk face. ♪yes, you want it. ♪ the milk tastes oh so sweet.♪ ♪just like heaven between your cheeks.♪ ♪try this technique, put your mouth on fleek.♪ ♪la-la-la-la-la.
action" stories by going to our website, nbcbayarea.com. just search on "class action." we'd like to thank our guest, vicki abeles. you can check out her new movie, "beyond measure," october 11th at the mill valley film festival. that is going to do it for us. thanks again for watching, bye bye. [music]
extra extra. right now, hollywood invades new orleans and renee is right in the middle of the action. >> on the set of ncis new orleans. >> we're in the big easy with the biggest stars. >> any excuse i have to come to new orleans ever. from dinosaurs and detectives to feds and i dolls. >> new orleans has such a musical heritage. >> inside the real star of new orleans. >> the food is