Schiff, Lisa

Lisa Schiff is the parent of two children in the San Francisco Unified School District and is a member of Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco and the PTA and is a board member at the national level of Parents for Public Schools.

California Schools: New State, Federal Strategies Flawed, Familiar

Lisa SchiffBy Lisa Schiff

Almost as much has happened in the two weeks since public schools let out for the summer than in the entire second semester. In the first part of June, a revised version of federal education policy was introduced in the Senate and a California state budget has all but passed that includes dramatic funding changes for our state's schools.

Rhee's Credibility Questioned as High-Stakes Testing is Exposed Again

By Lisa Schiff

Last week, high-stakes testing queen Michelle Rhee, was exposed. Thanks to the impressive investigative work of reporter John Merrow, the final dots have been connected making it clear that when Rhee was superintendent of Washington D.C.'s public schools, serious levels of cheating were occurring spurred on by the unrealistic pressure she put on principals and that she was fully aware of what was happening. This news comes on the heels of the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal in which the principals and teachers acted together to change students' test answers in order to improve standardized test scores under the pressure of threats by that district's superintendent, Beverly Hall.

Reshaping Education: New Opportunities for Teachers Unions

By Lisa Schiff

In the midst of a protracted assault on public education, teachers unions have in front of them a tremendous opportunity. The need for strong leadership asserting child-centric approaches to education has never been greater - teachers and their unions can seize this moment to break the mold of the traditional union and expand that organization's legitimate sphere of action to formally include the very structure and quality of students' learning experiences.

The historic purpose of a union to protect and advocate for its members is no less relevant today than it was in years past, but within the world of public education that mission alone is insufficiently ambitious, both for teachers and their students. The conditions of work are critical, but the nature of that work is equally so.

Budget Sequestration Cuts and California Schools

By Lisa Schiff

A friend of mine emailed me last fall incredibly worried about the impact of potential sequestration cuts on schools and students across the country. He was a long-time Washington D.C.-based public education advocate, so I was simultaneously unshaken and unnerved by his concern. Sequestration seemed like a D.C.-based fear, so unlikely to actually happen given the blowback that would surely come from such imprecise cuts. But my friend's many years of fighting for resources for children's education meant that I couldn't really ignore his concerns, and so his words remained a low-level worry until March 1st, when I had to concede that he'd been right all along.

It's a New Year, Let's Build New Schools

By Lisa Schiff

The New Year marks the half-way point of the academic year for students in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). With a dramatic election finally over, January finds us without the threat of immediate financial catastrophe (thank you voters, for passing Proposition 30), a postponement of the federal funding cliff-hanger until March, three returning incumbent school board members (Rachel Norton, Sandra Fewer and Jill Wynns) and one new commissioner (Matt Haney), and a re-elected President Obama who has committed to staying the course with the existing pernicious federal education programs.

New Political Terrain Holds Promise for California Schools

By Lisa Schiff

My daughter came home from school the other day frustrated and angry. She had been excited the evening before because she'd learned that having finished The Odyssey her ninth-grade English class was now going to tackle Beowolf. We discussed the different translations and decided to compare the version we had at home with the one her class was going to read once she got the book. The next night she handed me, with a gesture of disgust, a used double-sided photocopy of the classic; no "real" book, just a set of rather worn stapled pages.

Post-election, Push for Changes in Education Policy

By Lisa Schiff

Re-electing President Obama may have felt like a huge accomplishment, but it was really just the beginning of the work to come. With the rather low-key confirmation that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be continuing on into the second term, the President gave the clear signal that federal education policies and strategies will remain essentially the same, meaning a continued emphasis on competitive grants, further support for privatization via charter schools, and a focus on formulaic assessment of students, teachers and the overall quality and outcomes of our educational system. Arne Duncan was a troubling choice from the outset and his actions as Secretary proved those worries to be well-founded. In other words, we have nothing to be excited about and much to be gravely concerned over.

Election 2012 Could Mean a Brighter Future for Education

By Lisa Schiff

California's public education community has been breathing sighs of relief following the results of last week's voting extravaganza. Not even considering the historic re-election of President Barak Obama and the related repudiation of the Republican Party's effort to further restrict our civic and social rights, the results for California were immense. For our public schools, the most critical result was the passage of Proposition 30, which through leveraging a sales tax increase and raising income taxes on the wealthy will raise revenues to the General Fund and stop the automatic budget cuts to all levels of public education that were set to be enacted come January if Proposition 30 had not passed.

School Beat: California’s Competing Tax Measures

By Lisa Schiff

California voters concerned with the fate of our public schools face a dilemma this election day--how to vote on the two competing tax measures that each pledge to provide significant new financial support to our state’s public education system. Propositions 30 and 38 present very different alternatives to the immediate fiscal crisis in our schools and formulating an opinion on them is no easy matter.

Let’s End the “War on Kids”

By Lisa Schiff

“The War on Kids,” a recently re-promoted 2009 documentary about our educational system, ends with a horrifying scene of a young girl, no more than 7 or 8, screaming and crying as three law enforcement officers pull her up from a chair in a school office and handcuff her, oblivious to the girl’s hysterical sobbing. That one scene captures the primary message of the filmmaker: that our public school system is a fundamentally flawed institution designed not to educate, but to exert control over students who are a priori viewed by that system as criminals.