Some Calculations

Let’s look at some basic income/expense math in a 3-unit class. The break-even point is only 10 students; once 10 students are in a class, the FTES support the cost of the professor. When just another two students enroll, for a classroom of 12, the student fees cover the cost of the professor, lights, custodial services, etc.

A traditional, face-to-face class with 16 students brings in $8,507 (that’s 1.7 FTES x $5,004/FTES). It costs $4,037 to staff said class with the highest-paid part-time faculty member. That yields a $4,470 profit.

This begs the question: why cancel a class when the college is bringing in $3 – $4K a class? 

Well, according to the District, each year we run a $3.9M deficit while offering about 7,000 classes. The District’s math says: $3.9M / 7,000 = $557 net deficit per class

PFF submitted an Information Request to the District, and on September 14, 2016, received this explanation:

“FTES does not pay for a class, it pays for a District.  Currently it is costing the District approximately $500 to offer a single class because expenditures exceed revenues.”

Next up, PFF’s argument.

Your Class: Cancelled

College class cancellations are a part of academic life. Sometimes a cancellation is a bummer, or occasionally a relief, but most often it becomes a real hardship. People – with actual, real lives – often suffer in untold ways as a class begins to fill but is ultimately cancelled before it has a chance to make.

Faculty members spend hours of uncompensated work preparing for classes. When a class is cancelled, this time and energy cannot be regained. To an adjunct faculty member, the loss is even greater; with only two weeks or fewer from the semester’s beginning, the window to refill that space at any other local institution is closed. There is no way to recuperate the preparation time or the expected income from the section. It can be financially devastating to an already tenuous income.

Furthermore, such cancellations can be educationally devastating to students. Theoretically, they can complete their schedules with another class – much like faculty are unrealistically expected to do – but what options does a student have when, say, the class is sequential and there are no other classes offered? Or they have designed their work or childcare schedule around the campus catalog, and work and childcare cannot be rearranged? Or a student no longer has his/her required 12 units to maintain financial aid benefits? Class cancellations can impact the difference between staying in school or dropping out.

Because these scenarios are so serious and so common to Palomar in the last few years, last Monday the Faculty Senate approved forming a faculty task force to resolve enrollment management issues. Any faculty member who wants to participate will be welcome to join the discussion, and should contact Senate President Travis Ritt at

Class Cancellations & Palomar’s Reliability

Community college is one of our democracy’s greatest ideas, truly for the people and by the people, each campus proud of its own unique qualities. And among these thousands of campus personalities, all community colleges share an honored attribute: their reliability and stability can be taken for granted. Everyone knows that under any circumstances, without question, they can boomerang back to their community college.

So what happens when they can’t?

As class cancellations increasingly become the norm, professors and students now routinely face that question at the beginning of Palomar semesters. Professors and students lose classes, which in turn, create problems for those individuals. Palomar loses, too – students and professors, campus morale, and the public’s confidence.

These types of losses pile up slowly and quietly. When that continues, students, professors, and community eventually face the greatest loss of all: that of hope. Before we get there, though, PFF will explore what’s actually happening with those cancellations, so perhaps we can help find a way to restore classes and Palomar’s reliability.

We invite you to follow our blog. As a Palomar professor, student, or community member, you are already engaged in excellence established by the people. Your awareness of class cancellations can help protect this excellence for the people.

What to Do When Black Friday Isn’t Your Thing

What to Do When Black Friday Isn’t Your Thing

 Debbie Forward, Communications Director and Organizer, Palomar Faculty Federation AFT Local 6161

 If you’re one of the humans who believe holidays are for friends and families, nobody should be forced to work on Thanksgiving Day, and you steer away from the shopping masses on Black Friday, well, here’s something worthy of your consideration.

Thousands of people like you are signing up to join peaceful demonstrations at hundreds of Walmarts across the country to support the stores’ employees in their quest for decent working conditions.  Some of those rallies are already planned in San Diego County.  Even in North County.  Gasp.

Previous attempts to share a message of fair working conditions with the Walton family, the owners of the Walmart chain, have failed.  So is organizing concerned Americans for November 28th rallies to highlight Walmart employees’ challenges.  Most workers at the stores are paid less than $25,000 annually, which is not enough for families to cover basic bills.  At the same time, managers manipulate schedules to keep people from working full-time, making them ineligible for benefits and creating stressful working and living conditions.  Protesters and petitioners are asking for $15/hr and consistent, full-time work.

While this labor force struggles for the essentials, our country’s wealthiest family, the Waltons, enjoys a net worth of more than $145 billion.  That’s more wealth than 42% of American families combined.  The Walmart chain profits $16 billion a year, and the family (shall call them The Family?) earns $8.6 million a day in dividend earnings alone.  We’re talkin’ ground zero for income inequality and destroying the middle class. pretty much offers a “Protest in a Box”; anyone can create a Black Friday Walmart action, and anyone can join one already organized.   Tod Critchlow, the co-chair of the North County Labor Alliance – a group of labor leaders who has created one such action at a Vista Walmart – explained, “We are compelled to support Walmart workers because their employer’s low-paying model and gross inequity is immoral and holding our country back.  America is at its best when companies and businesses reinvest in the workers who build them.  This current model can’t support itself – anyone who has played with a set of blocks can tell you that when something grows bigger and bigger at the top, it topples over.  Before that disaster happens, we need to show Walmart how it can be a leader in building our country’s middle class by supporting hard-working people.”

If your focus this Thanksgiving is gratitude, rather than over-hyped shopping at merchants destroying the working class, be thankful you can freely express your civic concerns and check out

The Good Democrat

PFF’s Full-Time Co-President was recently challenged by a local politician to please explain herself when she bemoaned the lack of “good democrats.”  This is her impassioned reply.

 The Good Democrat 

by Shannon Lienhart

A good Democrat understands that the fundamental threats to our democracy and our planet come from corporate greed.

The good Democrat seeks office because they have a desire to make a difference and to be part of the solution; they are not egocentric nor do they have a personal agenda.  When in office, their positions and actions consistently focus on the public good.

The good Democrat supports environmental issues, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, human rights, voting rights, unions, fair wages, public education, and access to affordable health care.

The good Democrat is staunchly against the privatization of schools, hospitals, prisons and other institutions that exist for the public good.  They recognize that not every commodity and service should be made into profit vehicles for the already wealthy in order that they can continually gain at the expense of the vast majority.

The good Democrat understands the difference between capitalism and corporatism.  They promote fair competition and ethical business practices; they reject greedy corporations that decimate our communities by contributing to the inequality and environmental crises.

The good Democrat believes strongly in the separation of church and state.

The good Democrat seeks information and perspectives from community leaders and experts before acting.  They are open and eager to discuss the positions they take because they know that those decisions come from ethical, thoughtful deliberation.

Instead of kowtowing to right wing rhetoric in order to get elected and/or remain in office, the good Democrat creates and uses the truth to craft a persuasive narrative that wins the hearts and souls of their community.

The good Democrat recognizes that, because we can’t out-finance the billionaires like the Waltons and Koch Brothers, this battle has to be about solidarity of people.  As such, they develop networks of like-minded people and organizations.

The good Democrat rejects handouts from corporations, and instead, seeks endorsement and support from individuals, unions, environmental groups, civil rights groups, human rights groups, etc.

As we sit on an historical threshold, the good Democrat understands that we need an uprising and that uprising will either take the form of the Democratic Party leading the way as it did a half-century ago or it will emerge organically through the streets.

We all acknowledge that corporations have bought out the Republican Party, and that the right uses religion and slick rhetoric to push through initiatives and legal decisions that, at every level, elevate and enhance the status of corporations while diminishing the people and environment.

As stewards of the Democratic Party, we need to start recognizing that corporations are now buying out many of our own members.

We have a moment in history where we can turn this ship around.  We can defeat the right-wing Republican agenda, but we can’t do that by adopting their positions.  We have to consistently identify, support, and elect GOOD Democrats; Democrats that have widespread appeal to those organizations that promote and share our values; Democrats that are pro-union, pro-environment, pro-human rights, and so on.

By building solidarity with unions, environmental, civil and human rights organizations, we can win elections.   There is a path to victory here.

But that path doesn’t merge with the Corporate Democrats, the ones who claim our party’s values but cross the middle line and step far into the right.  There’s a great article, examining California Assemblyman Marc Levine as something of a Corporate Democrat case study, which explains perfectly those political wolves in sheep’s clothing:

Marin County is one of California’s most liberal regions and, with its iconic redwoods and stunning coastline, it is also a power center for environmental activism. And so, when a bill to give the state Coastal Commission authority to levy fines against shoreline despoilers came for a vote in the state Assembly in 2013, it was taken for granted that Marin’s new Assemblyman, Marc Levine, would vote for passage. That didn’t happen. Instead, the San Rafael Democrat sat out the single most important vote for his constituents that year – which helped doom the measure.

But Levine was not finished. In Sacramento he would abstain or skip votes on bills helping farm workers and creating a bill of rights for domestic workers. He has also voted against legislation requiring economic impact reports for big box stores and requiring more rate-increase disclosure from Kaiser Permanente. That Levine keeps at arm’s length the progressive values of the 10th Assembly District, which includes much of equally liberal Sonoma County, should come as no surprise. During his two Assembly campaigns he has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from some of the state’s largest business interests.

The article, In Plain Sight: The Rise of Corporate Democrats in California, is here:


In democracy,




What Current Criticisms of Standardized Teacher Evaluations Say about SLOs and Professor Evaluations

Last we wrote, we shared our local union’s concerns regarding the dangers of Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) (see The Faculty Lounge blog, 12/4/13).  Since then the situation has worsened, and we return to find that our worries were valid.  Marty Hittelman succinctly outlines the most egregious example of ACCJC’s recent outrageousness in his April 8, 2014 blog*: ACCJC has threatened San Jose City College (of the San Jose/Evergreen District) with a Show Cause sanction unless they participated in “a three-year pilot program…that Student Learning Outcomes become a part of faculty evaluations.”  We’re beyond warnings now – we’re in the heart of the danger zone.

We were already really, really tired of the ACCJC’s growing insistence on implementing SLOs just so that down the road the Commission could insist SLOs be used as part of teacher evaluations.  Not tired in a give-up kind of way, simply exasperated in a what-don’t-they-understand-about-this? kind of way.  Despite the dark news about San Jose/Evergreen, two recent reports have galvinized our steps towards righteousness, as some particularly qualified organizations have seriously studied the practice of evaluating teachers based on their students’ standardized results.  Finally: Big Data that corporate education adores with the results real education loves.

The first of these enlightening studies comes from The National Association for College Admissions Counseling, who released the results of a study conducted by Bates College.  Bates compared student SAT scores and high school GPAs to college GPAs.  Be assured the scientific details were thorough, but to simplify the key points, the results clearly illustrate that:

  • Low high school GPA + High SAT score = Low college GPA
  • High high school GPA + Low SAT score = High college GPA

A high school GPA is a better indicator of college success than an SAT score, a conclusion that suggests genuine classroom teaching means more than test prep.  It also appears that an SAT score doesn’t even accurately assess a student (with apologies to teachers for stating the obvious; we’re hoping non-teachers are reading this, too!).   So, if the SAT does not accurately reflect the student taking it, how can it possibly be used to assess that student’s teacher?  It doesn’t compute.

The second study, regaled from newspaper articles to Twitter, is the American Statistical Association (ASA) Statement on Using Value-Added Models (VAMs) for Educational Assessment.  VAMs are the use of student performance data from standardized tests to determine the value of a teacher or institution.  The results impact such factors as a teacher’s evaluation, compensation, and sometimes whether or not a school will be closed.

The ASA wasted no words appeasing VAM proponents.  The critique includes statements such as, “at best, most VAMs predict only performance on the test and not necessarily long-range learning outcomes…a teacher’s efforts to encourage students’ creativity or help colleagues improve their instruction, for example, are not explicitly recognized in VAMs,” and “The VAM scores themselves have large standard errors…making rankings unstable.”

The Association did recommend avenues for VAMs’ potential usefulness, but they had nothing to do with teacher evaluations.  On the contrary, the statement was crystal clear about how damaging VAMs could be in trying to evaluate teachers.

It’s a relief that what teachers and students have always known is now official news, because standardization has long been used to mislead the public into believing its importance.  Its now certain that those test scores do not accurately gauge a teacher’s effectiveness or a student’s future success.  Corporate education has always depended on Big Data to endorse the “need” for standardized tests, though, so don’t be fooled that this information means the privatization movement is necessarily going to back down.  Money and power don’t give up that easily.

As higher education doesn’t currently have standardized measures to evaluate faculty, do we really need to get in this fight?  Well, back up a little, because apparently this is already underway.  ACCJC is just slowly and quietly (K12 teachers call that “sneaky”) implementing them in sanctioned community colleges, like San Jose City College.  They’re called SLOs.

Remember from our previous article, SLOs essentially started out as a pesky cousin to the Course Objectives in every college’s Course Outline of Records.  The exceptionally intelligent professionals upon whom they were imposed couldn’t tell the difference between the two assessments, so it was confusing why there was a need for SLOs.  Silly teachers – we didn’t know corporate education was out to get higher ed, too!

Of course there was a reason the ACCJC was peddling duplicating assessments: SLOs had a devious long-term goal, while helpful Course Objectives did not.  SLOs became about developing an assessment for the outcome, so data could then be collected from the assessment to evaluate teachers.  Undoubtedly, the ultimate purpose of SLOs is to standardize assessment.

So, higher ed, we truly are in the midst of battle.  ACCJC and their privatization agenda will rely on standardization as much as we will allow.  As K12 teachers face merit pay, job loss, and school closings based on standardization, ACCJC’s objective would be to unnecessarily fire “unqualified” professors and close community colleges in favor of for-profit colleges.  It’s our fight to lose.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.  The latest evidence that standardization is not a reliable tool for teacher evaluations is – to honor the high school kids we thank for suffering the tests – an “epic fail” for privatization efforts.  You wanted your data, corporate education?  There you go.  The scientific results show that the value or effectiveness of a teacher cannot be accurately evaluated based on an algorithm related to a bubble sheet.  We all knew this, and are grateful the news is delivered to you via a manner you’ll understand: hard evidence.  If you can’t get this, we daresay you might be “unteachable.”  Either way, true education will prevail.

*See Marty Hittelman’s 4/8/14 blog:

See PFF’s SLOs: A Local Union’s Perspective:




SLOs – A Local Union’s Perspective

Remember when the iPad was first released, and everyone giggled like sixth
graders that Apple used the word “pad?” As if the word’s singular use was
relegated to feminine hygiene. Now “iPad” is spoken routinely without comment.
It’s kind of like that with academic SLOs. At first, it was ironic and comical that
bureaucracy named “SLO” was created to actually slow down teachers’ work.
But now, years later, SLOs are ubiquitous, the irony has worn off, and nobody’s

SLOs – a brief history
It has already been over 10 years ago that Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)
were introduced to academia. In 2002, the newly adopted accreditation
standards included SLOs. At the time, the California State Academic Senate
was very resistant to SLOs, and stated in a 2004 Resolution, “Local senates are
urged not to accept for adoption externally designed, prefabricated SLOs.” The
Senate even opposed the term itself: “Local senates and curriculum committees
are strongly advised to use “objectives” in Course Outlines of Record as opposed
to “Student Learning Outcomes”…the term “Student Learning Outcomes” is
suggestive of assessment choices that are rightfully a matter of course level
determination by the instructors of record.”

Like iPad jokes wearing thin, only two years later, in 2006, the Academic
Senate got a little worn down and began inviting the Accrediting Commission for
Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to offer sessions on SLOs. Around
that time, in 2008, the Lumina Foundation appointed a new president, and its
focus shifted from supporting educational alternatives to supporting educational
politics. One of Lumina’s favored political angles is the Degree Qualifications
Profile, or DQP, which is a prefabricated SLO for higher education. DQP is
regaled as a model corporate approach to education, developed not by faculty
and educators themselves, but rather by millionaires and billionaires who seek to
change the face of education.

By 2010, the Academic Senate created a new Student Learning and
Accreditation Committee, recognized SLOs as an “important area,” and adopted
a paper to implement the process.

Over the last 3 years, Lumina has granted WASC and ACCJC approximately
$2M to “explore the use of the Degree Qualifications Profile…at community
colleges.” Currently, 14 western community colleges are being trained in DQP,
after they were invited to apply when Lumina awarded ACCJC a $450,000
grant about a year ago (incidentally, this is the very first grant ACCJC has been
awarded in its 50-year history). Forty-three states are now using DQP – the very
“externally designed, prefabricated SLOs” the California State Academic Senate
urged local senates to not use.

This opens up a new area of administration, which appears to be one of
ACCJC’s favorite aspects of education. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee’s
(JLAC) background report for its August, 2013 investigation into ACCJC
states that “The imposition of SLOs for student orientations, administration
of financial aid, student services and instructional programs has created new
costly administrative positions, programs and structures. Examples include the
accumulation of college SLO coordinators, SLO analysts and SLO advisory
committees; SLO workshops, evaluations and trainings; and new campus
administrative centers such as the Planning, Research and Institutional
Effectiveness (PRIE) division at Sacramento City College. Distinct from SLO-
imposed obligations, colleges also pay expenses for ACCJC visiting teams;
consultants; special trustees; additional administrative personnel and other
related costs.” *

Can community colleges afford even more administration? How do we know it’s

worth it?

SLO Data
Assessing student learning is a very good practice. Checking for understanding
is an integral part of quality teaching at all levels, and every good teacher does
this consistently. Teachers design and implement assessments that are unique
to their subject matter and the teaching methods they use. They have to be able
to use what’s best for them and their material, just as students have to be able to
employ their best learning methods to succeed.
This is all a part of pedagogy, and it’s been working great since one-room
schoolhouses. So is it surprising that 10 years after the standardized SLO,
there is no widely published data on its effectiveness? ACCJC materials quote
faculty on how SLOs are implemented, but not on how they’re actually improving
education. Again, JLAC weighs in on the matter: “The SLOs are included in the
assessment of instructional programs, student services, financial aid and student
orientation. Numerous faculty, staff and administrative hours are dedicated to
SLOs, detracting time away from educating students and operating campuses.
Since ACCJC is self-regulated and self-assessed, there is little independent
evidence, if any, that the SLO mandate has resulted in improved teaching,
program accountability, or an increase in student academic achievement.” *

ACCJC’s own data on the success of SLOs appears to simply measure the
number of schools using them. Instead of assessing students’ learning, what’s
really being measured is how effective ACCJC’s harsh sanctions are in forcing
colleges to adopt its imposed criteria. All of this comes at a great cost to the
taxpayers as more and more bureaucracy is built up around SLOs that do not
have a proven track record of improving education.

SLOs & Sanctions
Nonetheless, ACCJC persists with SLOs, and wields this accreditation standard
punitively. Ten out of 16 California community colleges placed on sanction from
2012-13 were penalized, in part, for not developing SLOs.
ACCJC has also formally recommended SLOs be used in faculty evaluations,
which of course, they cannot demand.

What the Union Has Done About SLOs
At the state level, CFT has filed a nearly 300-page lawsuit against ACCJC http:/
/ . A portion of the
complaint deals with ACCJC’s policy of requiring that SLOs be part of faculty
evaluations and that they be listed on syllabus. Both of these mandates from
ACCJC violate the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA), as they are
mandatory subjects of bargaining.

Union Concerns
It has become increasingly clear that these stop-gap measures of dealing with
ACCJC’s demands are just that: stop-gap, and therefore insufficient. Something
more needs to be done.
But that’s a lot of work, too, and we don’t seem to be gaining ground. So we
have to ask the question: why not just suck it up and develop SLOs so we can
get accredited?

The short answer is because SLOs are dangerous. They are not about student
success; they are about gaining control of a tool to assess teachers and
institutions, not students. Remember, SLOs come from the private sector,
which is embedded in a “pay for performance” model. Bringing this model into
education will set impossible standards for faculty and institutions, ultimately
putting in place a “need” to replace public schools with private entities where
corporations will profit and control the curriculum.

This is not science fiction; it’s already happening in the K-12 system,
and the communities that are most negatively affected are the poor and

It is important to note that Lumina, an “advocacy philanthropy group,” has strong
associations with ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council — Rick Perry,
Scott Walker, the Koch Brothers, etc.). Their goals are to privatize public higher
education, get rid of tenure and “high paid” full-time faculty, destroy teachers’
unions, and turn education a private commodity for corporate use rather than
public good.

The ultimate goal for Lumina and ALEC is to monetize public education. In order
for this shift to occur, “big data,” more administrators, and programs like SLOs
and DQPs must be institutionalized.

The more we institutionalize privatized education norms, the harder it is for us
to unwind ourselves out of them. Stemming this tide in community colleges is
essential not only for our survival as a public entity, but also in solidarity with the
K-12 system and 4-year schools.

Where to Go with SLOs
This very moment is an especially interesting time for SLOs.

ACCJC is increasingly vulnerable, as its hostility towards community colleges
is under fire from AFT/CFT, the California Superintendent of Education, and
the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, among others. ACCJC’s leadership
is generally regarded out of control, and a leadership change isn’t out of the
question. Could this lead to a breakdown in relationship between profiteers like
Lumina and accreditation? If that turns out to be the case, either fighting SLOs
or implementing them might be a moot point: we may not need them.

As we watch that develop, you can consider the financial motivation behind
SLOs, and where that influence would lead teaching and learning. It’s the
union’s job to take care of immediate, local matters as well as analyze the big
picture and implications for the future. We’re also here to break down issues so
you can be fully informed when considering your own priorities. And to remind
you how funny it still is that SLO = s l o w.

*(See Marty Hittelman’s excerpt, california_joint_legislative_audit_committee, at

Co-authored by Debbie Forward and Shannon Lienhart