Thoughts On Public Education (TOP-Ed) is a forum on education policies in California and Silicon Valley. It is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Stuart Foundation and the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, and sponsored by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Its  mission is to challenge thinking on critical issues facing families, educators and political leaders through informed, in-depth discussions. It welcomes many points of view.

Key elements are a blog, co-written by John Fensterwald, called The Educated Guess, and by Kathryn Baron, and commentary and opinions on important education issues by a range of experts, including classroom teachers, policy analysts and citizen activists.  Individuals interested in submitting pieces for Thoughts on Public Education should contact John: John@SVEFoundation.org

Principles of Thoughts On Public Education (TOP-Ed)

TOP-Ed will provide analysis, reporting, lively dialogue and commentary on California schools with special attention to:

  • Renewing attention on the need for substantive changes in how public schools in California are governed and funded, as highlighted in the 2007 studies Getting Down to Facts, the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Education Excellence, the Superintendent’s California P-16 Council and other sources.
  • Tracking and providing in-depth analysis on important bills before the Legislature, proposals before state Board of Education and positions of the governor on education;
  • Illustrating what works and what isn’t working in Bay area public schools;
  • Serving as a voice on the issue of foremost importance to Silicon Valley: science, technology, engineering and math;
  • Sharing the latest research on education in California;
  • Detailing the effects on California schools of policies coming out of the White House (“Race to the Top” funding) and Congress (renewal of No Child Left Behind legislation);
  • Highlighting promising alternative schools, including career tech academies, charter schools and programs for underserved children in the Valley.

The Educated Guess first ran for eight months in 2008 when John was an editorial writer at the San Jose Mercury News. You can find the archives here.

John Fensterwald, editor and co-writer

John Fensterwald is a journalist at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, which he joined in September 2009. For 11 years before that, he wrote editorials at the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education.

A native of Baltimore and graduate of Tufts University, John worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire for two decades before discovering the wonders of California through a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997 and heading West shortly thereafter. His wife is an elementary school teacher and his daughter attends the University California at Davis.

Kathryn Baron, co-writer

Kathryn Baron has been covering education in California for about 15 years; most of that time at KQED Public Radio where her reports aired on The California Report as well as various National Public Radio programs. She also wrote for magazines and newspapers before going virtual as producer and editor at The George Lucas Educational Foundation. Kathy grew up in New York in a family of teachers. She moved to California for graduate school and after spending one sunny New Year’s Day riding her bicycle in the foothills, decided to stay. She and her husband live in Belmont. They have two children, one in college and one in high school.

Advisory Board

A community advisory board meets periodically to discuss and critique the blog. Members are:

Dennis Cima, Vice President, Education/Workforce, Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

Camille Esch, California education program director for New America Foundation, and writer.

Neal Finkelstein, Senior Research Scientist at WestEd.

Bill Honig, former three-term state Superintendent of Public Instruction, author and founder of Consortium on Reading Excellence.

Cary Matsuoka, superintendent of the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District and president, Santa Clara County Superintendents Association.

Peter Schrag, retired editorial page editor, Sacramento Bee, columnist and author.

Marshall (Mike) S. Smith, visiting scholar at The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. and former key adviser on education policies for the Carter,  Clinton and Obama administrations.

KC Walsh, special education teacher, president, Oak Grove Teachers Assn.

Debra Watkins, president and executive director, California Alliance of African-American Educators.

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