Since the mid-20th century, the standard U.S. high school and college math curriculum has been based on two years of algebra and a year of geometry, preparing students to take classes in pre-calculus followed by calculus. That pathway became solidified after the 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik motivated reforms in U.S. science and engineering education to boost the nation’s technological prowess. Students’ math pursuits have been differentiated primarily by how far or how rapidly they proceed along a clearly defined trajectory that has changed little since then.
California’s new accountability system originated in the radical decentralization of power and authority from Sacramento to local schools and their communities brought about by the Legislature’s adoption of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in 2013. Under California’s previous accountability policies and the federal “No Child Left Behind” law, the state set performance targets for schools and districts based almost entirely on students’ standardized test scores.
Subway riders in London are constantly warned to “mind the gap,” the dangerous empty space between the platform and the train. Unwary riders who fail to heed this advice may suffer a variety of unpleasant consequences, ranging from scuffed shoes to broken ankles.
California is in the middle of a nearly unprecedented period of change in the state’s education system. Following voter approval of Proposition 30 in 2012, the Legislature adopted the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in 2013. The LCFF upended the way California funds schools, redistributing revenues toward schools and school districts facing the greatest challenges and shifting control over the allocation of revenues from Sacramento to local educators and their communities.
California has taken the first steps down an historic path that fundamentally alters how its public schools are financed, education decisions are made, and traditionally underserved students’ needs are met. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), passed with bipartisan legislative support and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on July 1, 2013, represents the most comprehensive transformation of California’s school funding system in 40 years. The LCFF significantly loosens the reins of state control over education.
In California as elsewhere, state policy anticipates that aspiring teachers will follow a uniform, multistep path into the profession. It assumes they will complete a preparation program and earn a preliminary credential, take a teaching job and be assigned probationary status, complete a two-year induction program (the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment System, or BTSA), earn a Clear Credential, and receive tenure following two years of satisfactory evaluations.
California’s State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in August of 2010. The CCSS have been adopted by 45 states across the country. They aim to articulate consistent, clear standards for what students are expected to learn and be able to do in mathematics and English Language Arts from kindergarten through Grade 12, and to focus educators’ attention on “fewer, higher, and deeper standards.”
The adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced assessments in mathematics are intended to provide all students in California with the knowledge and skills required to transition from high school to college-level coursework. This implementation will take time.
California has embarked on a major new wave of curriculum reform with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the new English Language Development (ELD) standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The adoption of the CCSS builds a legacy of standards-based education reform in California that began with the development of curriculum frameworks in the 1980s and continued with the adoption of the California State Standards and the approval of the Public School Accountability Act.
The Common Core provides districts an opportunity to renew their focus on teaching and learning. But it also poses a number of design and implementation challenges for school districts, including how to: