A PACE Policy Brief by W. Norton Grubb and David Stern. Career-technical education (CTE) is back in the policy spotlight, as Governor Schwarzeneggger and key legislators seek strategies to strengthen California’s much-criticized high schools. Some forms of CTE that integrate academic with occupational content could usefully be expanded to provide high school students with multiple pathways to college and careers.
This paper, stemming from a PACE seminar, examines the idea of crafting opportunity to learn (OTL) standards—how the state might collect and analyze indicators of school quality that are predictive of student achievement. The idea is not new. Such standards were put forward by Congress over a decade ago. However, questions remain regarding which quality indicators can be feasibly monitored and which are empirically related to achievement gains. Developing, implementing, and monitoring such a system would be challenging.
PACE’s statewide survey of 439 directors of community preschools, those funded outside of school districts, inquired about basic facts and their perceptions of long-term issues. Preschool access and quality remain unfairly distributed among California’s diverse communities. Persisting questions examined include how to grow more plentiful and higher quality preschools, and how to ensure a robust balance between organizations run by schools or community organizations.
PACE Co-Director Susanna Loeb has published a report analyzing the revenues and expenditures of California schools districts. The report, entitled “District Dollars: Painting a Picture of Revenues and Expenditures in California’s School Districts” was co-authored by Jason Grissom and Katharine Strunk. It was released in March 2007, along with the other “Getting Down to Facts” studies. In their report the authors examine spending and revenues across districts and across time, and compare the patterns that they observe in California to patterns in other states.
Crucial Issues in California Education, 2006 provides the education community with an overview of key policy topics grounded in lessons learned from recent research and practice. Authors locate issues within the context of the state’s standards and accountability system and current fiscal realities. Each chapter includes demographic and historic perspective, data and analysis, and proposals for long-term structural remedies. Crucial Issues serves as a dynamic reference volume for anyone interested in today’s education policy landscape.
In California, policymakers and educators had already turned their attention to addressing inequities in student achievement with the passage of the Public School Accountability Act (PSAA) in 1999. PSAA provided a framework for learning with curriculum standards, and set expectations for improvement through the Academic Performance Index (API). For the ﬁrst time, schools were responsible for meeting achievement targets not just school-wide, but for racial/ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups of students.
Tom Timar is an Associate Professor of Education at U.C. Davis. He has spent much of his career focusing on education policy and governance, and school finance. He is the author of a new study which examines how schools spent High Priority Schools Grant (HPSG) Program funds.
Debate is well under way regarding the efﬁ cacy of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, including whether this bundle of federal rules and resources is prompting gains in student achievement. Spirited conversation will intensify as the Congress discusses how to adjust and reauthorize this ambitious set of school reforms. Both state and federal gauges of student achievement will inform this debate.