Many state and local school district policymakers have enacted policies to expand kindergarten from half-day to full-day because of perceived benefits to student learning. In California, as of 2008, about 43 percent of public school students were enrolled in full-day classes. Research on the effectiveness of full-day programs is limited to short-term benefits, but absent from past research is the effect on English learner (EL) students, who may especially benefit from extra time. EL students are a large portion of the California student population and are at greater risk of failing to meet state education standards.
In the decades following World War II, community colleges expanded rapidly. They were charged with the unique mission of providing higher education opportunity to broad sections of the population that were unable to access four-year institutions. To accommodate GIs returning from World War II and baby boomers coming of age, policymakers committed resources to expand and fund community colleges. However, beginning in the 1970s, fiscal austerity constrained state budgets. Moreover, funding for community colleges competed with criminal justice and other policy priorities. When compared to earlier decades, community colleges’ funding shares declined significantly, despite recognition that community colleges continue to play a prominent role in access to higher education.
After nearly two decades, charter schools have evolved beyond policymakers’ original vision of stand-alone, community-based schools. In California and elsewhere, charter leaders now are pushing to influence traditional school districts and local communities on a much larger scale. Charter schools seek solutions to challenges that often plague stand-alone charter schools, like facility space and fundraising. Additionally, policymakers have shown increasing interest in replicating high-quality education models as a way to improve chronically underperforming schools.
Quality teachers are one of schools’ most important resources. Students assigned to higher-quality teachers learn more the year they are in class with that teacher as well as in subsequent years. Students assigned to higher-quality teachers are also more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, earn higher salaries, and live in more affluent neighborhoods, among other positive outcomes.
Student mobility has long been a concern of educators, since frequent school enrollment changes are associated with poor outcomes along many dimensions. Students change schools for many reasons, however, and it is difficult to determine whether changing schools is, in itself, harmful to students. It could be that the reasons for the change in schools are what account for the poor outcomes, rather than simply being new to a school.
Educational technology has always overpromised and underdelivered. Despite the glitz and hype of technology, no one has figured out a more efficient and effective way of educating students than placing a teacher in front of a bunch of them. Technology has largely been subject to this existing production system: at most, it has been a valuable adjunct. Until now.
Aiming to relieve the deleterious academic and social effects of overcrowding in its aging schools, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) recently invested nearly $20 billion in a massive new school construction project. The project, urged forward by civic activism and legal pressure and financed by voter-approved school bonds, built over 130 new facilities at all grade levels. These new facilities successfully relieved severe overcrowding in LAUSD schools and upgraded its infrastructure for the next several decades.
The Influence of Testing and Teacher Autonomy on Social Studies Marginalization
Paul G. Fitchett
Tina L. Heafner
Richard G. Lambert
“I just don’t have enough time.” This is a common complaint by elementary teachers across the United States. Many practitioners perceive accountability and high-stakes testing as constraints to the quality and quantity of their instruction. Overwhelmed by curricular intensification, teachers react to these pressures by narrowing their instruction exclusively to tested subject matter. Further compounding the situation, educational policies have mandated accountability assessments in key subject areas; thereby increasing the profile of some subjects while diminishing the prominence of others. Among the core subjects of elementary education, math, science, and English/language arts have most directly benefited from the current accountability movement due to statewide and federal testing requirements. Yet, social studies remains left behind.
Since the late 1980’s social meliorists have focused on algebra for all students to address the unequal access that African Americans, Hispanics and lower SES students have to college. Their arguments were later bolstered by correlational studies showing that students who complete “early” algebra improved their math socialization and math achievement, were more likely to take advanced high school math courses and then to apply for college.
California’s educational standards and assessments, as well as its accountability policies related to mathematics achievement, are designed to advance the expectation that all 8th-graders will take algebra. Then, like all California students in grades 2 through 11, they are assessed through state testing to determine the extent of student learning of the algebra standards, as part of the school- and district-wide accountability requirements. The State’s accountability rules penalize schools and districts for having 8th- and 9th-grade students take the California Standards Test (CST) for General Mathematics, which assesses California mathematics standards in grades 6 and 7. As a result of this policy, the percentage of 8th graders taking the CSTs for Algebra I has steadily risen, from 32% in 2003 to 59% in 2011. But is this an effective policy for increasing student achievement?
In 2009, more than 11 million school-age children between the ages of 5 and 17 spoke a language other than English at home. These students represent 21% of all school-age children and 11% of all public school enrollments nationally. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, public schools are mandated to provide the academic and fiscal resources to help English Language Learners (ELLs) overcome language barriers and gain English fluency. English Language Learners is the fastest growing demographic and arguably the most complex to fund and educate, yet limited research has focused on how to fund this group to improve their educational trajectory.
School districts are complicated. Their leaders must implement state mandates, fashion new policies, and mediate between schools and the broader public. But their staff are rarely unified in their thinking about how to do all of this. Different philosophies of education can undercut district policy-making efforts if individuals approach the problems of teaching and learning from different angles. Indeed, views on instruction and the purposes of education are deeply rooted in technical, normative, and political notions of what constitutes ideal learning experiences. Thus, district policymakers need fluency not just in the technology of instruction, but in the norms and beliefs that condition educators’ receptivity to change.
California voters understand that their schools are in trouble. Forty-two percent of voters give the state’s schools a grade of D or F, while fewer than 15 percent give them an A or B. Fifty-seven percent of voters believe that California schools have gotten worse in the past few years, and only 7 percent believe that they have gotten better.
Standards-based reform has been the law of the land in California and nationwide for over a decade. For student achievement to rise, the reform says, teachers must improve their instruction by aligning it with rigorous content standards. These content standards are just part of what is supposed to be a coherent policy system including aligned achievement tests and stringent accountability measures. Although many researchers have investigated whether standards-based reform and accountability ultimately improve student achievement, few have explored the ways in which these reforms have actually played out in the states.
A Fellow Researcher’s Take on Tierney and Hallett’s New Chapter
Willam Tierney and Ronald Hallett’s chapter entitled, “Homeless Youth and Educational Policy: A Case Study of Urban Youth in a Metropolitan Area” provides a much-needed contribution to the field of research and practice relating to the service of students who experience homelessness. As a scholar whose interests lie in the same area, I am always eager to read what others are learning about this burgeoning group of kids. Five specific aspects of the Tierney and Hallett chapter stood out to me.
In 2007 we began researching the educational experiences of homeless youth in Los Angeles. Practitioners, policymakers and researchers had known for decades that homeless youth achieve at low levels and drop out of school at high rates, but minimal research existed at the time concerning how these students understood and engaged with the educational process. Our study gave youth the opportunity to share their experiences and identify educational barriers.
American community colleges have become the largest sector of higher education, enrolling 46% of all U.S. undergraduates, including 47% percent of undergraduates who are African American and 55% who are Hispanic. These are the higher education institutions of choice for many members of groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education. The cultural beliefs of a community college often resemble a hybrid of those found in secondary schools and of those found in four-year post-secondary institutions.
High-stakes accountability policies such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) hold schools and districts responsible for student achievement. However and whenever the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is reauthorized, it is clear that schools and districts will continue to be held accountable for student performance. Although research and media attention has focused largely on the punitive aspects of accountability policies, there is more to these policies than just consequences for failure.
For the past three years—2010, 2011, and 2012—the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has gathered information from California school districts regarding how recent state actions have affected their budgets and operations. Similar to the RAND findings, our survey responses indicated that districts have taken considerable advantage of recent categorical flexibility provisions.
California faces hard decisions about how to allocate funds to its schools. Some argue for targeting funds to particular programs—a practice known as categorical funding. Others advocate giving schools and districts flexibility in using their funds. Yet there is no clear evidence about the outcomes from either approach. In 2007–08.
Welcome back to PACE’s blog, Conditions of Education in California! Our goal, as always, is to support an informed discussion of the policy challenges facing California’s beleaguered education system. To accompany the resigned PACE website, we have ‘re-booted’ the blog, with a more specific focus on new research that addresses critical issues in California education, along with expert commentary on the research and its implications for education policy in our state.
The impending rollout of Common Core instructional standards will be an event of seismic proportions for California, reshaping virtually every corner of the state's educational system. Michael Kirst testified before the state senate education committee about how the new standard affects curriculum, assessments, and more.
The latest PPIC poll on higher education in California was released last month, and the findings will bring no cheer to our state’s public colleges and universities. On the bright side, most respondents affirm that a strong higher education system is important for California’s future, and they agree that recent budget cuts are causing significant harm to both colleges and students. At the same time, a substantial majority of respondents is unwilling to pay higher taxes to support post-secondary education, and a similar majority rejects the idea that students should pay more for their education than they already pay.