Support, strengthen education reforms in California, new report urges

A new analysis by the Palo Alto-based nonprofit Learning Policy Institute is mostly positive about the policy changes that former Gov. Jerry Brown set in place, while underscoring the challenges ahead. The study calls for doubling down on efforts to deepen and strengthen “one of the country’s most ambitious equity-focused education reforms.”

In what has come to be known as the “California Way,” the state defined a new era in its educational history. The California Way differs dramatically from both the state’s prior approach and that initiated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. It replaced a “test and punish” philosophy— focused on driving change in a highly inequitable system through sanctions for schools, educators, and students—with one that seeks to “assess and improve” through data analysis and capacity building.

Elements of the new education system include new academic standards – the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards – and the Local Control Funding Formula, Brown’s 2013 law that shifted decision-making authority from Sacramento to school districts. The new system also provides more resources to low-income, homeless and foster youths, and English learners. In addition, the law framed a new accountability system that de-emphasizes test scores and elevates broader measures of student achievement and positive school conditions.

Getting Down to Facts II, a collection of three-dozen studies on school finance and governance released last fall by Stanford University and the nonprofit research organization PACE, signaled the same message. Multiple publications from PACE and Getting Down to Facts were cited in LPI’s report.

Article by John Fensterwald.

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