Education Technology Policy for a 21st Century Learning System

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Summary

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.

Capital Investments That Relieve Overcrowding Can Boost Student Achievement

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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.

Finding the Time

The Influence of Testing and Teacher Autonomy on Social Studies Marginalization
Commentary authors
Paul G. Fitchett
Tina L. Heafner
Richard G. Lambert
Summary

“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.

What is the Equation for Algebra Education?

Commentary author
Don Taylor
Summary

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.

What Do the California Standards Test Results Reveal About the Movement Toward Eighth-Grade Algebra for All?

Commentary authors
Jamal Abedi
Paul Heckman
Jian-Hua Liang
Summary

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?

The Cost of Providing an Adequate Education to ELLs

What Does the Literature Say?
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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.

The Politics of District Instructional Policy Formation

Compromising Equity and Rigor
Commentary author
Tina M. Trujillo
Summary

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.

Voter Distaste for Sacramento Could Sink Education Initiatives

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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.

For Aligned Instruction, State Must Have Aligned Standards, Assessments

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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.

Five Steps Ahead

A Fellow Researcher’s Take on Tierney and Hallett’s New Chapter
Commentary author
Peter Miller
Summary

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.

Educational Experiences of Homeless Youth in Los Angeles

Commentary authors
Ronald Hallett
William Tierney
Summary

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.

AVID at Community Colleges Offers New Opportunities to Reach High-Need Students

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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. 

Mental Health Services

A Cost-Effective Option for Increased Learning
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Summary

California has the lowest elementary school counselor-per-student ratio of any state; the majority of California’s elementary and middle schools do not offer any counselors.

Technical Assistance Can Play a Key Role for Poorly-Performing Schools

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Summary

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. 

RAND Study Consistent with LAO Surveys

Commentary author
Rachel Ehlers
Summary

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. 

Potential Benefits of School Funding Flexibility Mitigated by Budget Crunch

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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 to Conditions 2.0!

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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.

Common Core: "This Changes Almost Everything"

Commentary author
David Plotnikoff
Summary

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.

Voters Want More of What They Won’t Pay For—Stronger Higher Education

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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.

Getting Serious About Teacher Evaluation

A Fresh Look at Peer Assistance and Review
Summary

You can hardly open a newspaper or major magazine today without finding a story about another incarnation or overhaul of teacher evaluation. But underlying nearly all these detailed descriptions of state and local programs is a near-unanimous and long-standing assumption: Whoever is in charge of improving teachers shouldn’t also be in charge of evaluating them. 

Students are the Real Workers in the Education System

The Elements of Learning 2.0
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Summary

Most education reforms start with the premise that adults need to work harder so students will learn more. But ultimately, maybe quickly, that premise is self-defeating. Regardless of the pedagogy used, who governs the school, or how long teachers toil, students are the real workers in the system. Building around that reality is one of the five key elements to bring about Learning 2.0, the next full-scale version of public education. 

The Slippery Slope

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Economists draw a useful distinction between two kinds of equity, horizontal and vertical. The principle of horizontal equity holds that equals should be treated equally. For example, third graders in poor school districts should receive the same level of funding and the same quality of education as those in wealthier school districts. All students should be held to the same high expectations regardless of differences in their backgrounds.

New and Better Assessments

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Following up on an earlier post, the debate on assessment policy turns on the question of how much information we really need or even want to have about student performance. At the level of rhetoric, of course, we want as much information as we can get, and we want that information to be as accurate as possible. As a practical matter, though, information has costs, and we are prepared to settle for a lot less than we would ideally like to have. The real question for policy is how much less. 

Access for English Learners—Part 3

Revising Identification and Reclassification Policies
Commentary author
William Perez
Summary

This blog post is part 3 of 3. For part one click here; for part two click here. When my family immigrated to the United States and settled in Southern California over 20 years ago, I was identified as an English Leaner (EL) when I enrolled in elementary school. As a fourth grader, I and about a dozen other students sat in the back of the class and worked with a Spanish speaking teacher’s aide, while the rest of the class focused on the teacher at the front of the class conducting the lesson in English.