Teaching to the Accountability Policy PDF
Commentary author
Eugene Judson
Summary

The "what gets tested, gets taught" adage needs updating to "what gets tested and included in school accountability, gets taught." During No Child Left Behind, science took a backseat to reading and math due to its optional status in accountability measures. Examining states' pre- and post-NCLB performance on NAEP for grades four and eight showed that integrating science into accountability positively impacted fourth-grade scores without affecting math or reading. Eighth-grade results showed no similar link, likely due to dedicated science teachers. Fourth-grade classrooms often burden a single teacher with multiple subjects, leading to a focus on tested areas like reading and math. Research involving fourth-grade teachers in states incorporating science scores confirmed increased science teaching time. California's testing of science from fifth grade misses the earlier integration potential highlighted in this research. While the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reinstated science testing, it still leaves the accountability weight to states. Considering the global need for STEM education, consistently aligning science with reading and math in assessments appears practical. Acknowledging the persistent focus on school accountability, integrating science into assessments is a sensible step to address the current fragmented attention on science education.

The Impacts of Success for All on Reading Achievement PDF
Commentary author
Summary

In California, student mobility disrupts education for both students and educators, especially in urban schools serving disadvantaged communities. A recent study delves into the Success for All (SFA) program's effectiveness, focusing on early literacy skills for grades K–5. Research utilized a large-scale trial's unique setup to assess SFA's impact on later elementary grades (3–5) by comparing schools implementing SFA in different grade clusters. Surprisingly, the study found no positive or negative effects of SFA in grades 3–5 compared to standard instruction. This contradicts the program's previously observed positive effects in earlier grades from the same trial. These findings suggest that strategies successful in early grades might not seamlessly translate to later ones. However, it is important to note that this study's setup does not mirror the intended SFA implementation. Still, it echoes the experiences of many mobile students who begin in later grades at new schools. The paper concludes that more research is necessary to understand how schools can better support mobile students, emphasizing the need for improved instructional designs in later elementary years, despite earlier successes.

Class or Race PDF
How Does Socioeconomic Diversity Affect Cross-Racial Interactions?
Commentary author
Summary

Researchers explore the impact of class diversity on cross-racial interaction in higher education, particularly pertinent in states post-affirmative action bans like California. While class diversity indirectly influenced interactions, racial diversity had a direct effect. Interacting across class lines correlated with greater racial interaction, but class diversity alone did not ensure robust engagement with racial diversity. A new study finds that despite a relationship between race and class diversity, they are not interchangeable. Racial diversity's impact was not overshadowed by class diversity, indicating its distinct influence on cross-racial interaction. Class diversity, coupled with racial diversity, was noted to challenge racial barriers and enhance conditions for interracial contact, aligning with Gordon Allport's contact theory. In California's higher education, threats to diversity arise from limited state funding and increased out-of-state enrollments. Despite enrolling many Pell Grant recipients, racial diversity remains limited, highlighted in legal cases such as Fisher v. University of Texas. The study underscores the crucial role of both class and racial diversity in preparing students for engagement in a diverse society and contributing to civic good.

Can High Schools Reduce College Enrollment Gaps with a New Counseling Model? PDF
A Summary of a Research Study
Commentary authors
Jennifer L. Stephan
James E. Rosenbaum
Summary

Policymakers aim to boost four-year college attendance for disadvantaged students who often end up in less advantageous two-year colleges. Navigating complex college procedures without parental guidance poses challenges. Traditional counseling falls short due to time constraints and individualized approaches. Chicago Public Schools introduced a coaching model focusing solely on postsecondary plans, engaging students proactively, fostering relationships, and utilizing group sessions. Studying students post-high school revealed gaps in the enrollment process, especially among Latino and low-SES students. Encouraging completion of college-related tasks bridged these gaps, increasing specific plans and enrollment chances. Schools with coaches saw higher rates of students attending four-year colleges, particularly benefiting low-SES and Latino students. However, questions linger about neglecting high achievers, early intervention's impact, and long-term college persistence effects. New research underscores that group advising, like the coach program, may enhance educational outcomes for disadvantaged students, promising potential improvements in the future.

The Limits of Career and Technical Education in Improving Math Achievement among High School Students PDF
Commentary author
Robert Bozick
Summary

Career and technical education (CTE) battles outdated perceptions as a fallback for struggling students. Despite national academic reforms, CTE has evolved, emphasizing college and career readiness through blended academic and technical skills. Federal initiatives like the Perkins Acts transformed CTE into a broader curriculum, aiming to equip students with various skills through career clusters and integrated courses. Analyzing over 7,000 students' transcripts, a recent study found that those taking occupational CTE courses alongside academics showed similar math learning gains to those solely in academic courses. This challenges expectations of CTE's academic impact, particularly amidst initiatives like the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which emphasize academics and integration. The study questions CTE's effectiveness in improving math learning and suggests the need for refined courses that better reinforce academic skills. It prompts a reevaluation of federal investments in CTE, highlighting the necessity for alignment with evolving academic standards to benefit students' overall educational outcomes.

Improving Accountability through Expanded Measures of School Performance PDF
Commentary authors
Summary

California, a pioneer in school-based accountability, established the Academic Performance Index (API) in 1999, encompassing subjects and graduation rates. With the move past No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the state aims to enhance the API by embracing student growth, college readiness, and broader academic and social objectives. A RAND study identified additional measures adopted by 20 states, expanding beyond NCLB requirements, including student performance in extra subjects, growth over time, performance indices, and college readiness indicators. Emerging measures cover safe school environments, graduation risk, and interim assessments. RAND suggests customized local indicators, aligned incentives, supportive teaching structures, local validation studies, and collaborative statewide systems to foster comprehensive data collection and decision-making. As the Common Core assessments approach, the paradigm shifts towards redefining student achievement measurement, urging a holistic approach to data collection to inform stakeholders effectively.

No Child Left with Crayons PDF
The Imperative of Arts-based Education and Research with Language 'Minority' and Other Minoritized Communities
Commentary authors
Sharon Verner Chappell
Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor
Summary

In response to the No Child Left Behind Act, discourse around "failing schools" disproportionately affects minoritized communities, sidelining broader educational visions and eroding arts from public school learning. California's arts programs suffer, with 89% of K–12 schools lacking consistent arts education. This scarcity predominantly affects minoritized youth, amplifying disparities in resource-deprived schools, denying these students the qualitative problem-solving and social growth inherent in arts engagement. Advocating for arts and diversity education reform, a new study urges reconsideration of teachers' attitudes toward arts and challenges limited perspectives on students' experiences. Researchers emphasize the transformative potential of arts as a tool for minoritized school reform, fostering agency and cultural representation for impacted communities. The study dismantles the term "minority," advocating for a reimagining of multicultural education as universally designed to cater to all communities' needs. Researchers further propose leveraging arts as research tools to comprehend classroom dynamics and family roles within school communities, redefining research purposes and literacy values in K–12 education. The study ultimately calls for open engagement and dialogues involving minoritized and majoritized youth to underscore the potential impact of arts in research, curriculum, and pedagogy, challenging binary thinking and inviting exploration toward equitable, hopeful futures for all.

Are Larger Class Sizes a Problem Worth Worrying About? PDF
Commentary author
Summary

In recent years, budget cuts led to increased class sizes across the US. California notably saw a 20% rise, adding over 4 students per class between 2009–2010. This sparks debate on allocating limited resources, with class size at its core due to its impact on educational costs. Studies on class size effects show inconsistent, modest benefits. Although reducing class size incurred substantial costs in the past, raising it could mitigate harm amid budget cuts. California's prior investment in smaller classes yielded limited effects due to swift implementation. Rising class sizes’ impact depends on implementation; layoffs based on teacher effectiveness might counteract negative effects on student achievement. The debate centers on balancing budgets without compromising student learning, especially crucial amid fiscal challenges in education.

The Case for EL Specialists PDF
Commentary author
Eugene Garcia
Summary

English language learners (ELLs) surge in K–12 enrollment, especially in regions with historically low numbers of ELLs, intensifying the shortage of qualified bilingual/ESL teachers in states like Arizona. Budget constraints push ELLs into mainstream classrooms, often lacking specialized teachers, with nearly 50% receiving minimal or no special services due to limited teacher certification. A new study debates the necessity of specialists for this population, advocating for their effectiveness in nurturing language, literacy, and content development. Specialized training must embrace ELLs' linguistic and cultural contributions to content learning, encourage multilingual practices, and counter negative narratives. Arizona’s generic training for all teachers shows no positive impact, whereas states like California and Illinois requiring specialist training witness improved classroom outcomes. Specialist training is pivotal for equitable and effective instruction for ELLs.

All Teachers Need English Learner Training PDF
Commentary author
Summary

Approximately one in five U.S. students speaks a non-English language at home, mainly Spanish, yet many are taught by less qualified teachers. Schools must comply with No Child Left Behind, using evidence-backed instruction for English learners (ELs) to show academic progress yearly. State regulations vary: some demand bilingual/ESL-certified teachers, others require training for all. Francesca López's study, analyzing NAEP 4th-grade reading outcomes for Latino ELs, highlighted state requirements' impact on achievement. Results supported California's move for enhanced intern teacher training in EL instruction. States mandating ESL/bilingual certification showed notably higher Latino EL achievement. Conversely, where all teachers received some EL training, achievement was lower, showing context nuances. States without specialist certification often use these broad requirements to meet federal EL guidelines, suggesting a need for more rigorous standards. States with both certification and training mandates demonstrated significantly higher EL achievement. While some EL training for all teachers seems essential, a single course does not suffice. States need more stringent definitions of "highly qualified" to address EL needs adequately. In essence, a balance is needed: while some EL training benefits all teachers, combining it with specialist certification significantly improves EL outcomes. States should aim for comprehensive standards ensuring all teachers are equipped to support ELs across various English proficiency levels, acknowledging the importance of robust qualifications for educators in this domain.

Can Research Design Explain Variation in Head Start Research Results? PDF
Commentary authors
Hilary M. Shager
Holly A. Schindler
Katherine A. Magnuson
Greg J. Duncan
Hirokazu Yoshikawa
Cassandra M. D. Hart
Summary

In a recent study of Head Start's impact on early childhood education, a meta-analysis reviewed 28 studies from 1965 to 2007. Head Start yielded a 0.27 effect size, indicating modest improvement in children's short-term cognitive outcomes, aligning with general early childhood education programs. Yet, its effects were smaller compared to more intensive programs like Perry Preschool, but within the range of wider ECE averages. Research design significantly influenced these outcomes, particularly the nature of the control group. Studies with an "active" control group, exposed to other forms of ECE, showed smaller effects than those with a "passive" group, receiving no alternative ECE. As ECE attendance rises, communities with multiple ECE options could produce smaller Head Start effects. This does not question Head Start's efficacy but highlights other effective ECE alternatives, skewing comparative evaluations. Skills closely tied to ECE curricula, like early reading and math, responded better to Head Start than broader cognitive skills, suggesting tempered expectations for effects on measures like vocabulary or IQ. Finally, the study emphasizes considering measurement quality when interpreting program evaluation outcomes.

California’s Increasing Graduation Rate Outpaces the Nation PDF
Commentary author
Summary

California's 2011–12 academic year showed a drop in dropouts and a rise in high school graduation rates. Graduates from the ninth grade in 2008–9 reached 78.5%, a 3.8% increase over two years. Federal data also highlight this trend, marking California's highest graduation rate in two decades. However, challenges persist, with significant disparities among racial groups. Factors like national campaigns and local initiatives contribute to these positive shifts, yet broader improvements will require addressing societal issues like unemployment and poverty. These advancements in graduation rates reflect collaborative efforts from various stakeholders, but the trajectory for future progress hinges on deeper community and familial support, especially in tackling socioeconomic challenges.

Improving Elementary Science Instruction Through Professional Development PDF
Commentary author
Summary

The state of elementary science education in the U.S. is concerning, with declining instructional time and teachers feeling underprepared to teach the subject. Efforts focus on professional development as a solution. A new longitudinal study on K–2 teacher development in rural California schools unexpectedly revealed significant improvements in science knowledge and practices after one year, sustained into the second. The program enhanced teachers' content knowledge, confidence, and use of student-centered approaches in science. However, school policies, resources, and testing emphasis on math and language arts influenced how science was integrated into teaching. The research underscores the potential of targeted professional development to enhance science education, but also highlights the role of contextual factors in sustaining these improvements. Future work aims to explore the program's long-term impact, shedding light on the durability of professional development effects and the hurdles to lasting change in classroom practices, crucial for advancing science education reform.

Which Materials? PDF
Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness
Commentary authors
Rachana Bhatt
Summary

The absence of nationwide data on school curriculum usage reveals a crucial gap in education assessment. In Indiana, a study assessed three popular curricula, uncovering significant differences in their effectiveness based on school test scores. Surprisingly, a less effective curriculum retained its market presence, potentially due to a lack of efficacy information for decision-makers. Advocating for improved data collection, the study emphasizes integrating curriculum data into existing state systems, enabling similar research nationwide. This approach could empower education officials with vital insights into curriculum effectiveness, supporting evidence-based decisions in curriculum adoptions.

Governor’s Funding Formula Is a More Equitable, Efficient System PDF
Commentary author
Summary

This commentary, part of a broader PACE series exploring school finance, speaks to challenges faced by California's Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The two biggest problems with the California financial system are inequitable revenue allocations and inefficiencies caused by categorical restrictions. Governor Brown's proposal addresses these issues, but critics argue that the system still has other problems. One major criticism is that there are winners and losers in the system. Under Brown's proposal, the allocations for some districts will look drastically different, with some receiving less than others. This is because current allocations have little connection to the costs of educating students and the characteristics of students and schools. Another alternative is to raise the base so everybody "wins," which would provide more flexibility and a more correlated revenue with costs. However, this system still creates winners and losers because allocations would not be as tightly connected to costs as under the current system. Governor Brown's proposal nevertheless helps solve the two biggest problems with California's school finance system and offers a better alternative to the current financial system.

School Finance 105 PDF
Cost Adjustments for Other Factors
Commentary author
Summary

Governor Brown’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) introduces weightage for student poverty and English Learners (ELs). While some categorical programs persist, the formula consolidates other funding streams into the core. An ongoing debate surrounds the inclusion of additional cost factors. States commonly allocate extra funds for special student needs like disabilities, poverty, and limited English skills. Brown’s plan addresses this by providing a 35% weight for low-income students or ELs, with increments for high concentrations in districts. However, there's uncertainty regarding how costs change with increasing concentrations of disadvantaged students. Variations in funding models across states revolve around student needs, grade levels, and demographic factors. Research indicates the necessity of investing in early grades, though consensus on which levels require more resources is lacking. Moreover, adjustments for school size, district size, and teacher labor costs vary widely. While teacher cost adjustments align with mobility and attrition concerns, their direct impact on retaining teachers is unclear. Finally, separate funding for transportation and sparsity considerations are prevalent, but maintaining existing allocations might perpetuate irrational variations across districts. Brown's plan could rationalize transportation funding but may need adjustments for equitable distribution, especially for programs like gifted education and career training currently under categorical funding.

School Finance 104 PDF
Cost Adjustments for Poverty and English Learners
Commentary author
Summary

The adjustment for student needs in school funding formulas commonly incorporates categories like special education, at-risk students (often encompassing low-income or those needing remedial education), and English Learners (ELs). Many states determine additional funds for these students through pupil weights, usually a percentage of the base allocation. California's Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) assigns a 35% weight for low-income students or ELs, with increased weight for higher concentrations in a district. Research suggests poor and EL students require added resources to match peers' academic levels. Studies vary but estimate pupil weights for poverty between 0.30 to 1.22 and 0.24 to 1.01 for ELs. Few states consider concentration factors in funding, though research on peer effects shows the importance of the school's poverty concentration. Handling students in both categories remains debated; some argue they need only the poverty weight. Concerns about funding incentives for ELs' reclassification or abandoning needy students without categorical restrictions persist, but research shows the shift to unrestricted weights coupled with strong accountability might lead districts to find more effective ways to assist these students. Brown's proposed weights, while high individually, might result in allocations similar to states funding these categories separately due to overlapping populations.

School Finance 103 PDF
Accounting for Costs
Commentary author
Summary

In the realm of education funding reform, the debate revolves around how to fairly distribute financial resources among districts. While base revenue per student usually remains consistent across districts, additional funding aims to offset the varying costs of education. California's approach, through Brown's LCFF, uses student weights to consider poverty, language learning, and grade levels. States explore various methods to include cost factors: categorical programs, block grants, pupil weights, and direct adjustments to the foundation amount. Each method has its merits and downsides, reflecting the challenge policymakers face in deciding the most effective route for equitable allocation. The discussion focuses on shifting from categorical programs to weighted students or adjusted foundation levels, emphasizing that such changes could yield better outcomes. However, concerns persist about removing categorical restrictions, fearing a potential loss of funding for vital programs like adult education or arts. The tension lies between local district autonomy and statewide priorities, raising questions about governance and whether setting educational priorities should be centralized or decentralized. Policymakers aim to strike a balance between offering district flexibility while ensuring effective resource utilization, with growing advocacy for an accountability-driven approach over categorical funding enforcement.

School Finance 102 PDF
What Is the Right Base for California’s Funding Formula?
Commentary author
Summary

The primary aim of state finance systems across the U.S. is to achieve equalization, especially in states with local school funding under legal scrutiny. California’s current revenue limit and Governor Brown’s proposed formula both follow the traditional foundation state-aid model. In this structure, state aid per pupil is calculated as the foundation amount minus the required tax rate multiplied by assessed property wealth per pupil. Determining the foundation amount involves historical, political, and cost-based considerations. California’s current system heavily relies on historical expenditure levels from the 1970s, adjusted for inflation and equalization. Brown's proposal seems influenced by state average revenue limits after budget-induced cuts. Setting the foundation amount based on the actual cost of education remains a point of contention. California’s approach, compared to other states, tends to lag in per-pupil spending despite achieving equalization post-Serrano. States often adopt foundation formulas, aiming to increase spending in poorer districts ('leveling up'), yet California's spending remains lower on average. The ongoing debate emphasizes balancing actual educational costs, political feasibility, and historical context. Brown’s proposed base amounts, while lower than past estimates for California's educational needs, are not significantly different from those in other states using the foundation formula. However, comparing base amounts across states requires understanding that these figures represent the minimum cost to educate students without additional needs or district-specific characteristics.

School Finance 101 PDF
State Funding Formulas
Commentary author
Summary

In the discourse surrounding Governor Brown’s proposed “Local Control Funding Formula” (LCFF), the "School Finance" series aims to dissect long-debated issues prevalent in school finance, exploring known and unknown facets. While delving into specifics of the funding formula in future posts, the series initiates with a retrospective perspective on California’s educational funding evolution. It outlines the simplicity but inherent complexity of the current system, rooted in district revenue limits and categorical aids. Historic milestones like Serrano v. Priest and Prop 13 reshaped the state's funding landscape, emphasizing equity but excluding targeted funds from equalization discussions. Notably, the series emphasizes the evolution towards equitable distribution through foundation state-aid formulas, similar to Brown’s proposed model. It highlights the trade-offs between centralized funding, equal distribution, and local control, presenting Brown’s formula as offering enhanced spending flexibility by replacing categorical programs with cost-specific weights. The series underscores that while California’s move aligns with existing models, empirical insights should guide policy decisions for the welfare of its students.

School-based Program Provides Important Lessons for Supporting Foster Youth PDF
Commentary author
Summary

Educational challenges persist for foster care youth, with limited solutions documented. In urban Seattle, a program supporting middle schoolers in foster care significantly enhanced reading skills over a school year through tutoring, mentoring, and advocacy. While replicating the entire program might not be feasible, integrating key aspects into existing systems holds promise. Establishing liaisons between education and child welfare systems, promoting mutual professional awareness, ensuring seamless communication for individualized care, and offering tailored support via community resources and volunteer tutoring are vital steps. Equally crucial is preparing these youths for adulthood, encompassing college planning, vocational training, and life skills. Collaboration among social workers, educators, and caregivers emerges as crucial for fostering academic success and overall well-being for foster care youth. Aligning efforts and resources can create a supportive environment conducive to their educational achievements, addressing their vulnerabilities effectively.

Do GATE Programs Take Resources Away from Needier Students, or Do They Reflect an Equal Commitment to All Children? PDF
Commentary author
Ryan Yeung
Summary

In examining the state of gifted and talented education (GATE), the impact of financial strains on these programs in California becomes apparent. During budget constraints, districts often slash funding for GATE, leading to drastic program reductions. Despite the belief that gifted students can excel without additional resources, international assessments, like the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS), reveal American gifted students underperform globally, notably in math and science. This underperformance might stem from the inequitable funding landscape where the average district receives minimal state support ($3.38 per pupil), leaving only a minority with additional funding. Advocating for increased GATE funding seeks to rectify disparities rather than create inequality. The present funding discrepancies result in a form of horizontal inequity, suggesting that access to resources shouldn't hinge on a district's wealth. Encouraging uniform opportunities for gifted students, regardless of district economic status, aligns more with equitable education principles.

Beyond the Master Plan PDF
The Case for Restructuring Baccalaureate Education in California
Commentary author
Summary

California's famed 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, a triumph in many regards, has faltered in one key aspect: the state ranks at the bottom among states in the percentage of college-age individuals achieving a bachelor's degree. This low attainment stems from restrictions within the Master Plan, limiting access to 4-year baccalaureate institutions to only the top eighth and third of high school graduates for the University of California and state colleges, respectively. Consequently, community colleges have absorbed the majority of enrollment growth, with 40% to 50% of all students seeking a B.A. Now, California ranks last in college students attending 4-year institutions. Researchers advocate for expanded 4-year enrollment capacity, citing the powerful link between 4-year college enrollment and bachelor's degree attainment across states. A new study proposes restructuring through hybrid institutions, like university centers and 2-year university branch campuses, aimed at bridging the gap between 2-year and 4-year institutions to facilitate more direct entries into bachelor's programs. These adjustments, while not altering the Master Plan's core, strive to enhance the collective capacity of UC, CSU, and the community colleges toward supporting baccalaureate education, aligning with the overarching aim they share.

Combination Classes and Student Achievement PDF
Commentary author
Summary

A new study examines combination classes' impact on first-grade academic achievement with data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998–99 (ECLS-K). Researchers contrast students in single-grade classes to those in K–1 and 1–2 combination classes. Contrary to prior studies, this analysis found no discernible difference in reading, math, or general knowledge scores between students in combination classes and those in single-grade setups. Schools offering combination classes appeared more disadvantaged, primarily located in the western U.S. and often on a year-round calendar. The study acknowledges potential unobservable biases and the limitation of its scope and size. Nonetheless, it challenges previous findings and emphasizes the need to consider school variations when evaluating combination-class impacts on student achievement.

The Role of For-Profit Colleges in Increasing Postsecondary Completions PDF
Commentary author
Su Jin Jez
Summary

California faces declining enrollment in public colleges amid budget cuts, while demanding more graduates. For-profit colleges (for-profits) offer a viable solution. Despite past demonization, for-profits were significant in 2009, enrolling around 400,000 and issuing 1 in 5 long-term certificates or degrees in California. Partnering with for-profits could bridge educational gaps. However, California’s fragmented higher education system needs a unified state-level body to set objectives, assess needs, and regulate institutions. Creating such an entity could streamline education goals and methods. Additionally, revising the federal 90/10 financial aid policy for for-profits could foster quality. Implementing a modified 90/10 rule in California would require at least 10% of students to pay tuition from non-federal sources, ensuring market-driven quality standards. While this wouldn't solve larger strategic issues, it offers an initial step to ensure educational standards while protecting student and taxpayer investments.