Evidence from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Voter Poll
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Late in 2018, the California Department of Education rolled out an updated version of the California School Dashboard. This revision altered the look and feel of the Dashboard and added new indicators based on newly available data. This brief updates a 2018 analysis of the Dashboard. First, I examine whether the state’s revisions are in line with the suggestions made in the 2018 report. I find that the state has made some improvements to the system, but that there is room for continued improvement. Second, I use data from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier poll to characterize use of and support for...

California’s Current Policies and Funding Levels
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California policymakers have established the expectation that all public school students should have access to a broad course of study, in classes where instruction is consistent with the state’s content standards. Further, the state holds schools and school districts accountable for their ability to ensure that all students achieve at a specified level of academic proficiency, attend school regularly, and graduate from high school prepared for adult success. For decades, many educators charged with these responsibilities have said that California’s state-controlled school funding system fails...

A Review of Getting Down to Facts II Findings
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In spite of recent efforts to address inequality in California schools, the data show consistent patterns of inequality of student outcomes based on race, ethnicity, language, special education, and poverty; persistent state education policy problems impact already disadvantaged students most severely.

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When California became the second state to authorize charter schools in 1992, the state’s system for authorization, oversight, and renewal of charter schools was in many ways a bold experiment. The concept was new, and the impacts on both student learning and the public school system writ large were unknown. That first law authorized the creation of 100 charter schools, a modest beginning compared to the charter school sector today. In 2017-18, California had more than 1,200 charter schools serving 620,000 students, about one out of every 10 of the state’s public school students. Charter...

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California is experiencing one of its most severe teacher shortages1 in two decades. Budget cuts and layoffs resulting from the recession contributed to a steep decline in the number of teachers in California, falling from a high of 310,362 teachers in the 2007-08 school year to 283,836 four years later. Recent efforts, including Proposition 30 and the Local Control Funding Formula, which, respectively, raised taxes for public education and transformed the state’s school finance method, have helped to regrow California’s teacher workforce. However, with sharp decreases in the supply of new...

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What impact do California’s publicly-financed preschool programs have on kindergarten readiness and student success? Which schools are moving low-income, Hispanic English learners to full English proficiency most successfully? Are smaller K-3 class sizes a smart investment for California? Currently, the ability of California education leaders and policymakers to answer such questions is severely limited by weaknesses in the state’s education data systems. Many of those weaknesses could be readily solved. If statewide data systems were better integrated and more accessible, California leaders...

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More than 24 million children ages 5 and younger live in the United States, and about one in eight of them—a little over 3 million—lives in California. Compared to the rest of the country, California has about twice as many children ages 5 and under who are first- or second-generation immigrants and live in families in which the adults are not fluent in English. About one in five of all children ages 5 and younger in California live in poverty, and nearly half of California’s children live in households that are at or near the poverty level. While their parents are at work or in school, about...

Charting Their Experiences and Mapping Their Futures in California Schools
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California is home to more English learner (EL) students (1.3 million) than any other state, and the state also has the highest proportion of ELs (21%). In total, 38 percent of California’s students enter the school system as English learners. As a group, ELs in California perform well below average based on state test results and high school graduation rates. Reflected in many statistics is a tendency to think about English learners as a monolithic group. Such thinking masks the dramatic variation in background, academic needs, and educational outcomes found among these students. What all...

A 10-Year Perspective
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California’s 6-million-student public school system includes a vast inventory of publicly owned buildings and property. All of these facilities need to be maintained and some need major renovations to ensure health, safety, and educational suitability. Some communities also need new school buildings to house a growing student population. Research suggests students learn better in classrooms that are modern, comfortable, and safe, but the age and condition of school facilities varies widely across the state. According to a recent estimate, California school districts need to spend between $3.1...

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California’s education policy agenda, in particular the near-simultaneous implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), has created challenges and opportunities for the state. Coming on the heels of the Great Recession of 2008, these enormous shifts—the demands for substantially new teaching practices required by the CCSS and the fundamental shift from a state-controlled education finance system to locally determined priorities and resource allocation—require new infusions of support to help school districts realize these policies’ ambitious...

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Children’s physical and mental health play critical roles in their development. Research shows that poor health in childhood adversely affects future success and that children in lower-income households are more likely to suffer health problems. Improvements in child health can lead to higher future economic growth and can improve the upward mobility of children from low-income families. California’s financial commitment to health care, including greater access to Medicaid, has reduced but not eliminated health gaps associated with poverty. Insurance coverage alone does not ensure access to...

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California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), signed into law in 2013, represents a substantial investment in school districts serving disadvantaged students and a modest relaxation of restrictions on district expenditures. The policy came at a time when the state was able to increase K-12 funding, thereby restoring cuts made a few years earlier. Through the LCFF, the state distributed a large portion of those increased funds based on the proportion of disadvantaged students in each school district—those who qualify for free or reduced-price meals, have limited English proficiency, or are...

What Do We Know?
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The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on July 1, 2013, represents the first comprehensive change in the state’s education funding system in 40 years. The LCFF eliminates nearly all categorical funding streams, shifts control of most education dollars from the state to local school districts, and empowers districts, through a process of stakeholder engagement, to shape resource allocation goals and priorities to meet local needs. KEY FINDINGS: What does research reveal about the LCFF after four years of implementation? The LCFF enjoys substantial support...

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There is a common theme around California education, and leadership development is no exception. The state used to have nationally recognized model programs of professional development for principals and superintendents, but many were defunded and dismantled during the recession, when California schools also cut their administrative staffs by 19%. Since then, the number of administrators has rebounded; but in 2016, the latest year data are available, California still ranked 47th out of all states in the number of pupils per administrator. On top of that, California principals, on average, have...

A Work in Progress
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California state leaders are asking new things of school leaders, teachers, and students. The past decade has been a time of significant education reform. The transition began with the adoption of new academic standards for English language arts and mathematics based on the Common Core State Standards, and then later for science based on the Next Generation Science Standards. The state also passed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which dramatically changed how school districts are funded and held accountable for their performance. With California’s newest academic standards...

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In 2014, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1469, a law that requires teachers and school districts, along with the state government, to substantially increase their respective contributions to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). The need for higher pension contributions is not a short-term aberration. Recent CalSTRS projections indicate that the higher rates will be required through 2046, assuming that the system continues to operate as it has and actuarial assumptions are met. The large increases in pension contributions have important implications for...

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California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which highlights accountability for student success, has identified the progress of special education students as an area of particular concern. Statewide, the LCFF outcome data show that students with disabilities perform at particularly low levels. Special education addresses the needs of students with disabilities to help them succeed in school. Federal and state laws play a major role in shaping how districts identify and serve students. Federal and state budgets also include significant annual appropriations to help districts pay for...

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California has a keen interest in ensuring the effectiveness of the teachers in its classrooms. The quality of teaching affects student learning and has a lasting impact on students’ success in school and in the labor market. Improving the quality of teaching is a crucial linchpin in California’s efforts to address many of its pressing education challenges. This brief takes up the dual topics of teacher preparation and teacher evaluation. Understanding both how well-prepared teachers are when they enter the classroom and how evaluation of practice during teachers’ careers can enhance their...