Abundant Hopes, Scarce Evidence of Results: Executive Summary
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It’s difficult to find anyone who is happy with public education. From your neighbor to our political leaders, everyone is eager to reform the schools. Polls show that even if we are satisfied with our elementary school down the street, we are distressed about the quality of public education overall. This is where the consensus begins and ends. Contention arises immediately over the next question: What’s the best strategy for improving the public schools? What policies and long-term institutional changes can be implemented that will steadily boost children’s learning? This PACE report focuses...
Abundant Hopes, Scarce Evidence of Results
Published
Summary
It's difficult to find anyone who is happy with public education. From your neighbor to our political leaders, everyone is eager to reform the schools. Polls show that even if we are satisfied with our elementary school down the street, we are distressed about the quality of public education overall. This is where the consensus begins and ends. Contention arises immediately over the next question: What's the best strategy for improving the public schools? What policies and long-term institutional changes can be implemented that will steadily boost children's learning? This PACE report focuses...
A Reappraisal
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Two stylized facts dominate current educational policy thinking in the U.S. The first is that public schools are ineffective. The second is that they are ineffective because they are not accountable for producing high academic achievement. At one extreme, these stylized facts are interpreted to mean that public education cannot be made more efficient. According to this view, the public sector is structurally incapable of delivering high quality educational services to the diverse student populations in schools. It is too bureaucratic, too unionized, and a monopoly. Improving schooling requires...
How Do Local Interests and Resources Shape Pedagogical Practices?
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This reports argues that much of what actually occurs in bilingual education depends on the discourse and resulting policies at the school district level, and that is one reason why the construction of "bilingual education" varies so greatly and can be seen so positively or so negatively by the very clientele it is supposed to serve. Not surprisingly, within each school district the very definition of second language education centers on interpretations of bow to deliver it—specifically on whether and how to recruit bilingual teachers and whether to implement curricula that are at all oriented...
A Study of Eight States and the District of Columbia
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This report provides findings from a study titled "How Are School Districts Responding to Charter Laws and Charter Schools?" This research aimed to identify: (1) the impact of charter schools on school districts; (2) the ways school districts had responded; and whether districts had experienced systemic change as a result of charter laws and the opening of charter schools. The study was conducted in 1997, six years into the nation's experiment with charter schools. It focused on eight states and the District of Columbia and included case studies of 25 school districts affected by charter...
Implications for Equity, Practice, and Implementation
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In July 1996, California embarked on its largest ever education reform: a nearly $1 billion class size reduction effort to improve literacy in the primary grades. Now in its second year, the Class Size Reduction (CSR) initiative provides $800 (up from $650 the first year) per student to schools that reduce class size to 20 students or fewer in first grade, second grade, and then third grade and/or kindergarten. The impetus for CSR came from several factors. A revived state economy created a revenue windfall. Under Proposition 98, a minimum amount of this surplus must be allocated to education...
Uneven Faith in Teachers, School Boards, and the State as Designers of Change
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For nearly two centuries, cantankerous debates over the quality of public education have recurrently preoccupied parents, civic activists, and political leaders. Today, the future of public schooling is the issue that most worries voters in California and nationwide, according to recent polls. In sum, political leaders and candidates have put forward a variety of school reform proposals. A new election season is underway. Politicians and civic activists are eagerly responding to the public's concern over how schools can be effectively improved. In February, PACE and the Field Institute...
California Families Face Gaps in Preschool and Child Care Availability
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This report details stark inequities in how preschool and childcare opportunities are distributed among four California counties, across communities situated within these counties, and among the state's 200 localities with the most families receiving welfare benefits. Despite spending $1.2 billion each year on preschool and childcare programs, no single state agency has been able to assess the overall supply of these programs or the distribution of supply. Over half of California's 3.3 million preschool-age children (age 0–5 years) live in households with a working mother. Half these...
Standards and Assessments
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Paper prepared for presentation at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL, March 24, 1997 (revised April 1, 1997). This case study traces the evolution of California's curriculum-related reforms, especially those which have influenced mathematics and science, and examines such reforms within the larger framework of the state's shifting political and policy context. Central to this study is the question of what role the California Department of Education played in relation to other state agencies and actors in developing curriculum policies. Although...
Results of the PACE 1996 Poll
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In February 1996, PACE conducted a statewide poll on Californians' views on and expectations for the public schools. In particular, the poll was designed to gain insight into the alignment of the public's views with current directions in education policy. Conducting a poll among Californians is especially relevant because no comprehensive public poll has been conducted in recent memory and because poll results can serve to inform the wide range of policy discussions underway at the state level. State policymakers, for example, are in the process of redesigning a statewide assessment system (AB...
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The history of intergovernmental relations in educa­tion policy has been dominated by regulations, categorical programs, and technical assistance by higher levels of government to stimulate or require lower levels to make changes in policy and practice. There have been many metaphors to depict education pol­icy within intergovernmental relations including marble cake or picket fence. The marble cake metaphor recognizes that the federal, state, and local levels are not distinct, and policy spills over from one level to another. The picket fence metaphor is based on categorical programs like...
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This is the ninth edition of Conditions of Education in California. In this volume, PACE has compiled information on current critical issues in state education policy and presented them within the context of major policy developments. "Evolving Context" introduces the current issues in the state and sets the stage for the remaining chapters, which are Assessment and Achievement, Finance, Teachers and Teaching, Integrated Children's Services, Child Care and Development Services, and School-to-Work.
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The development of the "new science curriculum" began in 1956 with a grant from the newly formed National Science Foundation (NSF) to Jerold Zacharias at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Zacharias was asked to write a "real science" physics curriculum for high school students. By the end of the 1960s, curricula in earth sciences, physical science, biology, chemistry, and engineering concepts were developed at various universities and scien­tific institutes. Although they were an NSF-sponsored, discipline-wide effort to improve science instruction, each curriculum was developed...
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One major problem plagues all attempts to understand and prescribe policy for school boards: there are too many school boards (about 15,000) and too many board mem­bers (some 97,000) to be able to gener­alize about the behavior of all boards. Consequently, the research base is con­ fined to the study of a single case, a few comparative cases, or some nonrepresent­ative sample chosen for a particular pur­pose. Moreover, the research techniques employed range from surveys to self-assessments to full-scale case studies. The body of comprehensive self-assessment data collected by the Institute for...
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This PACE paper provides information regarding the number and types of private schools in California, as well as their enrollments, size, and geographic distribution. It also summarizes current state regulations for private schools and highlights areas in which information gaps exist. Finally, the paper suggests possible ways in which existing private schools might expand or new private schools might enter the marketplace.
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The purpose of this paper is to provide a synthesis of the research and analysis that exists in the literature about school choice. The primary focus of the paper is on research which has implications for the development and evaluation of public policy regarding school choice. This paper neither promotes nor discourages the provision of school choice, but rather provides information designed to assist policymakers, parents, educators, and interested members of the public with an objective source of information. The paper concludes with a summary of research questions about school choice which...
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The public education sys­tem in the U.S. has served this nation well. Today and in the future, it must meet un­precedented challenges. How­ever, arguments about whether the per­formance of our students has declined over time miss the point. The 1990 Olds­mobile was better than any Olds made be­fore. But was it good enough to meet worldwide competition in 1990? A simi­lar question faces U.S. education: Are we good enough to stand up to worldwide competition? The time is right to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. public edu­cation system. We need to build on its strengths and shore...
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It is difficult to envision a people more preoccupied with performance than Americans. Keeping records, shattering records, breaking world records, setting national records, establishing personal records, or being the first, the best, or the most are all the "stuff" of our national obsession with measuring individual and institutional performance. Almost every U.S. city, whether it be a metropolis or a hamlet, lays some claim to a record. It somehow possesses the largest, oldest, longest, heaviest, slowest, tallest, greatest, smallest, tastiest, deepest, quietest, fastest, highest, or...
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In December 1992, 25 people gathered in a conference room in Sacramento, California. Each individual attending the meeting represented a different children's advocacy group. Some were concerned particularly about preschoolers and child care arrangements; for others, professional interests revolved around children's health issues. Still others focused their efforts on child nutrition or elementary education programs. These people met in Sacramento as members of a state-appointed task force to design the implementation strategy for a new law which all of their organizations had supported in its...
Financial Analysis
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On November 2, 1993, Californians will face their most important education decision since the state's formation. Ballot Proposition 174, if enacted, will amend the state constitution and establish "scholarships" redeemable by parents for their children's kindergarten through 12th grade schooling. If this ballot measure passes, public schools will continue to exist, as will today's many kinds of private schools. However, alongside of these two conventional schooling alternatives will be a third choice, "scholarship redeeming schools." These new schools will be paid for, or at least financially...
Overview of PACE Analysis
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PACE has analyzed the financial, legal, and social ramifications of Proposition 174, the school choice initiative, so as to provide Californians and policymakers with accurate, unbiased information. This packet contains important questions and answers about the initiative, summaries of PACE's financial analysis and polling report, and background information on PACE and its directors.
The School Voucher Initiative
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On November 2, 1993, Californians will decide whether to amend the California Constitution according to the provisions of the "Parental Choice in Education Initiative," Proposition 174. PACE has undertaken an analysis of the initiative's provisions. This analysis is intended to provide policymakers, parents, educators, and mem­bers of the general public with objective information. PACE is not taking a position on the initiative. Rather, the PACE analysis reviews significant components of the initiative and raises the policy questions and issues for voters to consider. PACE has produced...
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A cornerstone of California's education reform strategy is the creation of a series of high quality curriculum frameworks designed to upgrade K–12 education in the state. The frameworks raise expectations of students' knowledge and understanding of language arts, mathematics, science, and history/social science. They focus on learning for understanding, as well as thinking, problem solving, and using knowledge in practical, real-life situations. More specifically, the goals of the frameworks are to introduce a curriculum which can be used for all students and produce students who know how to...
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The good news is that academic achievement among California's public school students is improving. The bad news is that it still has farther to go before being able to meet so-called "world class standards." More troublesome yet, the state presently is beset by a complex web of troubling conditions which severely threaten continued education reform. Dramatically increasing enrollments, declin­ing real revenues, and debilitating political issues are combining to distract from a concentrated state effort to improve California's schools. Each of these conditions, as well as student performance...
Lessons from the California School Leadership Academy
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Current thinking about reform in American education emphasizes the need for school principals to serve as instructional leaders. Support for this position is derived from several research bases: site-based management and restructuring; school change; school improvement; policy implementation; staff development; the administrator as instructional leader; and school/district effectiveness. A common element in these bodies of research is the potential power of the administrator as a significant force in the improvement of the organizational conditions and instructional forces that affect student...