California’s new State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, is creating 13 work groups to identify and recommend strategies for addressing some of the state’s thorniest education challenges. The work groups will address the challenges identified in a study issued last fall as part of Getting Down to Facts II, a project coordinated by Stanford University and the research nonprofit Policy Analysis for California Education, or PACE. See evidence on these issues and recommended policies at the web sites for PACE and Getting Down to Facts II.
- | First on new California state superintendent’s long agenda: getting more men of color in the classroom
| Rising rents in coastal California outpace teacher pay
For California districts already grappling with teacher shortages, high housing costs pose one more obstacle to hiring. Many districts can’t find enough fully credentialed teachers to fill their classrooms, according to the “Getting Down to Facts II” education research project released last year.
An EdSource analysis of teacher salaries and rents reveals just how crushing California’s housing crisis has become for many teachers. In more than a quarter of school districts the highest-paid teachers could not afford to rent a three-bedroom house or apartment.
Teachers at the bottom of the salary scale working in coastal or metro areas of the state are being shut out of affordable housing. Many are spending more than 30 percent of their salary on rent, the federal cutoff for affordable housing.
| California's school pension funding plan is working
In this EdSource Commentary, Grant Boyken, public affairs executive officer for the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) states, “CalSTRS’ dedication to act as fiduciaries on behalf of California’s teachers requires that we correct the record to assure our members, stakeholders and the public that the CalSTRS Funding Plan is working and to argue strenuously for the defined-benefit pension as the best choice for career educators”.
The article describes how Assembly Bill 1469 established the CalSTRS Funding Plan in 2014, which required increased contributions from CalSTRS members, school districts and the state to fully fund the CalSTRS Defined Benefit Program by 2046. While it will take several decades for CalSTRS to reach full funding, the system is on the right track forward and the CalSTRS Funding Plan is working as intended.
The author also describes the tradeoffs of switching teachers’ pensions to 401(k)-style defined contribution accounts, as has been argued by researchers for the Getting Down To Facts II project.
| Advocates ask why wealthier districts keep getting the most state building aid
A small group of advocates for equitable school construction asks why wealthier school districts keep getting the most state building aid. The group has been examining how school districts with small tax bases and low-income families can get a bigger share of state funding to upgrade school facilities. Now, they say, there is an opportunity to make that happen.
The biggest question is whether the state should change the current “first-come first-served” system of matching grants to districts to one that targets money to the neediest districts.
In this EdSource article, John Fensterwald quotes Jeff Vincent, one of the advocates for change and co-director of the Center for Cities + Schools at UC Berkeley. “If the Legislature moves forward without fixing inequities in funding, it will be doing a huge disservice to school districts and children in low-wealth communities.”
Last year, Vincent co-authored “Financing School Facilities in California: A Ten-Year Perspective,” a report for Getting Down to Facts II, a multi-study research project on California school governance, funding and staffing policies that Stanford University and the university-affiliated research nonprofit PACE jointly produced. In his study, Vincent provided the most extensive data to date documenting inequalities in the formula for allocating state money for construction projects under the state’s School Facilities Program.
| GDTFII Report Cited in Crunchbase Article
An article about Vallejo, California-based iMod Structures, cites the September 2018 Getting Down to Facts II report, Financing School Facilities in California: A Ten-Year Perspective, that found that, “California school districts need to spend between $3.1 billion and $4.1 billion annually just to maintain their existing facilities. Further, the total amount of facility funding needed for California schools during the next decade for modernization and new construction is expected to be about $117 billion.” Get a copy of the report and see a video by its authors at >>>>
iMod Structures wants to take the concept of portable classrooms to another level by bringing modular, or prefabricated construction, to the public education sector and expects to commence commercial-scale production of its modular classrooms later this year.
| New data detail soaring costs of California school pensions
California school expenses for employee pensions on average doubled to about $1,000 per student over the past four years according to newly released state data. Those increases will continue to rise for two more years. The Legislature mandated the increases, partly to make up for the sharp decline in the value of the pension funds for school employees and other public workers during the Great Recession in 2008.
“By assuming too high a rate of return, California has consistently under-reported the level of funding that is required to pay for promised benefits,” wrote Cory Koedel, Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Missouri, in Pensions and California Public Schools, a report for Getting Down to Facts II, a 2018 research project by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), on California’s education policies and needs.
| New training for California preschool teachers to help bilingual children prepare for kindergarten
Preschool teachers and supervisors across California are getting training this year on how to support children whose families speak a language other than English at home. The California Department of Education awarded $5 million through the Dual Language Learners Professional Development Grant to six organizations to train preschool teachers who work with dual-language learners. Most training for teaching bilingual children in the past has been focused on elementary, middle and high school teachers.
For children who speak a language other than English at home, research shows that early development of both their home language and English can help them succeed later in life. According to the report, State Policies to Advance English Learners’ Experiences and Outcomes in California’s Schools, one of 36 reports in Getting Down to Facts II, a comprehensive analysis of California’s education system released last September, early childhood programs for young dual language learners should focus on early reading skills, maintaining a child’s home language and developing English-language skills.
| Early Education Commission Wraps Up Series of Public Hearings
After eight hearings, countless hours of meetings, collaboration with stakeholders, a survey of over thirty organizations and a robust 2-year discussion by a diverse, inclusive Commission including community members and elected officials, the California Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education (BRC) draft recommendations are complete.
To see videos of the Commission’s process and find links to draft reports, presentation slides and other materials go to >>>>
The Commission’s draft report, which quotes PACE’s Getting Down to Facts II report, Early Childhood Education in California, contains detailed recommendations in nine key areas based on the input received, review of current and past proposals, lessons from other states, and models in California. The report reflects a comprehensive framework and calls for significant reforms around equity, two generation polices, and a laser focus on our children and families and the early care and education workforce.
| USC Rossier School of Education on Getting Down to Facts II and Community Engagement
Published in September, Getting Down to Facts II combines 36 studies that explore a broad swath of K–12 policy topics central to school equity. The scholars behind the report have since been staging a series of events that bring together policymakers, researchers and practitioners to turn data into action.
“There is an important window of opportunity right now with the new governor, superintendent of instruction, state board president and many new legislators to act on some of the needs identified in our research,” says Julie A. Marsh, a professor of education at USC Rossier and the university’s faculty lead for PACE.
Coordinated by Stanford University and disseminated by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE)—a non-partisan coalition of university-based researchers at the University of Southern California, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA and Stanford—the report could have wide-ranging effects, as its first iteration did in 2007.
Now, educators and researchers are talking about paths forward.
Among some of the report’s findings: Large accountability gaps persist; students are behind before they even enter kindergarten; data systems aren’t refined enough. And perhaps above all else: funding levels remain short of adequate. (While measures vary, California generally ranks near the bottom in terms of per-pupil funding by state.)
“We have to be really honest with ourselves about the need to increase funding in our public education system,” said PACE Executive Director Heather J. Hough. “You can’t have a conversation with people in school districts right now without this being the first thing they tell you.”
| Learning Policy Institute cites signs of progress, much work to be done
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.
| The Conversation
PACE research is cited in article about the growing community schools movement. This movement advocates for transforming schools so they become neighborhood hubs that bring together families, educators, government agencies and community groups and organizations to provide all the opportunities and services young people need to thrive. This idea of communities working to improve schooling – and thereby democracy – is a central premise of the growing this movement.
The funding problems of community schools are complex and involve attracting and coordinating a diverse set of public and private investments. In California, community schools, like all public schools, already face shortfalls in per student spending. PACE research estimates that it would take a 38 percent increase in the current $12,204 spent per pupil to meet the goals set by the State Board of Education; approximately $4,686 more per student.
| The Brown Daily Herald
Susanna Loeb, PhD, Director of the University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform, was just named in the 2019 Rick Hess Straight Up EduScholar Public Influence Rankings. In 2018, Loeb designed and oversaw Getting Down to Facts II, a project which analyzed California’s PreK-12 education system to determine the efficacy of recently adopted reforms and provide “potential avenues moving forward for State policy makers,” Loeb wrote. The project analyzed “student success, governance systems, personnel issues and school finance” to build a better understanding of California’s education system.
- | EdSource
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first budget offers some pension-cost relief to school districts and community colleges. Under the proposed budget, they’ll pay about half the increase in rates they had anticipated next year and in 2020-21. Newsom is proposing to use some of an expected state budget surplus to pay roughly the other half — $700 million divided over two years. Pension payments are a big factor in districts’ rising costs.
Cory Koedel, an associate professor of economic and public policy at the University of Missouri, said Newsom’s proposal risks “a false sense of having done something, like not using plastic straws to save the environment.” “It’s a nice gesture with short-term relief, but it does not change the fundamental nature of the problem that got us here,” said Koedel, co-author of the study Pensions and California Public Schools, which is part of Getting Down to Facts, three dozen reports on California education organized by Stanford University that were published last fall.
| Education Dive
Education Dive reports that growth in the charter sector is beginning to level off in California. The article cites a Getting Down to Facts II report, which assessed California’s education system and noted that the state has set “a low bar” for charter reauthorization. “Charter school authorizers in California operate with little oversight from the state. No mechanism exists for the state to prevent a district or county office with a poor track record from continuing to authorize schools, nor are there any public performance reports produced at the authorizer level,” the report said.
Stanford’s recently released Getting Down to Facts II illustrates both the challenge and opportunity we collectively face: families’ lack of access to affordable, quality early learning experiences has a detrimental effect on children’s achievement in the K-12 system. In this Fox&Hounds opinion piece, Gabriel Sanchez, Director of Communications for First 5 LA and 20-year veteran of California politics asks, can Gov. Newsom’s talk of “cradle to career” solutions re-position education as a lifetime pursuit and ready our children for success? The author states that it will take continued work by advocates to build upon what the state Legislature has done recently to arrive at an answer
- | EdSource
Over the same period, the average teacher retention rate in districts statewide dropped from 90 to 88 percent, according to a recent report on teacher shortages produced by the Learning Policy Institute as part of the Getting Down to Facts II research project, which examined numerous challenges facing California education. Like the Oakland data, those rates include teachers who moved to another district, retired or switched professions.
| Los Angeles Times
Concern for equity — reducing the gap between rich and poor by giving kids a smart start — drives the governor’s priorities. The budget underwrites more home visits to expectant parents with limited incomes to bolster their parenting skills. It funds more early developmental screening — as a research brief authored by Stanford University’s Deborah Stipek states, the state does a poor job of identifying kids with disabilities that could otherwise be addressed early on.
PACE Executive Director Heather Hough and Samantha Tran, Senior Managing Director of Education Policy at Children Now, discuss early childhood education on the California Community College's Chancellor's Office Podcast. The podcast was hosted by Eloy Ortiz Oakley, Chancellor of the California Community Colleges.
Key topics discussed included excitement around the Governor-Elect Newsom's focus on cradle to career education, the role of community colleges, how to develop credentialing programs and adequate salaries for educators serving pre-K programs, as well as the core issues of funding.
In this guest commentary, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Assemblyman Kevin McCarty state their support for Pre-K for all to help every young child in California.
The authors quote Stanford’s Getting Down to Facts II report, which stated that more than 30 percent of California’s low-income 4-year-olds and 66 percent of low-income 3-year-olds lack access to quality pre-k. These children enter kindergarten unprepared for school and seldom catch up. This achievement gap has long-term repercussions, not just for children’s long-term success, but also for our state’s economy as a whole.
Superintendent Thurmond and Assemblyman McCarty state, “We have school age daughters who were fortunate to attend preschool and we’ve seen firsthand the difference it’s made. Every child in California deserves that same opportunity, and that’s why we are advocating for pre-kindergarten education for all kids.”
In this article, John Fensterwald, Yuxuan Xie, and Justin Allen, identify key California education issues for 2019 and make their predictions on what will happen for each.
Other issues for the authors' analysis and predictions include charter schools, teacher strikes, 11th grade testing, and school funding.