May 4, 2012: The Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), an independent research center led by David Plank, at left, based at Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Univ. of Southern California, presented its latest findings from an assessment of the K-12 public schools at a seminar in Sacramento yesterday for educational policy makers and scholars.
The report, “Getting Down to Facts-Five Years Later,” is follow-up assessment based on the Getting Down to Facts project by the Institute for Research on Education Policy and Practice (IRREP) at Stanford, a research project involving 32 institutions based on the underlying premise that improvement of the K-12 financing and governance structure would enable schools to be more effective.
The latest report, introduced by Susanna Loeb, director of IREPP, focuses on 4 key issues identified in the Getting Down to Facts project: finances, governance, data systems and personnel issues. Its findings, from 2007-2011, detail "small progress in the face of persistent as well as unanticipated challenges like the recession", but the authors note that "issues raised in the previous reports have penetrated policy discussions and there are indications that greater improvements may come."
The seminar was led by Dan Schnur, professor at UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies and director of USC's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, with discussion on the results of an online poll conducted by the USC Rossier School of Education on education reform, funding and taxes.
Among the key findings:(from the UC Berkeley release)
- The California general fund spending on education is down 15% by the end of the last decade compared to its peak in 2007-2008.
- A series of proposals are circulating to make education finance more flexible, including plans for a weighted formula to allow adjustments for schools’ special or differing needs.
- The state’s education system is heavy on compliance and complexity, but light on data collection that could lead to improvements. However, California’s Longitudinal Student Data System (CALPADS) has been running for two years, conducting detailed analyses of student learning as well as accurate measures of dropout and graduation rates.
- State budget cuts have led to layoffs and reduced staff development, but the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has upped its oversight of teacher education programs.
- While educational governance at all levels remains weak, improvements include: increased resource control for local authorities; more federal support through the Race to the Top initiative and stimulus/innovation funding; elimination of the state Office of the Secretary of Education to avoid duplication; and successful local initiatives to increase district accountability, flexibility and transparency and develop new ways to evaluate, compensate and support teachers
The investigators: Richard O. Welsh and Dominic J. Brewer (USC), Heather Rose, (UC Davis), Jennifer Imazeki (San Diego State University), and Plank.
PACE, founded in 1983, bridges the gap between research and policy, working with scholars from California’s leading universities and with state and local policy-makers to increase the impact of academic research on educational policy in California.
Written for California's Children by Elizabeth J Carlyle.