Every year, half a million 12th graders pass through the halls of California’s high schools on their way to college and a career. For many, including many who excel academically, the path to college is blocked by a daunting price tag and limited family means. Fortunately, many more students are seeking out the federal and state financial aid that can reduce those barriers as they pursue their college aspirations. College financial aid application rates rose to 61 percent for FAFSA (from 54 percent) and 58 percent for Cal Grants (from 50 percent) for the 12th grade class of 2013.
2014 Policy Agenda: Tectonic Shifts in California’s Education Landscape
The past several years have jolted California’s education system like never before. Seismic shifts in school finance, standards, curriculum, and instruction sent shockwaves through our state’s education policy landscape. Long-familiar landmarks in school finance, accountability, and assessment were replaced by a host of new initiatives, including the Local Control Funding Formula, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, Common Core State Standards, and Next Generation Science Standards.
With Governor Brown’s announcement of an unprecedented $1.25 billion dollars to accelerate Common Core implementation, the Education Trust—West releases a new brief, The One Billion Dollar Question: How Can Districts and Schools Equitably Implement the Common Core? The brief is designed to be an easy-to-use primer for district, charter, county, and community leaders to assess local Common Core implementation efforts based on best practices nationally and in California.
The Common Core State Standards are comprised of rigorous academic standards which can, when implemented with sufficient supports, help us close persistent achievement gaps. All students must have access to the deeper learning expectations and experiences called out in the new standards. However, many students—English learners, students with learning disabilities and students struggling academically—require targeted supports to ensure their success.
The Future of Science Education in California: The Promise of the Next Generation of Science Standards for Students and Communities
California and the nation have embarked on an ambitious effort to revitalize education and put us on the path to instruction that stands with the very best in the world. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS), adopted by California in 2010, introduced higher expectations for student performance in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). Now, a 26-state consortium has developed the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to similarly enrich science instruction.
Expanding Access, Creating Options: How Linked Learning Pathways Can Mitigate Barriers to College and Career Access in Schools and Districts
How well are California high schools meeting the challenge of preparing students for success in college and career? Over the past five years, the Education Trust–West (ETW) has examined tens of thousands of high school transcripts in an effort to answer this question. Our research has led us to two primary findings. First, levels of college readiness are far too low across the board, and especially low for low-income students and students of color. Second, students who are unprepared for college are also unlikely to be meaningfully prepared for careers.
Across California, there are high school students dreaming of being the first in their families to attend college. For these students and families, college presents a life-changing opportunity. Many of these students have to work to help pay household bills, and tuition for a four-year college seems out of reach. They may know that financial aid is an option, but often the application process feels daunting. Some worry that applying for grants or loans will put their parents’ legal status in jeopardy.
Nearly 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, too many of California’s African-American students languish in a separate and unequal education system. If current trends continue, only 1 in 20 of today’s African-American kindergartners will go on to graduate from high school and complete a degree at a four-year California university. Indeed, on nearly every measure of educational opportunity, the dream of equal access to a high-quality education is not a reality for African-American students and their families in California.
The year 2013 jolted California’s education system. Seismic shifts in school finance, standards, curriculum, and instruction sent shockwaves through our state’s education policy landscape.Long-familiar landmarks such as revenue limits, categorical programs, and STAR assessments were replaced by a host of new initiatives with acronyms that Californians are starting to become familiar with, including the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), the Smarter Balanced Assessments Consortium (SBAC), the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
In advance of the release of our 2014 Policy Agenda later this month, our 2013 Policy Agenda is available here for you to review. Many of these new initiatives fall into areas we have already been working in. The changes that were made have the potential to shift California’s education landscape towards equity and to help close our state’s achievement and opportunity gaps; however, we also know that without close attention to equitable implementation, these initiatives could widen existing gaps and create fissures between our highest need students and their more advantaged peers.
In 2014 and beyond, The Education Trust-Westwill continue to work relentlessly to advocate for a policy agenda that ensures that all students of color, low-income students, and English Learners benefit from the changes in our education landscape. Every day, our children come to school with hopes and dreams of college and career success. More than any generation that preceded them, their future career success hinges on their prospects of attending college and completing a degree. We look forward to working with you to create the policy changes necessary to transform our children’s dreams into their realities.
Catching up to the Core: Common Sense Strategies for Accelerating Access to the Common Core in California
The new Education Trust—West report, Catching up to the Core: Common Sense Strategies for Accelerating Access to the Common Core in California, finds that California has fallen far behind other states and even local school districts in implementing the new English Language Arts and Math CCSS. This lack of progress will leave millions of California students trailing their peers in other states, two years before new assessments aligned with the Common Core are expected to come online.
The report profiles best practices for implementing the CCSS in other states and school districts, including some in California. It highlights promising work in teacher professional development, instructional materials, technology, and alignment with systems of higher education, particularly in teacher preparation.
The report concludes with common sense recommendations for California policymakers. These include improving public understanding of the Common Core, expanding educator professional development, aligning instructional materials, and addressing technology infrastructure and capacity.
Tipping the Scale Towards Equity: Making Weighted Student Formula Work for California’s Highest-Need Students
California’s education funding system is fundamentally unfair, with large gaps in funding between the wealthiest and the lowest-income school districts, as well as between schools within districts.
In 2012, Governor Brown sought to correct the funding gaps between districts by shifting to a weighted student formula (WSF).