Vital Signs Highlights CAs STEM Education Challenges & Opportunities

Those of us working in STEM-related fields, no matter what our area of expertise, are concerned about California’s ability to meet the growing demand for STEM jobs and its future implications for our state’s economy.

We’re concerned about our state’s current state of STEM education and the critical need for swift and http://cnfmsdc.org/cialis/ dramatic improvements.

We’re concerned about catalyzing the resources and public will needed to meet our STEM challenges.
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Get STEM Summit updates:
www.castemsummit.com/welcome-to-our-summit-website
As STEM education advocates, we know the importance of data and analysis in convincing and mobilizing others to join our efforts.

We now have vital new data with the recent release of Vital Signs, an in-depth state-by-state analysis of STEM education published by Change the Equation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, CEO-led initiative that is mobilizing the business community support for STEM learning.

Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, the Vital Signs for California offers mixed news. While our state’s 8th Grade Math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam improved six points from 267 in 2003 to 273 in 2011, our students are still 26 points below the NAEP’s cut off for “proficient” of 299.

In Science, California students came short of the “Basic” level determined by the NAEP.

These sub-par scores aren’t surprising, given that the number of hours dedicated to Science learning in California elementary schools has actually fallen from a nation-leading three hours a week in 1994, to a below-average 1.8 hours per week in 2008.

Fortunately, Vital Signs does not just offer more gloom and doom.

It also shines the light on the assets that California can leverage to address the STEM education challenge, including a relatively well-educated STEM teaching force, a steadily growing and recession-proof demand for STEM workers, and a growing shift in policy to prioritize STEM education, as evidenced by the state’s adoption of Common Core Standards for Mathematics and its leadership in the development of Next Generation Science Standards. Taken together, these new standards provide the framework to drive high quality STEM teaching and learning for all students in California.

In addition to laying out the challenges and opportunities for California STEM education, Vital Signs for California also provides concrete recommendations about what our state needs to do to improve STEM education.

Being clear about our challenges, understanding our strengths, and celebrating our successes are key to improving STEM education.

And at CSLNet’s upcoming California STEM Summit – Oct 15 and 16 in San Diego – that’s exactly what we’ll be doing: bringing together business leaders, educators, policymakers, and students to advance STEM learning across California.

Learn More About CSLNet

Follow us on Twitter: @CaSTEMLearning

Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/CSLNet

Get STEM Summit updates:
www.castemsummit.com/welcome-to-our-summit-website

Fueling an Innovation Spirit in Education

[Working Title]: “Fueling an Innovation Spirit in Education”
In business, we’re familiar with the entrepreneur – the owner of a business enterprise who makes money through risk and initiative. Our economy relies on a steady stream of these creative risk takers. Their own initiative is their fuel. While they may have few resources to start, their ideas and progress are rewarded by an ecosystem of investors that participate in various parts of the business creation and maturation process. Each has their tolerance around acceptable risk and reward. Some invest early on the strength of the idea;, some invest late, when proof of the idea has been established by real customers. And some wait until nearly everything is proven, and then purchase the entire company when its value in the marketplace is known.
New business startups have high failure rates. Some estimate only 1 in 10 startups will reach any type of success. But the rewards are significant for entrepreneurs and investors alike. To increase chance of success, incubators exist in many cities – often near universities – to provide some infrastructure around the common startup processes that are common to company creation, like marketing support, and access to sources of capital.
Ecosystems must support the advancement of an innovation along the entire value creation path. The ecosystem in the venture business is mutually reinforcing – that is, early investors understand they are a bridge of sorts between the original idea and the resources needed to make it successful in the market. Investors work with entrepreneurs, helping to shape and refine ideas along the way. In education, entrepreneurs also exist, but unlike other markets, these “education entrepreneurs” do not operate inside of a supportive ecosystem that has become so familiar to entrepreneurs in other markets. Opponents of this venture approach in education often argue that such an approach foster the creation of many low quality, untested ideas that do not benefit students or teachers. They say that the quick return on investment Using the intrinsic rewardscriteria of the commercial process would lower the quality of educational products. However, if a critical mass of investors begin to see education as a legitimate marketplace, it could move from the domain of philanthropy to market-driven innovation.It does not need to be this way.
The current system of education improvement is slow, sub-optimized, and too expensive. It attracts much criticism about what it cannot do, but these problems aren’t translating into opportunities seized by entrepreneurs with better ideas. It’s not clear to how them how such ideas would evolve into solutions, how their risks might be rewarded, or who the investors in their idea would be.
In some locations across the country, organizations are beginning to create incubations spaces, and ecosystems called “innovation hubs” that enable entrepreneurs, investors, and education practitioners to connect in deliberate ways. The objective is to bridge the gap between idea, first implementation, research scrutiny, and realistic plans that must exist to be funded and reach larger scale. In ideal arrangements, education incubators also accelerate the matchmaking between entrepreneurial people and those who want to fund and expand these ideas business concepts that into broader practicereach a broader market with better and more valuable products.
We cannot confuse education entrepreneurialism with the “dark side” of pure commercialism. This is the fear of many educators I know who believe that profit-making motives will allow many low-quality ideas in education to take root. This is a good warning but the fear is misplaced. There are already checks and balances in the system to examine what results are achieved, like nationally benchmarked end-of-course tests, teacher effective value-added measures, standard school measures, etc. Ideas that sdo not work can be screened early using the gauges that the education community has already agreed on.
More importantly, entrepreneurial ideas can attack one of the most lucrative areas of innovation – business process innovation. Just as new business models have redefined every other part of our life (e.g., iTunes, Amazon, GPS, smart phones are all part of larger business models that leverage use these as and transform the way we consume knowledge), entrepreneurs are needed to look at the process of how we educate our youth tailored for each student, train the teachers to do it, and outfit a community to support it. This involves redefining what school means, and the connection of between formal (in school) and informal (out of school) education. It also involves aligning funders towards the same end goals, as opposed to thousands of disconnected project ideas that all seem, on their own, to be good ideas. Achieving this can, in part, be aided by a formal infrastructure that builds a more supportive ecosystem for education innovation with rewards to entrepreneurs that achieve curated, quality results.
There is much to draw from new businesses incubators that can directly translate to the education arena. Efforts should be encouraged to create a legitimate innovation marketplace where people with new ideas bring them forward because they know ideas of high-value are sought by investors who want to support them, add more resources, and bring them to even greater scales. In the process, a degree of commercial trade takes place and in that process, the best parts of free-market choices should take hold. Quality products will survive, and low quality efforts will not survive the process.
In business, we’re familiar with the entrepreneur – the owner of a business enterprise who makes money through risk and initiative. Our economy relies on a steady stream of these creative risk takers. Their own initiative is their fuel. While they may have few resources to start, their ideas and progress are rewarded by an ecosystem of investors that participate in various parts of the business creation and maturation process. Each has their tolerance around acceptable risk and reward. Some invest early on the strength of the idea;, some invest late, when proof of the idea has been established by real customers. And some wait until nearly everything is proven, and then purchase the entire company when its value in the marketplace is known.
New business startups have high failure rates. Some estimate only 1 in 10 startups will reach any type of success. But the rewards are significant for entrepreneurs and investors alike. To increase chance of success, incubators exist in many cities – often near universities – to provide some infrastructure around the common startup processes that are common to company creation, like marketing support, and access to sources of capital.
Ecosystems must support the advancement of an innovation along the entire value creation path. The ecosystem in the venture business is mutually reinforcing – that is, early investors understand they are a bridge of sorts between the original idea and the resources needed to make it successful in the market. Investors work with entrepreneurs, helping to shape and refine ideas along the way. In education, entrepreneurs also exist, but unlike other markets, these “education entrepreneurs” do not operate inside of a supportive ecosystem that has become so familiar to entrepreneurs in other markets. Opponents of this venture approach in education often argue that such an approach foster the creation of many low quality, untested ideas that do not benefit students or teachers. They say that the quick return on investment Using the intrinsic rewardscriteria of the commercial process would lower the quality of educational products. However, if a critical mass of investors begin to see education as a legitimate marketplace, it could move from the domain of philanthropy to market-driven innovation.It does not need to be this way.
The current system of education improvement is slow, sub-optimized, and too expensive. It attracts much criticism about what it cannot do, but these problems aren’t translating into opportunities seized by entrepreneurs with better ideas. It’s not clear to how them how such ideas would evolve into solutions, how their risks might be rewarded, or who the investors in their idea would be.
In some locations across the country, organizations are beginning to create incubations spaces, and ecosystems called “innovation hubs” that enable entrepreneurs, investors, and education practitioners to connect in deliberate ways. The objective is to bridge the gap between idea, first implementation, research scrutiny, and realistic plans that must exist to be funded and reach larger scale. In ideal arrangements, education incubators also accelerate the matchmaking between entrepreneurial people and those who want to fund and expand these ideas business concepts that into broader practicereach a broader market with better and more valuable products.
We cannot confuse education entrepreneurialism with the “dark side” of pure commercialism. This is the fear of many educators I know who believe that profit-making motives will allow many low-quality ideas in education to take root. This is a good warning but the fear is misplaced. There are already checks and balances in the system to examine what results are achieved, like nationally benchmarked end-of-course tests, teacher effective value-added measures, standard school measures, etc. Ideas that sdo not work can be screened early using the gauges that the education community has already agreed on.
More importantly, entrepreneurial ideas can attack one of the most lucrative areas of innovation – business process innovation. Just as new business models have redefined every other part of our life (e.g., iTunes, Amazon, GPS, smart phones are all part of larger business models that leverage use these as and transform the way we consume knowledge), entrepreneurs are needed to look at the process of how we educate our youth tailored for each student, train the teachers to do it, and outfit a community to support it. This involves redefining what school means, and the connection of between formal (in school) and informal (out of school) education. It also involves aligning funders towards the same end goals, as opposed to thousands of disconnected project ideas that all seem, on their own, to be good ideas. Achieving this can, in part, be aided by a formal infrastructure that builds a more supportive ecosystem for education innovation with rewards to entrepreneurs that achieve curated, quality results.
There is much to draw from new businesses incubators that can directly translate to the education arena. Efforts should be encouraged to create a legitimate innovation marketplace where people with new ideas bring them forward because they know ideas of high-value are sought by investors who want to support them, add more resources, and bring them to even greater scales. In the process, a degree of commercial trade takes place and in that process, the best parts of free-market choices should take hold. Quality products will survive, and low quality efforts will not survive the process.

Come join us at EdSource

Dear TOP-Ed subscriber,

In the event you’ve been on vacation or wondering what happened to your daily posts from Thoughts on Public Education, let me again invite you to buy cialis online follow and subscribe to Kathy Baron and me at EdSource, where we joined forces with the organization’s talented writers, on July 1, Viagra online sales following an enjoyable three years at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.

I am now the editor and Kathy is the senior writer of EdSource Today, a new EdSource website that features K-12 education policy news, analyses, and commentaries. We’ll http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/wp-content/wptouch-data/debug/

be reporting in the tradition of TOP-Ed, covering critical issues like the implementation of the Common Core standards, the fiscal crisis facing K-12 schools and community colleges, the new transitional kindergarten program and efforts to find consensus on teacher and administrator evaluations.

Thoughts on Public Education continue with a new format, focusing on a deeper analysis of education issues, especially as they relate to STEM. You’ll be hearing more about TOP-Ed developments from SVEF in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to sign up for daily posts of EdSource Today and to let me know what you think of the site.

Thanks for your support over the years.

John Fensterwald

jfensterwald@edsource.org

Compromise on school fees bill

Advocates of a complaint process for parents and students who believe they’re being charged illegal fees have amended a bill to satisfy all of the main opponents, save the silent one who hasn’t been heard from yet. That’s Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed similar legislation last year.

On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee approved AB 1575 without opposition, and changes that were made to the bill may smooth its way through the Senate and on to Brown’s desk. One factor could motivate him to sign it this year: Doing so would settle a lawsuit against the state that the state is likely to lose.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California is pushing the bill that Assemblymember Ricardo Lara (D-South Gate) is sponsoring for the second straight year. Two years ago, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the state after discovering, through an informal investigation, that dozens of school districts were charging students for textbooks, lab materials, Advanced Placement test fees, and sports uniforms. Students who couldn’t afford them were sometimes publicly humiliated.

The ACLU based its lawsuit on the state Constitution’s guarantee of “a system of common schools by which a free school shall be kept up and supported in each district…” In the 1984 decision Hartzell v. Connell, the state Supreme Court explicitly prohibited charges and fees for school programs. Former Gov. Schwarzenegger wanted to resolve the lawsuit, and the judge in Los Angeles County Superior Court agreed to put it on hold while a bill encoding the fees ban into statute and establishing a reimbursement process went through the Legislature in 2011.

Last year, in vetoing AB 165, Brown wrote that “this bill takes the wrong approach.” It would “mandate that every single classroom in California post a detailed notice and that all 1,042 school districts and over 1,200 charter schools follow specific complaint, hearing, and audit procedures, even where there have been no complaints, let alone evidence of any violation. This goes too far.”

Lara’s new amended bill drops some of the requirements that groups like the Association of California School Administrators and the California Association of School Business Officials considered onerous.

The requirement of posting a notice of the prohibition on fees in every classroom remains. So does the complaint process, which is based on the procedures in the settlement of the Williams lawsuit protecting low-income children, requiring textbooks in every classroom, qualified teachers in every school, and clean, safe facilities. Parents who believe they are being charged illegally can file a complaint to their principal, who can resolve it or refer the matter to the district office, which has a month to reimburse and settle. If not, the parent can forward the complaint to the state Department of Education for a determination and order to reimburse. CDE’s estimated cost of administering the process is $350,000 per year.

Gone from the bill are provisions that appeared to involve state mandates: a requirement that districts verify early in the school year to make sure no fees are being charged in any school, an audit provision at the end of the school year, and the imposition of a fine on districts that fail to comply with the reimbursements.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit is moving forward again, according to Brooks Allen, director of education advocacy for the ACLU of Southern California. The Brown administration took the position that blame for illegal fees lies with the districts, not the state. But in January, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Carl West ruled that the state can’t slough off its responsibility to enforce children’s right to a free public education.

That decision may serve to temper Brown’s inclination, if he has it, to veto Lara’s bill again.

Note to readers: This is the last piece I’ll be posting on TOP-Ed. On Monday, co-writer Kathy Baron and I will start work at EdSource, where we will continue writing daily on California education issues while joining EdSource’s talent staff to expand our coverage. To learn more about the move and the future of TOP-Ed, please go here.

Dismissal bill falters in Assembly

With teachers and organized labor rallying against what they called an unnecessary attack on their rights, a bill that would make it easier to fire teachers and administrators accused of serious sexual and violent offenses against children failed to pass the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday. Sen. Alex Padilla’s controversial SB 1530 will be dead for the session unless he can persuade one more Democrat to reverse positions within the next week .

The bill had bipartisan support in the Senate, where it passed 33-4, but, in a test of strength by the California Teachers Association, only one Democrat, Education Committee Chairwoman Julia Brownley, and all four Republicans backed it in the crucial committee vote. The other six Democrats either voted buy clomid online against it (Tom Ammiano, San Francisco; Joan Buchanan, San Ramon) or didn’t vote (Betsy Butler, El Segundo; Wilmer Carter, Rialto; Mike Eng, Alhambra; and Das Williams, Santa Barbara).

The bill follows shocking incidents of sexual abuse in Los Angeles Unified and elsewhere, the worst of which involved Mark Berndt, 61, who’s been accused of 23 lewd acts against children at Miramonte Elementary in LAUSD. Padilla, a Democrat from Van Nuys, said SB 1530 responded to complaints from superintendents and school board members that it takes too long and is too expensive to fire teachers facing even the worst of charges. Rather than go through hearings and potential appeals, LAUSD paid Berndt $40,000, including legal fees, to drop the appeal of his firing.

Under current law, dismissal cases against teachers and administrators go before a three-person Commission on Professional Competence, which includes two teachers and buy amoxil online an administrative law judge. Its decision can be appealed in Superior Court.

Narrow band of ‘egregious’ cases

SB 1530 would have carved out a narrow band of exceptions applying to “egregious or serious” offenses by teachers and administrators involving drugs, sex, and violence against children. In those cases, the competence commission would be replaced by a hearing before an administrative law judge whose strictly advisory recommendation would go to the local school board for a final decision, appealable in court.

The bill also would have made admissible evidence of misconduct older than four years. Berndt had prior reports of abuse that had been removed from his file,  because a statute of limitations in the teachers contract in LAUSD prohibited their use.

School boards already have final say over dismissal of school employees other than teachers and administrators, so the bill would extend that to efforts to remove “a very creepy teacher” from the classroom,” as Oakley Union Elementary School District Superintendent Richard Rogers put it. “What is more fundamental than locally elected officials responsible for hiring and dismissal?” he asked.

The bill has the support of the administrators and school boards associations, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and the LAUSD president, Monica Garcia, who described her fellow board members as “seven union-friendly Democrats” who want to “get rid of people who will hurt our children.”

Current law works

But Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, countered that “SB 1530 solves nothing, places teachers at unfair risk, and diverts attention from the real accountability issues at LAUSD.” Turning the tables, Fletcher, CTA President Dean Vogel, and others have filed statements with the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing to investigate Superintendent John Deasy’s handling of misconduct allegations in the district.

The argument that current law works resonated with Buchanan, who served two decades on the San Ramon Valley School Board. Calling the bill “intellectually dishonest” because nothing can prevent another Miramonte from happening, she said, “We never had problems dismissing employees.” She acknowledged that the “long, expensive dismissal process” needs to be streamlined, but the bill doesn’t get it right. A teacher at a school in her legislative district was accused of sexual misconduct by a student who got a bad grade. That teacher “deserves due process.”

The two teachers on the Commission on Professional Competence provide professional judgment that’s needed to protect the rights of employees, said Patricia Rucker, a CTA lobbyist who’s also a State Board of Education member. “We do value the right to participate and adjudicate standards for holding teachers accountable,” she said.

Fletcher said that school boards would be subject to parental pressure in emotionally charged cases, and, as a policy body, should not be given judicial power. Assemblyman Ammiano, a former teacher, agreed. “A school board is not the one to make the decision,” he said.

Julia  Brownley said that she too was concerned about false charges against teachers but would support the bill, for it “will give districts tools” for rare circumstances. The bill would make the dismissal process more efficient and definitive. And she agreed with Padilla that the bill ensured due process for teachers, who’d be allowed to present their case, with witnesses, before an administrative judge and appeal an adverse decision to Superior Court.

Oakley Superintendent Richards said that the CTA misstated what SB 1530 does and “has taken such an extreme position on this issue that they have lost credibility.” The union’s real fear is that the bill will be “a nose under the camel’s tent” to change the dismissal process for all teachers. And that, he said, is unfounded.

Padilla was to have issued a statement last night on the setback in the committee but didn’t. Update: Padilla issued a statement this morning that reads, in part:  “SB 1530 was narrowly crafted to focus only on cases in which school employees are accused of sex, violence, or drug use with children. It is difficult to understand why anyone would oppose a measure to protect children. It is very disappointing.”

Trending toward graduation

California’s high school graduation rate is edging upwards for most groups of students. The overall graduation rate for 2010-11 was 76.3 percent, or 1.5 percent above the prior year.

Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, acknowledged that while it’s not a surge, it’s still good news.

“It’s heading in the right direction; it’s certainly not where we want it to be,” said Torlakson during a telephone conference call with journalists on Wednesday. “The thing that I think is more noteworthy is the larger gains we’re seeing among Hispanics and African American students.”

The graduation rate for Hispanic students increased by 2.2 percent to 70.4 percent, and rose by 2.3 percent among African American students to reach 62.9 percent. At the same time, dropout rates for those groups of students fell by 3.1 percent and 2.1 percent respectively. English learners also showed progress, with a 3.8 percent increase in their graduation rates.

Torlakson said these improvements are especially striking because they’re happening “in the face of terrible budgets, a lot of turmoil and uncertainty in schools, more crowded classrooms, a shorter school year, summer school being eliminated,” and a shortage of textbooks, computers, and science lab equipment.

He credited the change to more focused interventions for low-income students at risk of dropping out, such as AVID and the Puente Project, that give them the support, encouragement, and college prep skills to put college within their grasp.

The CALPADS difference

This is the second year that the state has calculated graduation and dropout rates using CALPADS, the longitudinal student data system that uses unique student identifiers.

One year adjusted changes in state graduation and dropout rates. (Source:  California Dept. of Education). Click to enlarge

One year adjusted changes in state graduation and dropout rates. (Source: California Dept. of Education). Click to enlarge

With CALPADS, state education officials can track student progress from ninth grade to twelfth grade, accounting, for the most part, for students who transfer to other public schools in the state, earn GEDs, and even those who stay in high school for a fifth year to graduate.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to compare the rates from one year to the next, and for them to be used in the federal accountability system,” said Keric Ashley, director of the data management division at the state department of education.  Starting next year, Ashley said California will have enough data to calculate graduation and dropout rates for students starting in seventh grade.

Nearly all states now use a similar system required by the federal government for reporting under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Before CALPADS, there was little consistency, and not always great accuracy, in how districts and the state computed these rates. One common approach was to take a head-count of students in ninth grade and subtract the number remaining at the end of twelfth grade.  Another method was to add up all the 17-year-olds reported to be in public and private schools and divide that by the total population of 17-year-olds.

Even CALPADS has limitations and some bugs to be worked out.  As the chart on the left shows, there are two columns for the class of 2009-10 – the first is 09-10 and the second is 09-10(A).  The “A” stands for adjusted.  Ashley explained that when CDE was reviewing the rates for the class of 2011, they noticed that some graduates had been in high school for more than four years so they were actually part of the previous year’s cohort and had to be switched.  There will be another adjustment in December, when school districts will have another opportunity to make corrections to their data.

CALPADS also doesn’t know if a student transfers to a private high school in California, switches to home schooling or leaves the state unless the original school gets documentation from the student’s family and sends it to the state department of education.  It also doesn’t track students who complete high school in different venues, such as an adult education program at a community college.

These are small gaps and won’t account for big changes in the numbers, but having more and better data can be meaningful, said Russell Rumberger, director of the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara and author of the book Dropping Out:  Why students drop out of high school and what can be done about it.

“We’d like to know how many of our students eventually graduate and go on to college,” said Rumberger. ”As a state we’d like to know everybody who completes, however and whenever they do it.”

No Exit

Years of interventions designed to help students pass the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) have had little impact. A study released last night by the Public Policy Institute of California found that tutoring didn’t help students at all, while CAHSEE prep classes and continued support after twelfth grade had only modest success.

“The glass is a quarter full,” said UC San Diego economics professor Julian Betts, a co-author of the study. “There’s modest success here and we should take some pride in that.”

The report, titled Passing the California High School Exit Exam: Have recent policies improved student performance?, found that that the assistance programs helped somewhere between 1.5 and 3 percent of students who failed the exam in their sophomore year to eventually pass the test.

“In other words, the interventions unfortunately do not help the vast majority of those failing the CAHSEE in grade 10 to pass the test in a later grade,” wrote the authors.

CAHSEE trends in 10th grade pass rates. (Source:  HumRRO). Click to enlarge

CAHSEE trends in 10th grade pass rates. (Source: HumRRO). Click to enlarge

Starting with the class of 2006, California seniors have had to pass the exit exam in order to earn a high school diploma. The test is divided into two parts: math and English language arts. Students who pass one part and not the other only have to retake the section they failed. According to the PPIC study, about 1 in 16 students fails to pass both sections by the end of twelfth grade.

The researchers studied San Diego Unified School District, which has implemented many of the support programs. Back in 2005, at the urging of former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, who carried the bill to create the CAHSEE, state lawmakers approved AB 128, which provides districts with $20 million to offer additional instruction – including private and small group assistance, improved teacher training, and extra teachers.

Two years later, the Legislature approved two additional bills aimed at improving the pass rate. AB 347 requires districts to provide up to two years of additional support services for students who failed to pass by the end of their senior year. AB 1802 increased the number of counselors in middle and high schools, and required those new counselors to identify students who failed or were at risk of failing the exit exam.

Grade 2 differences are better predictors of 10th grade pass rates than 12th grade. (Source:  PPIC) Click to enlarge.

Grade 2 differences are better predictors of 10th grade pass rates than 12th grade. (Source: PPIC) Click to enlarge.

PPIC researchers studied the impact of the interventions in these http://dfwhindutemple.org/antibiotics-for-sale/ three bills.

Too little, too late

One of the main barriers to success, said Betts, is that the interventions are starting too late.  Instead of waiting for high school, students ought to be targeted for assistance in middle school, or even earlier.  In a 2008 report by Betts, he said there are already ways of predicting who’s likely to fail the exam.

“Academic grade point average (GPA) is the strongest predictor of eventual outcomes on the CAHSEE,” wrote Betts and his co-author.  “However, some nonacademic characteristics such as absences and classroom behavior…are also signficiantly related to CAHSEE.”

Example of "early warning" system to determine students at risk of failing CAHSEE. (Source:  PPIC). Click to enlarge.

Example of "early warning" system to determine students at risk of failing CAHSEE. (Source: PPIC). Click to enlarge.

Those indicators can be seen as early as elementary school, and are more prevalent among English learners, no matter what grade they’re in.  The 2008 study found that just by being an English learner in grade 9 meant a student was 15 percent less likely to pass CAHSEE.  The researchers recommended development of an “early warning” system to help teachers identify and begin working with at-risk students before they fail the exit exam.  Along with yesterday’s study, Betts and his co-authors released that system, known as the CAHSEE Early Warning Model, which is available for any district in the state to download and use.

“This dual policy of early warning and early intervention could provide a cost-effective way to save students from both the needless anxiety of failing the exit exam,” concluded Betts and his co-authors, “and worse, giving up one or two years of their lives after grade 12 to master basic competencies in order to receive a high school diploma.”

For more information:

Independent Evaluation of the California High School Exit Examination:  2011 Evaluation Report to the California Dept. of Education. HumRRO, November 2011

Predicting Success on the California High School Exit Exam, Public Policy Institute of California, June 2008 Aldactone

160-day minimum year coming

Call it a last-minute clarification or a June surprise, another piece of bad news: A trailer bill that the Legislature will vote on Wednesday permits districts to slash the school year by an additional three weeks for the next two years, if voters reject Gov. Brown’s tax increase in November. That’s twice what  Gov. Jerry Brown seemed to suggest in the May budget revise when he proposed the elimination of 15 days divided over a two-year period. Instead, the Legislature is prepared to authorize a 160-day year, likely the lowest in the nation and far behind other advanced nations; nearly all states have a 180-day year, which California also required before 2010.

In one sense, nothing has changed. Brown hasn’t suggested less funding for schools than the $53.6 billion for 2012-13 that the Legislature approved in passing the budget last week. Districts will have to negotiate a shorter year with their unions; they can’t declare it unilaterally, and most districts won’t go that low.

But the language in AB 1476 (section 50, midway through a very long bill) is a stark message that a defeat of the tax increase will create more than a one-year revenue crisis for schools.

Brown basically spared K-12 schools cuts in this year’s state budget but is promising to slash school funding by $5.5 billion if voters reject the income tax/sales tax increase. That translates to $441 per student, about an 8.4 percent cut in funding. Eliminating 15 days out of a minimum 175 days would be an 8.6 percent cut in the calendar. So cutting 7.5 days each of the next two years would solve only half of the gap, leaving districts to make other cuts through layoffs, benefits, or non-pay areas.

Lowering the minimum year to 160 days now would be too late for those districts and unions that already have negotiated potential cuts. Sacramento City Unified teachers earlier this month approved a two-day furlough, plus an additional 10 days, lowering the school year to 168 days, if the tax initiative fails.

A Senate staff member said that the intent of the trailer bill language is to give districts more flexibility to cope with terrible choices. Most districts won’t go to a 160-day year, but it will be an option. Because districts must submit balanced budgets for two years beyond the current year, districts can negotiate with certainty for continued furloughs through 2013-14. The governor approved the trailer bill language, which clears up any ambiguous reading of his earlier proposals, the staff member said.

But Robert Miyashiro, vice president of the education consulting firm School Services of California, said that the Legislature shaped the budget the way it is, so it is disingenuous to say, It is out of our hands. Legislators strategically set it up to say the schools must take a big cut if the initiative flops.

A spokesman for the California Teachers Association said that the union had not read the trailer bill language and could not comment. The trailer bill also contains language permitting  teachers and other school employees to accrue a full year of  vesting for pensions if a district’s school year drops to as few as 160 days.

First, keep the lights on

Given more control over how they could spend state money, school districts not surprisingly chose survival over experimentation. And if legislators want otherwise – to encourage districts to innovate or target money on low-achieving students – then they should be more explicit about their intentions.

That was the main finding and chief recommendation of a study of districts’ flexible spending last year by the RAND Corporation and researchers with the University of California. The results are consistent with annual surveys by the Legislative Analyst’s Office the past two years.

The study – also a survey, of chief financial officers in 223 districts – diagnosed  how districts spent their share of $4.5 billion in previously earmarked spending. That encompassed 40 of 60 categorical programs and slightly less than a quarter of the $19 billion in total restricted spending that the Legislature made flexible in 2009.

Longtime advocates of unloosing control from Sacramento had speculated that districts might use deregulated  spending to “make focused investments in new instructional approaches to meet local needs” or push decision-making to the school site level. They wondered whether vocal, well-organized groups – educated parents or unions – would dominate control over spending, aggravating disparities in student spending.

But none of this happened to a great extent. (There is an interesting experiment on school-based budgeting in Los Angeles Unified and Twin Rivers Unified, which contributors to TOP-Ed have written about here and here.) Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut categorical programs 20 percent in 2009 when instituting flexibility, and total K-12 spending has been cut 18 percent since 2007-08. As a result, districts “swept” restricted dollars into their general funds in order to keep solvent and prevent additional layoffs, the study found. Money that had been earmarked for teacher and staff training and for general school improvement was largely diverted. Adult education was cut severely in many districts that had the programs.

“Hopes of some advocates that local control would spur widespread innovation or a new focus on classroom improvements simply proved unrealistic,” the study’s co-author, Bruce Fuller, a co-director of the Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), said in a news release.

However, the study also found that “about one-third (of districts) reported that aligning spending with ‘school improvement goals’ was a high priority, and a few reported allocating newly flexible dollars to instructional reforms.” The latter were mainly urban school districts.

Lost accountability

The study has implications moving forward. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed shifting most categorical dollars, including the money already flexed, into a weighted student funding formula that would shift significant spending to low-income students and English learners. Brown’s proposal has run into opposition based on the distribution formula. But advocates for poor children also have called on Brown to include assurances that the extra dollars would be spent on them and that local parent and English learner school committees be given a role in overseeing the dollars. The groups, which included the Education Trust-West and Public Advocates, stated their position in a June 14 letter to Brown.

Another approach could be a block grant, in which districts have latitude to spend as they choose within parameters, such as designating money broadly for professional development. Assemblymember Julia Brownley, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, took that approach in AB 18, a variation of a weighted student formula.

RAND and the LAO had to rely on district surveys, because the state didn’t force districts to report how they spent formerly restricted dollars. The RAND-UC report recommends that the state Department of Education require this and that legislators require that flexibility be evaluated to determine which students and which programs benefited and which did not. Among the questions worth asking:

  • “What happens to programs whose funds are most often swept up, such as art and music?”
  • “How do changes in adult education funding affect communities and other institutions providing such services?”

Some cuts, cash in budget deal

John Fensterwald co-authored Buy cialis pills this article.

Legislative leaders protected most student financial aid in the Cal Grants program and preserved status quo funding for charter schools in the budget deal announced yesterday between Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown.

The agreement comes less than a week after legislators approved a $92 billion spending plan that eliminated some of the governor’s biggest education proposals, including his plan to switch the entire school finance system to a weighted student funding formula.

Few details were revealed from the agreement announced yesterday; Senate staff members said the specific language of the budget trailer bills would be written over the weekend and taken up in the budget committee on Monday. A floor vote could come as soon as Tuesday.

Staff confirmed that the bills would not raise the eligibility for Cal Grants, the $1.5 billion student aid program. Brown recommended raising the grade point average (GPA) required for the Cal Grant A program from 3.0 to 3.25, and increasing the GPA for Cal Grant B awards from 2.0 to 2.75.

Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity and a board member on the California Student Aid Commission, said taking the GPA increases off the table is “absolutely a great thing for students,” because the proposal threatened to shift the core value of Cal Grants from a need-based scholarship into a merit-based program.

The Campaign for College Opportunity sent a letter to the governor last week opposing that and two other recommendations: reducing the Cal Grant award by 40 percent for new and continuing students attending independent nonprofit colleges in California, and linking Cal Grant eligibility to federal standards for the Pell Grant program. The budget deal reportedly contains neither of those proposals.

However, students attending private, for-profit colleges may want to check their schools’ graduation and loan default rates. The Legislature did accept Brown’s bid to crack down on so-called diploma mills, private for-profit institutions, by withholding Cal Grants from these schools for one year if their graduation rate falls below 30 percent or their student loan default rate is 15 percent or higher. That could affect more than 80 postsecondary institutions, according to an analysis conducted for the Student Aid Commission.

“It says to colleges, especially if they’re going to charge a lot of money, that students should be getting a lot of value for that money,” said Siqueiros, adding that means getting a job that pays enough to pay back the loan.

Brown has charter schools’ backs

Brown has persuaded legislative leaders to restore an unexpected $50 million cut to charter schools that they approved in passing the state budget last week. The cut would have been $100 to $112 per charter student and would have widened a funding gap between charters and district schools.

But charter leaders will be holding their breath until the agreement  is written into the language of a trailer bill and it becomes a done deal.

The money is for the block grant that charters get in lieu of small, restricted amounts of money for special purposes known as categorical programs. In his budget, Brown flat-funded the block program but included an additional $50 million to accommodate what the Department of Finance is projecting to be a 15.5 percent increase in charter school attendance next year, compared with less than 1 percent more in district schools.

The surge in enrollment reflects not only additional schools but also schools adding grades and more students per class to cope with budget cuts, said Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association. Over the last four years, the average charter school has grown from 360 to 400 students.

Earlier this year, the Legislative Analyst’s Office calculated that charter schools received 7 percent or $395 per student less than district schools, including $150 per student less in categorical funding. That difference would have increased to $260 per student without the $50 million growth factor.

“Our members were very vocal about this,” Wallace said. “It looks as though funding will be restored, and we appreciate this.”

Brown, who was a creator of two charter schools while mayor of Oakland, has become a protector of charters as governor.