The California Education GPS reflects the input and consensus of a broad-based group of dedicated leaders and experts representing parents, students, teachers, administrators, school boards, higher education, early learning, community and social justice causes, business, research, and local and state agencies. Collectively, these leaders form the Alliance for Continuous Improvement Task Force, convened through the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDEF).
California is home to 6.2 million school children and educates one in eight children in the country. California students also exemplify the rich diversity of our country. As such, our students’ success is not only critical to California’s future, but to the future of our nation. That future depends on all students, no matter who they are or what their circumstance, reaching their full potential so they can graduate high school ready for college and the careers of tomorrow – and to live, work, engage civically, and thrive in a multicultural, multilingual, and highly connected world.
The California Education GPS is intended to serve as a dynamic resource for elected leaders and policymakers throughout the state. The GPS articulates a shared vision for the state’s public education system – one that is high achieving, student centered, equitable, engages families and communities, and is continuously improving. The GPS briefly describes the significant, foundational investments and changes to our state’s public education system that have been made in recent years (see also “The Essentials of California’s K-12 System Upgrades” brief). It then offers a clear, research-based route forward for advancing and strengthening the system so that it meets and exceeds the needs of all students – and ensures California’s future economic and civic success. By focusing on these policy priorities in the upcoming years, state leaders can best create the circumstances locally to achieve the vision for California’s students and schools. California’s future is riding on our public education system.
The timing for release of this resource is important – as many elected leaders and candidates stand for election in November and as they formulate plans for future state budgets and legislative agendas, beginning in 2019.
A high-achieving public education system that is student-centered, learning-oriented, continuously improving, equitable, and engages all families and communities.
A strong public education system drives the health, vitality and economic future of California and all of its residents. It enables individuals to succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow. A high-performing public education system further enables us to meet the aspirations of diverse students, families and communities, so all children become healthy, happy, productive members of society. Local public schools also fill a central role in our communities; public education serves as the centerpiece of our democracy, underpinning people’s ability to fulfill civic responsibilities by being informed and working together to address the policy issues and challenges that confront us.
The improvements made to California’s education policy system in the past several years have been profound. They reflect early progress towards a bold vision of what all students, families, educators and communities should experience. In particular, we envision the following.
The public education experience we envision for students is one in which:
- All students achieve academically, are well prepared for future success in higher education, careers, and civic participation, and are able to thrive in a diverse, multi-cultural, world.
- Students graduate from high school with a plan for the future and the skills and knowledge to execute it, including – and especially – the ability to learn-how-to-learn in our rapidly changing world.
- Every student reaches his or her full potential and achieves at high levels, regardless of background or circumstance.
- Students are engaged in their education and in the decisions that help shape it.
- Students’ academic, social, emotional, and physical needs are understood and addressed in an integrated way.
- Learning for all students occurs in a safe and nurturing environment.
Educators & Staff
To best serve students, the public education experience we envision for educators and staff is one in which:
- Educators understand and embrace their role as instructional leaders. They are focused not only on supporting student learning but leading it; they understand their role in developing the potential of all children.
- All educators are provided with the training, support and professional learning needed to be successful.
- Everyone in the system is focused on achieving equity, including identifying and addressing inequities and understanding and meeting the different needs of students.
- Educators and staff excel in understanding and helping to address the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of all students.
- Schools and districts are collaborative learning environments where educators and staff continue to grow and push each other’s thinking on behalf of serving their students – and all educators and staff are supported in their rigorous continuous improvement efforts.
- Educators lead and promote school and district decision-making that is inclusive and representative of all groups in the community.
Parents, Families & Communities
To best support students, the public education experience we envision for parents, families, and communities is one in which:
- Parents and families are confident that their children’s educational experience is high quality, inclusive, and meets individual needs.
- Parents and families are confident that all students feel safe at school and that learning occurs in a nurturing environment.
- Diverse cultures, languages, and practices are welcomed and celebrated as contributing to the culture and life of the school.
- Everyone in the school system is committed to authentic, ongoing, and meaningful engagement so that parents, families and communities feel they are true partners in the success of their children and schools.
- Parents, families and communities have access to the data and information that is transparent, useful, and actionable.
- Parents, families and all groups in the community feel welcomed, represented and involved in the schools.
We are here.
To realize this ultimate vision for our state, we are not starting from scratch. In recent years California has moved forward with the essential work of transforming our public education system. The work is difficult and requires much more progress.
Guiding principles of this work to date at the state level have been a focus on:
- Quality (Providing excellent teaching and support centered on a rigorous, relevant curriculum, so all students learn the skills needed to succeed in life: critical thinking, problem solving, and the capacity to engage in ongoing learning);
- Equity (Addressing historic inequities among different groups of students, including by aligning resources and approaches to meet the different needs of students and to close opportunity and achievement gaps);
- Transparency (Providing clear and useful information about students, schools and districts to measure progress and drive improvement efforts);
- Local Engagement (Creating systems, processes and structures that enable meaningful and inclusive participation in planning and decision making to advance a shared vision of student and school success.)
More specifically, major system-wide changes that have been put in place by the state include:
- Organizing teaching around the California standards, curriculum and assessments, which promote meaningful, rigorous learning aimed at 21st century skills. The state has set high expectations for all students and has established annual computer-adaptive assessments that provide educators and families with information about how well students are meeting the standards.
- Distributing state funding based on students’ needs. Through the landmark Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), signed into law in 2013, school districts receive additional resources from the state to meet the higher needs of their students who are living in poverty, learning English, or who are homeless or in foster care.
- Establishing statewide priorities based on a holistic vision of student and school success. These priority areas are reflected in the LCFF and the California School Dashboard; they serve as a foundation for guiding local planning, funding decisions, and continuous improvement efforts.
- Increasing opportunities for local decision-making and community engagement. A guiding philosophy behind the LCFF is that local educators, leaders, families and communities know best how to address the needs of their students. To that end, LCFF requires school districts and charter schools to engage their communities (including parents, students, teachers, principals, administrators, other school staff, and local bargaining units) in developing and annually updating a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). Importantly, the LCFF also provides local school districts and charter schools with greater flexibility to spend funding they receive from the state to address local needs. The state’s previous system of “categorical funding” restricted the use of a significant percentage of state funding to state-prescribed purposes and required intensive compliance reporting.
- Providing clear, understandable information about the performance of schools and districts on a variety of indicators – and for different groups of students. With the official launch of the California School Dashboard in fall 2017, the state took a leap forward in providing a more holistic picture of school and district performance. The Dashboard will be updated with current data each fall. New design and accessibility upgrades will also be added in December 2018. The Dashboard is intended to be the central tool for students, parents, families, educators and others to see how schools are serving their students based on multiple measures, including test scores, graduation rates, college and career readiness, suspension rates, school climate, and more.
- Building a Statewide System of Support to provide technical assistance and support to school districts. Beginning in 2018, California is rolling out this new system that relies in part on information from the School Dashboard to identify school districts in need of support. County offices of education and a new state agency, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, along with other professional allied organizations will provide assistance and support, working closely with local districts to improve their schools by helping them to assess their challenges and build their capacity to address them.
A Practice of “Continuous Improvement”
All of these policy components together constitute a fundamentally new approach to change that California has embarked on called “continuous improvement.” Continuous improvement requires key shifts from traditional reform approaches. As a new Getting Down to Facts II research brief, “Continuous Improvement: Building System Capacity To Learn” explains:
For decades, education reform has been dominated by a series of disjointed efforts that don’t necessarily connect with or support each other. Over time, when it became clear that one approach wasn’t going to work, another easy fix took its place. Each new initiative was introduced with great hype, but often without the support to figure out how to get ideas to work in practice for diverse students in diverse contexts. Results, if they were evaluated at all, came at the end of the school year when that group of students was gone. Unlike most other education reforms, continuous improvement is a complex, systemwide strategy. It requires key shifts from traditional reform approaches. The premise is that the individual people in an organization aren’t the cause of current problems, rather that the system is designed in a way that produces the problems. Continuous improvement creates a culture of collaboration and experimentation. It provides a structure for teachers and staff to identify problems, design interventions specific to those problems, learn from trying them out in context, and evaluate their effectiveness while there’s still time to make any necessary changes.
The practice of continuous improvement relies on engaging everyone in the system—teachers, administrators, staff, parents and families—in disciplined problem solving to discover, implement, and spread evidenced-based changes that work locally to improve outcomes for students. This requires a sustained focus on building the capacity of everyone in the system—locally, regionally and at the state level—to fulfill their roles. Ultimately, continuous improvement depends on everyone in the system taking collective responsibility for the success of all students.
These are the most important next steps in the journey to create a high-achieving public education system that is student-centered, learning-oriented, continuously improving, equitable, and engages all families and communities.
California’s recent education system upgrades are an excellent start, but what happens in the next few years is critical to ensuring opportunity and success for all students. California’s future depends on our staying committed to the educational path we are on – and continuing to invest in it, learn from it, and improve it. State policymakers should recognize that it will take time and discipline to reach the ultimate destination. The state can best fulfill its essential role by focusing on a series of strategic steps that will strengthen and accelerate the changes set in place. In carrying out this work, the state should maintain its strong commitment to the principles of quality, equity, transparency, and local engagement that underlie efforts to date.
Specifically, the Alliance recommends that state policymakers embrace the following eight steps:
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About the Alliance for Continuous Improvement
The priorities and recommendations in the Education Policy GPS reflect the input and consensus of the Alliance for Continuous Improvement, a broad-based group of dedicated leaders and experts representing parents, students, teachers, administrators, school boards, higher education, early learning, community and social justice causes, business, research, philanthropy, and local and state agencies, that is convened by the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation.
The Alliance represents the next step in the State Superintendent’s Task Force on Accountability and Continuous Improvement, which made a set of recommendations for the State’s new accountability system in the 2016 report “Preparing All Students for College, Career, Life, and Leadership in the 21st Century.”
Members of the Alliance
Each of these leaders and their organizations serve as excellent resources to all legislators, policymakers and office holders.
- Eric Heins, California Teachers Association
- Wesley Smith, Association of California School Administrators
- Jorge Aguilar, Sacramento City USD
- Tom Armelino, California Collaborative on Educational Excellence
- Vernon Billy, California School Boards Association
- Peter Birdsall, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association
- Dwight Bonds, California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators
- Susan Bonilla, Council for a Strong America
- Shannan Brown, San Juan Teachers Association
- Carolina Cardenas, California State University Chancellor’s Office
- Linda Darling-Hammond, Learning Policy Institute
- John Garcia, Downey USD
- Carrie Hahnel, Education Trust-West
- Heather Hough, Policy Analysis for California Education
- Taryn Ishida, Californians for Justice
- Hayin Kimner, The Opportunity Institute
- Mori Leveroni, California Association of Student Councils
- Camille Maben, First 5 California
- Shelly Masur, Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation
- Molly McGee-Hewitt, California Association of School Business Officials
- L. Karen Monroe, Alameda County Office of Education
- Laurie Olsen, Sobrato Early Academic Learning Initiative
- Mary Perry, California State PTA
- David Plank, Stanford Graduate School of Education
- Gina Plate, California Charter Schools Association
- Morgan Polikoff, University of Southern California Rossier School of Education
- Glen Price, California Department of Education
- David Rattray, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce/UNITE-LA
- Ryan Ruelas, Anaheim High School/Anaheim Union High School District
- Sherry Skelly-Griffith, California State PTA
- Norma Sanchez, California Teachers Association
- Suzan Solomon, Newhall School District
- Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, Californians Together
- Samantha Tran, Children Now
- David Verdugo, California Latino Superintendents Association
- Paul Richman, Consultant, Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation
In addition to the expertise of the individual Alliance task force members and their organizations, a range of research and reports helped inform development of the Education Policy GPS and/or serve as valuable resources for deeper dives into the different the priority subject areas.
- “Preparing All Students for College, Career, Life, and Leadership in the 21st Century,” Superintendent’s Advisory Task Force on Accountability and Continuous Improvement, California Department of Education, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ar/documents/account-report-2016.pdf
- “K-12 Public Education Brief: The Essentials of California’s K-12 System Upgrades” brief, Alliance for Continuous Improvement, Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, 2018. Retrieved from http://cdefoundation.org/staging/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/CDEF-CA-Education-Legislative-Brief_FINAL-online.pdf.
- Getting Down To Facts II, an in-depth analysis of California’s education system as of 2018, with more than 100 researchers from the nation’s leading academic institutions focused on four aspects of California education – student success, governance systems, personnel issues, and school finance. These studies resulted in 36 technical reports and 19 research briefs. Home page: http://gettingdowntofacts.com
Funding and Facilities
- “What Does It Cost To Educate California’s Students? A Professional Judgment Approach” technical report, American Institutes for Research, Getting Down to Facts II project, 2018. Retrieved at http://www.gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/what-does-it-cost-educate-californias-students-professional-judgment-approach
- “What Reaching Full Implementation Means and Why It Matters,” Jonathan Kaplan, California Budget and Policy Center, 2018. Retrieved at https://calbudgetcenter.org/blog/what-reaching-lcff-full-implementation-means-and-why-it-matters/
- “Silent Recession: Why California School Districts are Underwater Despite Increases in Funding,” Kelsey Krausen, Jason Willis, WestEd, April 2018. Retrieved at https://www.wested.org/resources/silent-recession/
- “How Money Matters for Schools,” by Bruce Baker, Learning Policy Institute, 2017. Retrieved at https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/how-money-matters-report
- “How does California rank in per-pupil spending? It all depends,” John Fensterwald, EdSource, 2017. Retrieved at https://edsource.org/2017/how-does-california-rank-in-per-pupil-spending-it-all-depends/577405
- “The States That Spend the Most (and Least) on Education – and How Their Students Perform Compared with Their Neighbors,” Kevin Mahnken, The 74, 2018. Retrieved at https://www.the74million.org/the-states-that-spend-the-most-and-least-on-education-and-how-their-students-perform-compared-to-their-neighbors/
- “Financing School Facilities in California: A 10-Year Perspective” research brief, Eric Brunner, Jeffrey M. Vincent, Getting Down to Facts II project, 2018. Retrieved at http://www.gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/financing-school-facilities-california-10-year-perspective
- CalSTRS Funding Update, Legislative Analyst’s Office, 2018. Retrieved at https://lao.ca.gov/Publications/Report/3873
- “Just the Facts: Bonds for K-12 School Facilities in California,” Lunna Lopes, Iwunze Ugo, Public Policy Institute of California, 2017. Retrieved at http://www.ppic.org/publication/bonds-for-k-12-school-facilities-in-california/
Standards, Curriculum, and Social and Emotional Learning
- “A Whole Child Approach to Education and the Common Core State Standards Initiative,” Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ACSD), 2018. Retrieved at http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/policy/CCSS-and-Whole-Child-one-pager.pdf
- “What is Social and Emotional Learning,” National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 2018. Retrieved at http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/social-emotional-learning.aspx]
- “Implementing the Common Core State Standards in California Schools: A Work in Progress” research brief, Neal Finkelstein, Susan L. Moffit, Getting Down to Facts II project. Retrieved at http://gettingdowntofacts.com/sites/default/files/2018-09/GDTFII_Brief_Standards_0.pdf
- “Creating Coherent Systems To Support Education Improvement” research brief, Jeffrey R. Henig, Melissa Arnold Lyon, Susan Moffit, David Plank, Getting Down to Facts II project Retrieved at http://gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/creating-coherent-systems-support-education-improvement
- California English Learner Roadmap, California Department of Education. Retrieved at https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/el/rm/
Whole Child, Positive School Conditions and Climate, and Family Engagement
- “School Conditions and Climate Work Group Recommendation Framework,” California Department of Education, 2017. Retrieved at https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/pn/im/documents/memo-ocd-oct17item01a1.pdf
- “Educating the Whole Child: Improving School Climate to Support Student Success,” Linda Darling-Hammond, Channa Cook-Harvey, 2018. Retrieved at https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/products/reports
- “The Power of Parents – research underscores the impact of parent involvement at schools,” EdSource in collaboration with New American Media, 2014. Retrieved at https://edsource.org/wp-content/publications/Power-of-Parents-Feb-2014.pdf
- “A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement,” SEDL annual synthesis of research, Karen L. Mapp and Anne T. Henderson, 2002. Retrieved at https://www.sedl.org/connections/resources/evidence.pdf
Teacher and School Leader Recruitment, Retention and Support
- “Teacher Supply Falls Short of Demand in High Needs Fields, Locations” research brief, Linda Darling-Hammond, Dan Goldhaber, Katherine O. Strunk, Leib Sutcher, Getting Down to Facts II project, 2018. Retrieved at http://gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/teacher-supply-falls-short-demand-high-need-fields-locations
- “Teacher Shortages in California: Status, Sources and Potential Solutions” technical report, Linda Darling-Hammond, Leib Sutcher, Desiree Carver-Thomas, Getting Down to Facts II project, 2018. Retrieved at http://gettingdowntofacts.com/sites/default/files/2018-09/GDTFII_Report_Darling-Hammond.pdf
- “Teacher Staffing Challenges in California: Exploring the Factors that Influence Teacher Staffing and Distribution” technical report, Dan Goldhaber, Katherine O. Strunk, Getting Down to Facts II project, 2018. Retrieved at http://gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/teacher-staffing-challenges-california-exploring-factors-influence-teacher-staffing
- “Diversifying the Teaching Profession: How to Recruit and Retain Teachers of Color,” Desiree Carver-Thomas, Learning Policy Institute, April 2018. Retrieved at https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/diversifying-teaching-profession-report
- “Learning Matters,” Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2018. Retrieved at http://www.oecd.org/education/school/Early-Learning-Matters-Project-Brochure.pdf
- “A Portrait of Educational Outcomes in California,” Sean F. Reardon, et al, Getting Down to Facts II project, 2018. Retrieved at. http://www.gettingdowntofacts.com/sites/default/files/2018-09/GDTFII_Report_Reardon-Doss.pdf
- “Early Childhood Education in California,” Deborah Stipek, Getting Down to Facts II project, 2018. Retrieved from http://gettingdowntofacts.com/sites/default/files/2018-09/GDTFII_Report_Stipek.pdf
- “2018 California Children’s Report Card,” Children Now, 2018. Retreived at https://www.childrennow.org/reports-research/2018cachildrensreportcard/
- “Starting Now: A Policy Vision for Supporting the Healthy Growth and Development of Every California Baby,” Children Now, 2017. Retrieved at https://www.childrennow.org/files/2215/0402/7686/07_18_17-P3-Agenda-booklet.pdf
- “Early Childhood Workforce Index – 2018,” Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, UC Berkeley, 2018. Retrieved at http://cscce.berkeley.edu/topic/early-childhood-work%1fforce-index/2018/.
- “Making California Data More Useful For Educational Improvement” research brief, Meredith Phillips, Sarah-Reber, Jesse Rothstein, Getting Down to Facts II project, 2018. Retrieved at http://www.gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/making-california-data-more-useful-educational-improvement-0
- “In Need of Improvement? Assessing The California Dashboard After One Year” technical report, Morgan Polikoff, Getting Down to Facts II project, 2018. Retrieved at http://gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/need-improvement-assessing-california-dashboard-after-one-year
- “Continuous Improvement: Building System Capacity to Learn” research brief, Getting Down to Facts II project, 2018. Retrieved at http://www.gettingdowntofacts.com/sites/default/files/2018-09/GDTFII_Brief_CI.pdf
- “Continuous Improvement in Practice,” Policy Analysis for California Education, 2017. Retrieved at https://edpolicyinca.org/publications/continuous-improvement-in-practice
- “Building A System of Support For School Improvement” technical report, David Plank, Getting Down to Facts II project, 2018. Retrieved at http://gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/building-system-support-school-improvement
- “Continuous Improvement Comes to California’s Schools: What School Leaders and Educators Need to Know,” Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, 2018. Retrieved at http://cdefoundation.org/staging/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/CDEF_CI-flyer_FINAL_english_v4.pdf