California’s K–12 system is implementing an unprecedented number of reforms. The state’s school funding system and curriculum standards are new, as are all statewide tests. A new school accountability system is being developed. A number of large urban districts are changing their high school graduation requirements. These reforms are designed to equalize opportunities for students and close achievement gaps among demographic groups.
It will be some time before we know what all of these changes add up to, but PPIC researchers who examined the early results of two reforms presented their findings at a PPIC event in Sacramento last week.
California’s New Standardized Tests
PPIC senior fellow Laura Hill summarized the results of California’s new standardized tests, the focus of a PPIC report she coauthored. The scores show that English Learners and economically disadvantaged students are far behind other student groups—possibly farther behind than initially thought. As the accountability system evolves in the state, the test results are an important call to action for districts and schools struggling to help high-need students, Hill said. High-need students did well in some schools and districts, and the first-year results provide an opportunity to learn from their experiences.
College Prep for All?
Julian Betts, an economics professor at the University of California, San Diego, and PPIC adjunct fellow, examined a high school graduation requirement that makes college preparatory courses mandatory for all students. Major urban school districts—including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Oakland—recently implemented this requirement, making it mandatory for students to complete the a–g sequence of classes required for admission to the University of California or California State University. Based on a PPIC analysis of the San Diego Unified School Districts’ Class of 2016, Betts and his coauthors concluded that this requirement is likely to help many students but damage the prospects of others. He suggested steps that San Diego and other districts can take to help lower-achieving students meet the new graduation goals.