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Staff Analysis of the Emerging Modes of Delivery, Certification, and Planning Working Group Final Report

The following analysis sets forth the specific recommendations contained in the final report of the Emerging Modes of Delivery, Certification, and Planning Working Group, organized by the categories contained in the report. The staff comments and questions that follow each section are intended to illuminate those recommendations, the deliberations that led to those recommendations, and/or important information that should be considered in evaluating those recommendations:

Goals of the Working Group

The Emerging Modes of Delivery, Certification and Planning Working Group organized its deliberations around the five-fold charge given to it by the Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education. 

  • Identifying ways in which emerging information technologies can facilitate a more efficient and effective distribution of education services, and more cost-effective use of facilities.
  • Identifying best teaching and learning practices from emerging organizational forms, such as charter schools and community partnerships, and exploring how these best practices can best be replicated systemically.
  • Identifying methods for certifying learner competencies that are highly responsive to learner needs and that permit customization of student educational plans that can expedite achievement of their educational goals.
  • Identifying sensible, long-term remedies for ongoing systems planning, for the modeling of reform alternatives, and for short and long range forecasting of educational change.
  • Identifying ways to better coordinate the administration and delivery of noncredit and adult education. 
The Group further adopted a set of overarching principles it believed should be applied to efforts to transform California's education system: (1) equity and access, (2) flexibility to meet learner needs, (3) quality and accountability, and (4) coordination, cooperation, and planning for a seamless delivery system.

The Emerging Modes of Delivery, Certification and Planning Working Group proposes 28 major recommendations for California's educational system, grouped according to the specific charges assigned to it and the four principles it adopted. The group decided to separate assessment and certification, resulting in six major areas for which recommendations have been made. The first eight pertain to emerging modes of instructional delivery. Five recommendations address emerging organizational forms. Four recommendations focus on assessment and one is offered for certification. Three recommendations are offered in the area of forecasting and planning. Finally, seven recommendations are offered pertaining to adult education.

Emerging modes of Instructional Delivery

Equity and Access recommendations:

  1. The State should ensure that educational institutions provide multiple modes of delivery, including applying technologies, to ensure meaningful access for all populations and individuals throughout their lives.
  2. The State should ensure long-term, continuous support that will result in access to technology by all institutions regardless of how remote the location of the learner. 
  3. The State should encourage technology that aims for simplicity in design, supports flexibility, is financially feasible, is measured through outcomes and assessment, and allows users to enhance its applications. 
Flexibility to Meet Learner Needs recommendation:
  1. The State should provide funding for institutional development of distributed learning.

Quality and Accountability recommendation:

  1. The State should support the ongoing professional development of all staff in technology applications, to ensure they have the skills to help students develop the technology skills, knowledge, and aptitudes needed for lifelong success. 

Coordination, Cooperation and Planning recommendations:

  1. The State should take the lead in developing educational technology partnerships that include the public, private, non-profit, and for-profit sectors.
  2. The State should encourage local education agencies to establish partnerships with utilities, telecommunication companies, software and hardware providers, and others to facilitate functional universal access to technology.
  3. The State should encourage cross-segmental collaboration and dialogue among teachers at the same levels, to improve instructional delivery.
Staff Comments/Questions
  • Pending Issue: Staff notes that while not explicit in the final report, Group discussion clearly indicated the intent of ensuring availability of multiple modes of delivery, including distributed education, should not be pursued in lieu of making available more traditional educational facilities in areas of the state that need them. Rather, the recommendation is intended to ensure that state policy does not perpetuate or expand the "digital divide" between schools.
  • The report states with regard to recommendation 3 that "Priorities must be set that define standards for technology resources and provide a framework that the educational segments can use in planning for programs, funding, and professional development[,]" adding that "no one-time-only program can be expected to support all the education needs in this major shift in instruction and assessment" and "[t]he use of technology must be assessed on an ongoing basis." Pending Questions: What agency or entity - existing or new - should be assigned the continuing responsibility of setting technology-related standards? Pending Issue: Broad incorporation of technology in public education will require ongoing investment in equipment and software upgrades, professional development, and technical assistance? 
  • Pending Issue: The report recommends state partnerships with for-profit institutions and various technology companies. The State's recent effort to build a collaborative among the CSU and private companies revealed potential fundamental tensions among the diverse objectives of public institutions, students, faculty, and these private service providers. Any future efforts of this nature should be informed by this and other prior experiences. 
Emerging Organizational Forms

Flexibility to Meet Learner Needs recommendations:

  1. The State and local education agencies should offer incentives to teachers who put learning within the community or environmental context of their students.
  2. The State and local education agencies should encourage innovative emerging organizational forms, including charter schools that are standards-based and assessed against those standards on an ongoing basis.
  3. The State should set aside a pool of funds to encourage the creation of small schools in K-12 education.

Coordination, Cooperation, and Planning recommendations:

  1. The State and communities should establish incentives for joint development and use of school facilities with cities and counties, including libraries, classrooms, and recreational and community space. 
    • New construction should be linked to the community, and better links should be established with the community in existing schools. 
    • The structures should be in compliance with the same building codes applicable to other buildings, such as libraries and government offices.
    • Technology should support distributed learning in these and other settings.
  2. The State should establish an Innovation Fund to support innovative projects and intersegmental collaboration in education.
Staff Comments/Questions
  • Pending Question: To what extent would the placing of teaching and learning activities in community locations result in more efficient use of, or reduced demand for, school facilities?
  • Pending Question: Given that certain districts have difficulty in acquiring property for school construction, what are the implications for equity of opportunity if the State creates incentives for small school construction? Should the Working Group recommendation apply to school-within-a-school settings in such impacted areas?
  • Pending Issue: The second item under recommendation 4 apparently refers indirectly to the "Field Act" earthquake safety structural standards applicable only to public school buildings. It is staff's understanding that, as applicable to new construction, there are few differences between the Field Act construction standards themselves and the standards for all other public buildings - the principal distinction between the two instead being the greater degree of inspection and compliance verification required during school construction. Field Act requirements do increase the cost of new construction, but most controversy surrounding the Field Act in recent years has centered on its making existing, modern public buildings, because they were not originally constructed in compliance with all of the Act's requirements, effectively unavailable for public school use. Various limited exemptions from the Field Act have been enacted into law during the last twenty years.
  • The Group states that the joint development and use of facilities is a sensible, cost-effective solution to the facilities problem facing California. Pending Questions: To what extent can shared facility use with local municipalities and/or other educational or business institutions mitigate facilities construction needs?

Quality and Accountability recommendations:

  1. Institutions should assess and document instructional innovations, outcomes, and achievement. 
  2. The State and local education agencies should assure that accountability expectations and measures for assessment and testing are made public and understandable for all participants in the system. Any assessment used for 'high-stakes' decisions and consequences should have measurement validity and reliability, and should reflect the level at which knowledge and skills are gained from appropriate instruction. 
  3. The State should encourage schools and postsecondary institutions to use test results from one set of instruments in multiple ways to avoid over-testing learners, although high stakes decisions about student placement and promotion should not be made on the basis of a single test.

Coordination, Cooperation and Planning recommendation:

  1. The State should encourage creation, by 2005, of a digital learning portfolio for each learner that would allow the student to move through a variety of coordinated delivery systems, regardless of the provider. 
Staff Comments/Questions
  • The report commentary for Recommendation 1 states that practice-oriented research and documentation can serve as valuable tools and inform decisions to continue or discontinue current practices but observes that schools often do not have the resources to engage in such practices. Pending Questions: Who should engage in such research? What standards or criteria should guide determination of best practices? Who should define those criteria/standards?
  • The report calls for "a digital learning portfolio for each learner," but beyond observing that "coordinated information systems would provide students easy access to their own academic records" it does not further discuss what should be included in the individual digital portfolios. Pending Question: In what respects, if any, should the portfolios differ in content from existing academic records?

Flexibility to Meet Learner Needs recommendation:

  1. The State should identify an entity to develop a common set of requirements for certificates to be developed by a consortium of partners, including education institutions, employers, and community-based organizations. 
Staff Comments/Questions
  • State entities have typically not gotten involved in curricular matters of public postsecondary education other than review of newly proposed academic programs, joint doctorate programs, and the establishment of criteria that are used in the program review process. Colleges and universities have responded to changing workforce priorities through contract education, continuing education, and extension programs. There is also a growing trend of third-party skill certification from such businesses as Microsoft, Cisco, etc. that is highly valued for employment purposes. Pending Questions: Does the State wish to become involved more directly in curricular matters? Should skill certifications remain with contract education, continuing education, and extension programs or be shifted to General Fund supported portions of postsecondary education?
Forecasting and Planning

Coordination, Cooperation, and Planning recommendations:

  1. The State should conduct an annual forecast, through a designated entity, of education trends and needs, including elements critical to state policy-making and resource allocation.
  2. The State should develop all-electronic data collection processes by the year 2005 that would make minimal demands on school districts while providing sufficient information for policy decisions.
  3. The State should develop unique identifiers for critical elements of the educational system when continuity and cross-correlation of information is important, particularly (1) students, (2) instructors, and (3) institutions.
Staff Comments/Questions
  • The Group provides several specific illustrations in the report of data that would be useful in assessing the condition of the state's education system under Recommendation 1 of the report (p. 24), such as available learning resources and room-by-room condition of facilities. Pending Questions: What is the appropriate balance of State and local roles in the collection and maintenance of comprehensive data on various components of the education system? What are the ramifications of comprehensive data being available to various state policy-makers on the programmatic decision-making of local school boards or postsecondary system boards?
Adult Continuing Education

Equity and Access recommendation:

  1. 1.  The State should establish a funding base adequate to the increasing challenges facing California's Adult Continuing Education System. 

Flexibility to Meet Learner Needs recommendation:

  1. The State should develop a broad set of program categories that allow for the substantial flexibility necessary to meet local needs of adult learners. 
    • Proposed categories include Life Management Skills, Civics Participation, Workforce Learning, and Foundational/Academic Skills Development. 
Quality and Accountability recommendations:
  1. The State should expand adult continuing education course standards to include student performance measures such as those developed by the National Skill Standards Board, the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), and Equipped for the Future.
  2. The State should support an accountability system for adult continuing education students, emphasizing student performance and rewards for institutions for achievement. 
  3. The State should support the ongoing professional development of all staff who work with adult learners to enable the students to develop the skills, knowledge, and aptitudes for life-long successes.
Coordination, Cooperation, and Planning recommendations:
  1. The State should review the governance structure for adult continuing education, including the role of the Joint Board Committee on Noncredit and Adult Education, with the goal of achieving a seamless delivery system among multiple providers that ensures a smooth transition for those adult learners continuing on to formal education, pursuing other goals, or entering the workforce.
  2. The State should develop a mechanism for the reciprocity of instructional credentials, based on minimum qualifications, between the adult education and noncredit systems to allow instructors to teach in either or both systems.
Staff Comments/Questions
  • The report indicates that the adult education sub-group did not offer recommendations on the governance structure of adult education and the overall Working Group could not derive consensus on a unified governance structure. The Group cites the belief by a number of professional groups that the current dual administration model works well. Pending Question: As a matter of logical alignment, should the State consider placement of adult education services and accountability with adult-serving institutions?
  • The report states that "Funding formulas [for all adult continuing education offerings] need to provide adequate means ... comparable to that provided for community college credit programs and not based on hour-by-hour attendance ... ." Adult education as presently constituted provides classes for substantial numbers of concurrently enrolled high school pupils. Pending Question: Would it be wise policy to extend the looser, per-capita attendance accounting standards of community college credit classes to classes provided for high school pupils through adult education?