California Education Dialogue

A public policy dialogue produced by Information Renaissance
with support from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation,
IBM Corporation and Intel Corporation

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Emerging Modes of Delivery, Certification and Planning

Section II


Employers are increasingly taking advantage of new technology and flexible work schedules to meet the diverse needs of the workforce. Educational opportunities must follow suit by providing flexibility for learners, including flexibility in instructional styles, locations, and schedules. As the state’s population shifts to less urban communities and its mobility increases, and as technology provides the opportunity to bridge these distances, the State must begin to utilize more innovative organizational forms that provide for central coordination, while at the same time providing opportunities for local implementation and flexibility. Technology should be used as a tool that is able to personalize and localize learning while at the same time bridging vast distances and disparate programs, thereby bringing the state together.

Schools must be provided with the flexibility to be innovative but they must also be held accountable. Working Group members expressed their belief that the Education Code presents a challenge to implementing innovative educational strategies. Charter schools have had the benefit of being exempted from regulation and have developed many educational innovations. Other schools could benefit from the flexibility that supports promising organizational forms and should be provided with the same incentives. The State should also ensure that students have the benefit of contextual learning, by encouraging additional, non-traditional organizational forms, including charter and small schools, increasing joint use of community facilities, and supporting innovative projects.


Flexibility to Meet Learner Needs

  1. The State and local education agencies should offer incentives to teachers who put learning within the community or environmental context of their students.

    Commentary: Students learn best when material relates to their own life situations. A students community environment is as much a locus for learning as the classroom. Instruction should be structured to reflect that students are outside the classroom more than they are in it. Students learn in their community, and putting curricula within their community context helps students relate better to the material and emphasizes positive learning opportunities within the community. Examples include:

    • Learning science through a school or community garden.

    • Learning science and civic engagement by cleaning and beautifying a public green space.

    • Making maps that illustrate relationships between school, childcare, jobs, transportation, and community resources.

    • Conducting community surveys, to learn English and math skills.

    • Expanding family literacy, and family math and science programs in the schools.

    Both children and adults learn best when they are actively engaged in learning and can relate the content to their lives.
    ‘Contextualized’ learning is also an important element in adult learning.[5] Adult learners are diverse, bringing a wealth of life experiences to the learning situation; and active forms of learning help connect the content to the learners’ own frame of reference. Most adult learners want to be able to relate content to the specific contexts in their lives; these contexts are often in the form of problems related to their work sites. They prefer to have some degree of control over their learning, and, depending on their maturity levels and familiarity with the content, they demonstrate a range of self-directedness in their learning. In addition, the adult’s sense of self has a significant influence on the meaning of the learning situation for that person. Learners have differing degrees of self-efficacy and awareness of their own learning styles. In adult continuing education, the adult learners may feel embarrassed about returning to school, feel embarrassed to join classes with younger students, and/or hold negative impressions about their own abilities, those of the school, and those of the teachers. Incentives could range from professional development activities to informal or formal recognition, special accommodation, and providing funding for supportive services.

    Member Comments: There was concern that this recommendation attempts to elevate one teaching style over another.
  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.

    Innovative, accountable schools should be encouraged and supported.
    Commentary: Much of the debate about charter schools, magnets, and other emerging organizational forms focuses on inputs. The State should support innovative organizational forms so long as they are standards-based and evaluated rigorously.

    Member comments: To support innovation, schools must be provided with flexibility. The California’s Education Code serves as a barrier to flexibility. Obstacles need to be removed for all schools, not just charter schools. There needs to be some balance between rigid application of the Education Code and complete deregulation.
  3. The State should set aside a pool of funds to encourage the creation of small schools[6] in K-12 education.

    Commentary: Research is overwhelming in its support of small schools as facilitators of student achievement. At the same time, the economics of school construction lead to the creation of large schools.

    Students in small schools equal or outperform their counterparts in large schools. Indicators used include grades, test scores, honor roll attainment, subject-area achievement, higher-order thinking skills, and years of education attained after high school. In Nebraska, 73 percent of students in districts with fewer than 70 high school students enrolled in a post-secondary institution, compared to 64 percent in districts of 600 to 999 high school students. These findings hold even when other variables, such as student attributes or staff characteristics, are taken into account. Although many small schools are in rural areas, researchers have concluded that it is the smallness of the school, not its setting, that makes it successful (Journal of the New Rules Project, Summer 2000, Volume 2, Issue 1).

    For example, in New York City, 90 percent of the entering 9th grade students at El Puente Academy - a small high school open to all students – graduate in four years and go on to some form of postsecondary education, as contrasted to less than 30 percent of the entering ninth graders at a nearby large high school. (Smaller, Safer, Saner, Successful Schools, National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, Center for School Change, 2001)

    It is in the State’s interest to promote the creation of small schools, both in the construction of new schools and in the reform of existing schools.

Coordination, Cooperation, and Planning

  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.

    Commentary: All California students deserve safe, clean, well-organized, productive, and attractive spaces in which to learn and play. The need for new school facilities is very large – more than the state can afford – if schools do not work in cooperation with the communities whose learners they serve. Schools are centers of neighborhoods and should be used as such. Joint development and use of facilities is a sensible, cost-effective solution to the facilities problem facing California. Their creation requires only that school, city, and county leaders ‘think outside the box’ and work together for the well being of the segments of the public for which they have mutual responsibility.

    Leased facilities, community agencies, businesses, career centers, libraries, even private homes can be viable alternatives to large campus sites where teaching and learning occur routinely, thereby expanding access to older working adults and residents of communities remote from educational campuses. Strategic use of technology offers the possibility of mitigating capital expenditure needs by distributing teaching and learning opportunities throughout broader sections of California communities.

    Partnerships should be forged and agreements established for joint use of educational and community facilities.

    In June 1998, the U.S. Department of Education convened educators, facilities planners, architects, government officials, and interested citizens to discuss the idea of community schools. This group developed six key principles that should be a part of designing new schools. They suggested communities should design schools that: enhance teaching and learning and accommodate the needs of all learners; serve as centers of the community; result from a planning/design process involving all stakeholders; provide for health, safety, and security; make effective use of all available resources; and allow for flexibility and adaptability to changing needs. (U.S. Department of Education)

    In Roseville, California, partnerships help schools improve services, save money, and build better facilities. For example, city planners and parks and recreation staff work closely with school facilities planners to develop parks adjacent to school sites. Schools use city parks for team sports and physical education classes, while the Parks and Recreation Department uses school facilities for leisure classes and city sports leagues. (

    State sponsored incentives should support the development of these partnerships.

  2. The State should establish an Innovation Fund to support innovative projects and intersegmental collaboration in education.

    Commentary: Innovation is often created in individual institutions with only local application. A State-capitalized fund would enable innovators to locate funds and support from a central agency, which, in turn, could aid in the dissemination of promising practices. An example would be funding universities to work in collaboration with high schools to develop online honors and Advanced Placement courses. Findings should be widely shared, with the goal of replicating positive outcomes.
Contents Summary Background I. Delivery
II. Organization III. Assessment IV. Certification V. Planning
VI. Adult Ed. Conclusion Presenters Members