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 V
FORECASTING AND PLANNING

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

The variety of instructional settings, arrangements, and systems that characterize California public education makes it extremely difficult to design new educational initiatives intended to benefit students distributed across this broad range of organizational entities. It is difficult to imagine how responsible individuals and groups can design, implement, and continuously improve these new efforts in the absence of valid, reliable information. It is even more difficult to imagine how these parties might compare the relative effectiveness of these new initiatives with existing programs, or to identify programmatic redundancies. Yet, this is exactly the situation in California. On a daily basis, elected officials, agency heads, school district and campus academic leaders, professional educators and, most important of all, the citizens of California are being asked to pass judgment on a bewildering array of new educational initiatives without the comprehensive, reliable, flexibly arranged, easily accessible and timely data one needs to exercise informed judgment.

For example, no single entity or agency in the State is responsible for collecting and validating the baseline data needed to forecast the demand for capital expenditures in PreK-12, adult continuing education, and postsecondary education. Consequently, the Working Group heard projections that varied greatly. When the Group asked agency representatives to explain the differences in their data projections, the Group discovered different databases, different assumptions, and different methodologies drive California’s current projections. In addition, there is no single entity responsible for reconciling these differences. There is minimal forecast analysis of current data and there is no identified path to provide feedback in future years which when combined with the forecasting methods of today could drive the development of more accurate forecasting methods in the future.

A long-range cohesive system for accurate forecasting and meaningful educational planning should answer questions such as:

  1. Are the right things being done?
  2. What content or curriculum should be available to students to prepare them for the future?
  3. What resources are needed to effect this change, including technology?
  4. What about the academic calendar?
  5. What infrastructure would be needed to effect this system?
  6. What steps should be taken to provide for ongoing renewal of the system?

However, one of the driving factors behind this next generation Master Plan for Education was a basic disagreement at the statewide level on the sets of needed and available resources, currently and in the future, to accomplish the State’s educational goals. If an analogy is drawn between the State’s education system and a manufacturing system, the status of the manufacturer’s facilities (buildings), tools (educational equipment such as desks, textbooks, and technology), workforce (educators), and their influence on the product (educated students) are poorly characterized. For example, early on in the Joint Committee’s investigations widely divergent views were presented on the school facility capitalization shortfall over the next 20 years.

The development of a Master Plan for Education, pre-Kindergarten through University, should support the development of systemic data collection and planning efforts, and provide the opportunity to:

Identify the data needed to manage and evaluate the effectiveness of public education system requirements and produce useful data.

  • Ensure there are sufficient facilities that are learner-driven.
  • Consolidate existing reporting and other venues to educate teachers and students.
  • Prepare the State to adequately respond to the changing needs of businesses and the economy, to technological changes, and to changes in public policy.
  • Facilitate long-term systemic planning to ensure the educational needs of students and teachers are being met.
  • Make better use of public education funds through informed decision-making.
  • Structure a cohesive system of schools, colleges, and universities that places a priority on the learner and embraces accountability.

Planning and forecasting should allow the state to best manage its educational system in terms of:

  • Student access to teaching and learning opportunities.
  • Demand, supply, distribution, and retention of teachers.
  • Maintenance, renovation, safety, accessibility, and replacement of physical facilities.
  • Evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning opportunities throughout the state.
  • Success of students in achieving specific competencies and educational objectives.
  • Effectiveness and currency of materials used in support of teaching and learning.
  • Impact of new policies on any or all of the above.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Coordination, Cooperation, and Planning

  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.

    Data collection efforts must be effectively coordinated, streamlined, and linked to planning and forecasting.

    Commentary: Currently, the State of California does not have a centralized or coordinated system for educational forecasting and long-term planning. As a result, many policy and funding decisions made by the State are made in a void or made with incomplete information. Although there are research entities that serve both bodies of the Legislature and the Governor, they typically respond to isolated requests only on specific topics. A coordinated approach to forecasting and planning along with a centralized oversight body is necessary to identify and then mitigate systemic problems, such as teacher and facility shortages.

    To gain the broadest look at data for public policy decisions, the proposed entity would work closely with the Governor, Legislature, and a representative cross-section of educational and public interest groups to identify the types of data required to inform, guide, monitor, and continuously improve the quality, effectiveness, and responsiveness of California’s publicly financed schools, colleges, and universities. Policy-makers, administrators, educators, students, parents, professional associations, economists, and research organizations are the beneficiaries of such data when they can make appropriate operational decisions based on the data.

    There is a critical core of forecasting information the State must regularly collect and examine if it is to make appropriate decisions that impact the delivery of education in California. At a minimum, the information summarized in a forecasting report should predict total student demand, capital facilities and their condition, changes in the educational workforce, changes in the state’s economic needs for the products of the educational system, and system performance due to changes (actual or formally proposed) in state or federal mandated rules, regulations, and policies. With such information, the assigned entity could make short, intermediate, and long-term forecasting projections,[8] and it could annually identify corrections to data projections based on actual, unforeseen events during the year.

    Specific information about the condition of the educational system could be far-reaching but would identify critical factors that should influence funding decisions: the condition of facilities in the state (room-by-room; with condition and capabilities), the full set of learning resources (such as textbooks, computers, desks) available at each facility along with a depreciation model for each; a demographic model of the educator population including geographic availability; and a demographic model of the learner population including traditional needs (such as K-12 educational standards), special needs (such as those for individuals with disabilities and for those learning English as a second language), and workforce needs (including all forms of adult education). These sets of information form a critical-basis set for understanding the condition of California’s education infrastructure, and for being able to forecast the condition of that infrastructure into the future. Development and financing of this infrastructure is a years-to-decades problem.[9]

    The State’s understanding of the physical state of its existing educational capital infrastructure is of particular concern. In response to state queries about the physical state of individual schools, several districts told the Group that they only send in lists of facilities to be recapitalized that they believe the State will be able to support. Hence, the State probably has too optimistic an assessment of the state of all of education facilities.

    Member comments: Members expressed a concern that they did not want to create a new bureaucracy.

  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.

    Commentary: A system of this nature would have the ability to minimize the collection of duplicative data elements. Existing reporting requirements should be reviewed and efforts made to discontinue any unnecessary requirements. Data should continue to be collected by all educational segments, but collection, analysis, and planning efforts should be streamlined. Additional data, beyond current reporting requirements, could be collected based on planning needs, and to assist in assuring continuous improvement and accountability.

    Clear guidelines must be developed to identify intended uses of the data and preclude breeches in confidentiality and other unacceptable uses. In addition, the State’s requests for information should be accompanied by as many prefilled-out data fields as possible, provide real or near-real-time data checking with historical and/or comparable perspectives, and in a timely manner provide integrated data sets back to the districts for their own uses. Whenever possible, integration with and direct support for federal reporting requirements should be facilitated.
  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.

    Unique identifiers would assist in individual, institutional, and systemic planning efforts.
    Commentary: Californians are very mobile; and students frequently move and transfer to new schools. Too often K-12 academic records are not readily available or lag behind when a student transfers to another school or postsecondary institution; adult students often have no academic record when they transfer from one program to another and as a result often face repetitive requests about past learning experiences. If students had immediate access to their own academic portfolios, they could be spared inappropriate placements and easier access to education programs.

    State and federal reporting requirements typically request data specific to student progress and outcomes, and these requests can be fulfilled if there a means of pairing data from one agency with that of another. California and its schools are becoming more automated, and technology advances will allow student information to be more centralized with the use of unique identifiers — a number or code that would connect a student to his or her educational records — to assist in statewide and nationwide data collection efforts. However, schools are reluctant to use or distribute Social Security numbers because of fear of violating state and federal confidentiality laws, and possible subsequent lawsuits. However, student identifiers could facilitate access without compromising confidentiality if the unique identification numbers can be issued without including any personal identifiers. Any statewide system of student identifiers should start from the work done with the California Student Information System (CSIS) and ensure that personal information is scrambled and eliminated from state and federal data collection efforts.

    In addition to student identifiers, teacher identification numbers would assist in determining supply and demand needs. According to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), the number of credentialed teachers is rising and more teachers are being employed. There may be enough teachers statewide, but the problem is they are not teaching in the areas where they are most needed. The effect on supply and demand in teaching has dramatically changed. The CTC has found that approximately 78 percent of teachers are still teaching, but it doesn’t know where, whether they are working part or full-time, or if they are teaching at primary or secondary schools. When teachers renew their credentials every five years, there is an opportunity to extract some information concerning teacher retention, but more frequently reported information would be useful.

    Unique institution identifiers would aid in monitoring and predicting facility availability and condition, forecasting future facility needs, and would support the development of portable student portfolios.
Contents Summary Background I. Delivery
II. Organization III. Assessment IV. Certification V. Planning
VI. Adult Ed. Conclusion Presenters Members