HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN"> owing analysis sets forth the specific recommendations contained in the final report of the Student Learning Working Group, organized by the categories contained in the report. The staff comments 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 Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education established the Working Group on Student Learning and charged it with providing specific recommendations that will allow the State to attain two major objectives: guarantee that all students who participate in the public education system receive a high quality education; and establish a more cohesive system of education that will be responsive to students' increasingly diverse needs.

From this primary charge, Working Group leadership, in consultation with the Joint Committee, developed a set of seven specific goals to guide its work: 

The Working Group also adopted an additional principle to guide its work: California's PreK-University Master Plan must result in education policies that ensure quality and choice for all 

The Student Learning Working Group proposes ten major recommendations for California's educational system. The first concerns establishing ambitious learning goals and curriculum. Recommendations two through six focus on guaranteeing equitable opportunities to learn for all students. Recommendation seven describes essential components of a fair and useful assessment system. Recommendations eight and nine deal with systemic accountability and review. And recommendation ten offers a short-term, immediate intervention to increase access to the University of California. For brevity, certain sub-recommendations are paraphrased in this analysis and immediately follow the recommendation. Those sub-recommendations variously provide expansion on the primary recommendation or constitute a strategic plan for implementing the recommendation.

Challenging Goals and Curriculum

  1. Set ambitious learning goals and provide all students a challenging K-12 and postsecondary curriculum (Sub-recommendations include: ensure that all schools provide the curriculum that enables students to develop oral and written fluency in two languages, master algebraic thinking and problem solving, and prepare for college entry without need for remediation by the end of secondary school; strengthen community college courses that prepare students for transfer to CSU and UC; and retain high quality career and technical programs at the community colleges.)
Staff Comments

Guaranteed Opportunities to Learn

  1. Provide adequate and equitably distributed resources. 
  2. Establish a high-quality system of Pre-Kindergarten care and education that enables all students to enter school ready and able to learn. 
  3. Recruit, prepare, develop, and retain a high-quality educational workforce. Redouble state efforts to diversify the educational workforce.
  4. Guarantee high-quality learning conditions and opportunities for every student. (Sub-recommendations include: enacting legislation to ensure a full range of opportunities, conditions, and authentic diagnostic assessments to assure learning; providing additional funding to meet the needs of low-income, English Language Learning (ELL), immigrant, and disabled students; and requiring colleges and universities to ensure conditions that enable students to succeed.)
  5. Provide flexible time and instruction that support learning and insure successful transitions between schooling levels. (Sub-recommendations include: targeting learning support through the use of classroom-based diagnostic assessments; providing additional learning support at key transition points in students' educational careers; developing mechanisms to grant college credit to high school students based on demonstrated learning; using authentic assessments to measure students' accomplishments; and mandating development of transparent and sustainable articulation and transfer processes.)
Staff Comments

2. The Group cites the inadequacies in state resources made available to public schools that currently account for the very uneven conditions within which students attempt to learn. It defers to the Working Group on Finance and Facilities to offer specific recommendations on remedying this situation but calls for differential resources to be made available to improve teaching and learning opportunities in the state's neediest communities. What would those resources buy that differ from current services? The Finance and Facilities Working Group has examined various "adequacy" models of funding throughout the year; based on its Chairs' presentation to the Joint Committee in October, it is expected to recommend a fiscal model that includes such differential resource allocation.

3. The Group recommends that young children receive rich pre-school experiences that have significant influence on their future learning. It also urges that school readiness include promoting and maintaining children's home languages in ways that supplement and enhance their learning of English. They defer to the Working Group on School Readiness for specific recommendations on the ways that California should pursue these goals.

4. The Group emphasized the importance of ensuring that all students have the opportunity to be taught by qualified teachers and attend schools staffed by a professional workforce with the knowledge and skills required to create and sustain a stimulating teaching and learning environment. The Group defers generally to the Working Group on Professional Personnel Development (PPD) recommendations for specifics of how best to ensure that such teachers are present in all public schools. However, the Group offers a listing of several education workforce characteristics that are essential, and that are not specifically addressed by the PPD Group. These include preparing all teachers, as well as counselors, with knowledge regarding college preparation/success and financial aid, in order to support a school-wide culture of high expectations and support for students.

5. The Working Group considered the question: How can the State's guarantee of a high-quality education for every student be met? The Working Group provides extensive detail on the conditions that should be in place at every public school to assure that all students have an equitable opportunity to learn and master the academic competencies expected of them. These conditions support not only instruction, but the development of a school-wide culture, among all personnel, of high (and clear) expectations and the support necessary to meet them. Consistent with the vision that the Master Plan apply to all students, the Group argues that the State must commit sufficient additional resources (including funded additional instructional time) to ensure that low-income, English Language Learners (ELL), and disabled students receive the supplemental services they require to fully meet the State's learning expectations. Although the report does not contain a methodology for determining the additional resources needed by schools serving large numbers of high-need students, it does introduce the concept of an Opportunities-to-Learn Index that would provide specific information over time on the school conditions in which students learn and that would enable the state to determine the adequacy of the resources being provided - a concept discussed in greater detail in accountability recommendations.

The Group cites conditions that should be in place in every college and university for all students to succeed. These differ fundamentally from those for K-12 in at least two respects. Why do faculty expectations include disciplinary expertise, but not pedagogy? Historically, this lack of pedagogical expectation has subjected the UC and CSU to criticism that their teaching mission is subordinated to other missions. Second, recommendations of student support apply only to faculty. Why is the concept of a campus-wide culture of expectation and support - including counseling and other student support services - not explicitly addressed for postsecondary? 

6. The Working Group examined: What supports are necessary to ensure that all students will meet the higher expectations? Its recommendation describes a more learner-responsive educational system, listing multiple ways schools should modify instructional delivery and support to meet the varied needs of individual students. Two shifts of focus are described. First, that educators focus on critical transition periods in students' educational progression to reduce impediments to their transition and subsequent achievement: (1) From Pre-Kindergarten to grades 1-3; (2) from 3rd to 4th grade; (3) into and through middle schools to high school; and (4) high school graduation and beyond. The critical characteristics of teaching and student learning described in this section of the report reflect a growing body of research on factors that are most influential at these transition points in promoting or impeding the achievement of students, especially those traditionally at risk of dropping out or underrepresented in college.

A second shift would have educators use diagnostic assessments more frequently and effectively and redirect learning resources to support students currently described as "at risk." The Group strongly urges that schools, utilizing this information and information regarding students' progress in meeting career and college objectives, become more flexible in allocating time to ensure that all students meet graduation and college preparatory requirements and that classroom-based assessment be used more extensively to guide learning support. How is this flexibility reconciled with the imposition of more uniform higher expectations? What would be the additional need for qualified counselors/advisors in public schools, as well as significant professional development regarding the use of assessments by teachers, to meet this objective? 

At the postsecondary level, the Group recommends (1) increased flexibility among public colleges and universities in developing mechanisms that grant college credit to high school students based on demonstrated learning; (2) required improvement in transfer and articulation processes through reduction of current barriers and provision of learning supports, and (3) support for implementation of the "dual admissions" program between CSU/UC and the community colleges. None of the examples cited include requiring articulation agreements to be statewide, acceptable at every campus within each system, and evaluated in similar ways. What policies are needed to better support, and maintain educational options for, students who are unable to determine their academic goals (including campus of attendance) early or who change those goals over time? 

A Fair and Useful Assessment System

  1. Develop an integrated and coherent assessment system that monitors programs as well as student learning and guides the provision of additional learning support. (Sub-recommendations include: state monitoring and reporting of student performance; requiring local districts to develop their own assessment systems for guiding instruction of individual students; establishing a state Quality Assurance Panel; modifying reports of student performance to describe how many students can actually perform specific tasks and at what levels; developing and implementing a non-voluntary longitudinal student data system; and developing a system to help educational personnel, students, and families understand the meaning of test results.)
Staff Comments Systemic Accountability and Review
  1. Establish a system of regularly reported indicators for accountability and improvement. (Sub-recommendations include: expanding the K-12 Academic Performance Index (API) to include indicators such as dropout rates, grade promotion, and multiple measures of student achievement; creating and reporting a K-12 Opportunities for Teaching and Learning (OTL) Index; developing a long-term strategic plan for meaningful use of accountability data and indicators to improve learning conditions and outcomes; requiring K-12 schools to provide annual reports to teachers, counselors, students, and families on students' progress in meeting CSU and UC eligibility; developing interventions to increase capacity to promote student learning in schools of greatest need; and requiring public colleges and universities to develop and report a set of accountability indicators that monitor quality and access for all postsecondary students, and explore the benefits of a series of indicators of postsecondary students' learning.)
  2. Ensure ongoing, intersegmental coordination and review. (Sub-recommendations include: augmenting the membership of the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates (ICAS) with faculty from K-12 schools; developing policies and funding initiatives on a regional basis to support the successful transition of students; expanding the faculty reward systems to support faculty involvement in intersegmental activities.)
Staff Comments

8. The Group considered the question: On what indicators can the State measure accountability for all participants in the education system? It recommends that California adopt a coherent accountability system that tightly links learning outcomes with the conditions that are provided to support learning and that monitors all levels of the educational system (students, personnel, school, district, state agencies, Legislature, and Governor). Specific recommendations on how to go about developing such an accountability system acknowledge that several steps have already been taken in this regard with development of the Academic Performance Index (API) and the School Accountability Report Card (SARC) for public schools, the performance indicators identified as part of the Partnership for Excellence Program (PFE) in the community colleges, the partnership agreements between CSU, UC, and the Governor, and CPEC's commonly defined indicators of postsecondary institutional performance. However, in several instances, implementation has lagged behind the broader conception, due to insufficient data and other factors. The group recommends that the API be expanded to incorporate such measures as dropout rates, grade promotion, and other measures of student achievement and that a new Opportunities for Teaching and Learning Index (OTL) be developed to complement the API to provide a consistent measure of the conditions for learning with which to interpret measures of student achievement. The Group also recommends that interventions based on a review of accountability data should focus on building institutional capacity to improve conditions for teaching and learning.

Staff observe that none of the steps taken to date are sufficient to achieve the shared accountability system envisioned by the Working Group. Considerable work remains, and could begin immediately, to develop a consensus on a comprehensive, yet finite, set of indicators that can be obtained from a comprehensive state data system; that are appropriate to various levels of the state's educational system; and that inform evaluation of program effectiveness, student learning, and educational conditions provided in schools, colleges, and universities. 

The Working Group's recommendation to engage colleges and universities in an examination of the benefits of developing indicators of postsecondary students' learning is considerably weaker than the recommendations of state-imposed accountability offered for public schools. What is the rationale for exempting colleges and universities from expectations for rigorous curriculum, supporting high learning standards, and monitoring both learning outcomes and the conditions within which those outcomes occur?

9. The Working Group considered: How can a more cohesive system of education by fostered among the multiple education segments? It reaffirms the value of intersegmental coordination and collaboration and offers several recommendations to formally include representatives from K-12 education in existing intersegmental bodies that currently exist at the postsecondary education level. Should the development of standards, assessments, and eligibility and admissions criteria be shared decisions among all segments of education? The Group suggests the inclusion of K-12 faculty in intersegmental coordinating bodies (as a parallel to postsecondary faculty participation); should that participation include other personnel and policy-makers, in addition to faculty, who traditionally are involved in those decisions for K-12?

Most of the existing intersegmental coordinating bodies referenced in the report are voluntarily created entities. To ensure ongoing attention to collaboration, should these bodies be established in statute and specifically charged with promoting intersegmental activities?

An Immediate Intervention to Increase Access

  1. Increase access to the University of California for students in most educationally disadvantaged schools. 
Staff Comments General Staff Comments