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Staff Analysis of the
Student Learning Working Group Final Report
The following 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
From this primary charge, Working Group leadership, in consultation
with the Joint Committee, developed a set of seven specific goals to guide
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
Define a "high quality" education.
Identify and examine the factors that promote (and inhibit) access,
opportunity to learn, and success for all students.
Identify key K-16 transition points and specify the needed system, professional,
and student performance accountabilities for successful transitions.
Establish greater coordination across grades/segments by aligning K-16
curriculum and assessments.
Ensure that supplemental instructional services and resources (including
so-called remediation) lead to genuine opportunities and success.
Re-examine the eligibility criteria and admissions practices of four-year
colleges and universities, and facilitate transfers from community college
to four-year institutions.
Establish an accountability system that applies to participants at all
levels of the K-16 system.
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
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.)
In considering how the state can define a high quality education, the Working
Group examined the question: What should all students know and be able
to do to be successful in the workforce or postsecondary education? The
Group determined that there exists little difference in that which constitutes
preparedness for entrance into the workforce, versus entrance into postsecondary
education of any form - including the ability to learn, problem solving
skills, and mastery of basic academic competencies - and recommends aggressive
learning goals for all students to achieve that preparedness. Over the
past several years, the State has adopted academic content standards for
K-12 students in four subject areas. The Group acknowledges those standards
as academic competencies that should be mastered by all students but concludes
that they are not a complete expression of what California students
should know and be able to do. What would be an appropriate process for
revisiting the standards, now and on a periodic basis, to ensure that evolving
competencies are recognized and related learning needs met? The Group recommends
initial expansions of: requiring all students to develop oral and written
fluency in a second language by the end of secondary school (extending
the recommendation of the School Readiness Working Group of dual-language
learning for all young children); and requiring a rigorous college preparatory
curriculum (embodied in the current "A-G" courses) as the default curriculum
for all students. Is the A-G course sequence, in fact, an appropriate proxy
for preparedness, even on an interim basis?
The Working Group considered how the State could provide a clear and consistent
message to students and families that all students will be prepared to
select from a full range of choices after high school and that all colleges
and universities and the workforce expect similar preparation. To do so,
it recommends that a rigorous default curriculum be adopted for all students,
thereby eliminating the tracking of students into more or less rigorous
curriculum based on their preferences for transition to work or college.
To what extent would the K-8 curriculum and its delivery need to be retooled
to ensure that all students are ready to begin and succeed in a college
preparatory curriculum? How can these new curricular expectations be met
in a manner that mitigates potential increases in dropouts? What will be
the likely impacts on the current teacher shortage of the need to prepare,
employ, and retain highly qualified teachers to teach "A-G" courses in
all high schools, as well as in the foundation courses in grades K-8? The
report recommends that students be allowed to opt out of the "A-G pattern,
providing only that those students receive counseling and follow a personalized
learning plan that ensures basic academic competencies. What would be the
appropriate options for those students, and what would be the impacts on
educational personnel needs of these options if large numbers of students
- The Group examined the question: How can the State capitalize on California's
linguistic diversity to promote success in a global economy? It recommends
requiring oral and written mastery of at least two languages by graduation
from high school. To achieve this, how can the State prepare, employ, and
retain teachers with second-language proficiency in sufficient numbers
to meet the needs of six million students to master a second language?
Although the final report does not specify that one of the two languages
would be English, the deliberations of the Group made clear that that was
its intent. Which language(s) among the many spoken by California public
school students will be offered in public schools? Should the State or
local districts make that determination?
The Group considered the question: How can the State improve the numbers
and diversity of students prepared to succeed in university settings? Its
sub-recommendation to strengthen transfer programs notes the need for improved
articulation among the community colleges and UC and CSU to achieve this
objective. As revealed in the Joint Committee's October 2000 hearing on
articulation, the existence of thousands of individual campus-to-campus
articulation agreements does not serve well the interests of students who
are unable to pre-determine either their specific course of study or the
specific system and campus to which they wish to transfer. Should articulation
be made state-wide and apply comprehensively across systems?
Although the Group explicitly acknowledges that many students do not complete
high school, have not experienced initial academic success in school, or
choose not to pursue a college education, it points only to the high quality
career technical education opportunities that should be available to students
in community colleges. To what extent should career technical education
continue to be provided in high school settings for students who opt out
of a rigorous college preparatory curriculum?
Guaranteed Opportunities to Learn
Provide adequate and equitably distributed resources.
Establish a high-quality system of Pre-Kindergarten care and
education that enables all students to enter school ready and able to learn.
Recruit, prepare, develop, and retain a high-quality educational
workforce. Redouble state efforts to diversify the educational workforce.
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.)
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.)
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
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
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.)
Systemic Accountability and Review
The Group examined the question: How can assessments be used fairly to
improve instruction and learning. It recommends that a coherent system
of assessment be developed to monitor academic programs as well as student
learning and to guide the provision of additional learning supports. Although
current practice utilizes numerous disjointed assessments for various purposes,
this proposal is consistent with the current development efforts of the
State Department of Education and California's broader education community.
The Group developed a list of goals for assessing students, and built its
recommendations for assessment on those goals (see p.24 of final report).
Are these goals appropriate to California's educational needs?
The Group strongly advises that no single measure be used to make high
stakes decisions about students. This recommendation departs from the State's
current implementation of the Academic Performance Index (API) and
current conception of a high school exit exam. Should high school graduation
be based on demonstration of competency that is measured by both
a statewide exam and a locally determined student portfolio?
The Group advocates the use of local assessments for decisions regarding
individual students, citing as a benefit the engagement of local educators
and the public into the dialogue about local curriculum. What evidence
supports the Group's assertion that local assessments are "more
accurate and fair to students?"
The Working Group also recommends that California develop and require
participation of all public schools and districts in a K-16 longitudinal
student data system, to enable the State to evaluate student progress toward
meeting learning standards and identify and examine factors that promote
increased achievement of all students. The recommendation is consistent
with those already received from two other Working Groups; taken as a whole,
a system could be developed which would allow an understanding of the programmatic
context in which student outcomes are achieved and could support communication
strategies that help education personnel, students, and families understand
test results and ways to use that information to help students with their
learning and education/career decisions. How should the State develop commonly
accepted protocols for sharing or matching data across districts and sectors?
At the K-12 level, participation in the current data collection system
is voluntary; a foundation currently exists for postsecondary education
institutions in a database maintained by CPEC. How can privacy and cost
issues be mitigated to successfully implement a data collection system
as envisioned by the Group for all students and educational factors?
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.)
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.)
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
Increase access to the University of California for students
in most educationally disadvantaged schools.
While most of the recommendations contained in its report focus on mid-
and long-term strategies that California should pursue, the Working Group
notes that a significant number of current high school students who have
not had equitable opportunities to learn nevertheless have academic promise,
extraordinary talent, and leadership potential, but are not eligible for
admissions to UC. The Working Group recommends that UC use the existing
authority it has under Title 5 of the Administrative Code to admit up to
six percent of new students annually as exceptions to regular admissions
requirements as a means to immediately provide access to high quality teaching
and learning opportunities to promising high school graduates who do not
meet UC admissions requirements. What types and extent of additional learning
support would likely need to be provided to such students to ensure their
success at the University?
General Staff Comments
Staff observes that the CSU is similarly authorized to admit up to eight
percent of new students as exceptions annually. CSU has previously used
this authority for pilot studies to determine whether certain student characteristics
were positively correlated with success for students admitted as exceptions
to particular components of its admission requirements. Should each university
system be required to study the relationship among students' previous learning
achievements, the conditions in which that achievement occurred, the type
of gap that exists between their high school achievement and university
admission criteria, their achievement at the university, and the learning
support these students received, in order to better inform future policy
The Working Group makes an important statement at the outset of its final
report: "[I]f Californians embrace the learning goals we set forth in Recommendation
1 as promises to be kept rather than demands to be enforced, the education
system can emerge from a surreal world in which resources are substantially
out of line with needs and requirements." The statement sets the stage
for a student-focused education system that would acknowledge that different
resources will be needed to help different students achieve state expectations
of all students, that seeks to understand the relationships among the resources
needed to create learning conditions that promote learning for all students,
and that would hold the entire state and its component parts accountable
for exercising their respective responsibilities for supporting high quality
teaching and learning for all.
The Group recommends that some of the additional resource needs of public
schools can be addressed by refocusing current resources dedicated to programs
providing remedial services and intervention for failing students to programs
and services that help student master learning expectations before failure
occurs. This would require implementation of the Group's recommendation
for ongoing assessment, such that appropriate information is obtained that
can inform learning support services in a timely manner.