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Evaluation of the School District of Choice Program


[PDF] Follow-up Evaluation of the District of Choice Program

February 1, 2021 - The District of Choice program is one of several laws allowing students to transfer from one school district to another school district. The program is scheduled to sunset on July 1, 2023. This evaluation, prepared at the request of the Legislature, assesses recent trends in the program and provides our recommendations regarding reauthorization. It is a follow-up to our previous evaluation, published in January 2016.


[PDF] Analysis of the 1997-98 Budget Bill, K-12 Education Chapter

February 18, 1997 - Analysis of the 1997-98 Budget Bill, K-12 Education Chapter


[PDF] The 2015-16 Budget: Higher Education Analysis

February 27, 2015 - In this report, we provide an overview of the Governor’s higher education budget. We then review the segments' performance in certain key areas and assess the degree to which the segments require enrollment growth funding, base funding increases, and facilities funding. We find the segments have improved performance in some areas but additional improvement is needed. We find little to warrant additional enrollment growth at UC and CSU, and available data indicate CCC likely will not use all the growth funding provided in 2014-15. We recommend against unallocated budget increases, instead recommending that the Legislature link base increases to a cost-of-living adjustment and any additional increases to specified state priorities. We review several facility proposals and make various related recommendations, including recommending the Legislature establish state facility priorities and require the segments to submit a report describing how they plan to eliminate their maintenance backlogs.


Assessing California's Charter Schools

January 20, 2004 - We recommend that the Legislature (1) remove the cap on the number of charter schools that may operate in the state, (2) restructure the charter school categorical block grant, (3) strengthen charter school oversight by permitting school districts to opt out of charter authorizing, allowing for multiple authorizers, and creating safeguards to promote stronger accountability and (4) modify fee policies by delineating more clearly between facility fees and oversight fees, capping these fees, and eliminating the mandate-claims process for oversight costs.


Higher Education Admissions and Enrollment

February 18, 2004 - Although the Governor proposes no new funding for enrollment growth at UC and CSU, we find that both universities have unused enrollment funding in their base budgets that would permit them to enroll more students in 2004-05 than in the current year.


Back to Basics: Improving College Readiness of Community College Students

June 16, 2008 - Most students who enter California Community Colleges (CCC) lack sufficient reading, writing, and mathematics skills to undertake college–level work. Thus, one of the CCC system’s core missions is to provide precollegiate “basic skills” instruction to these students. In this report, we find that a large percentage of students do not overcome their basic skills deficiencies during their time at CCC. We identify a number of state policies that we believe stand in the way of student success, and recommend several structural and systemwide changes designed to help increase preparedness and achievement among community college students.


Improving High School: A Strategic Approach

May 9, 2005 -
This paper summarizes our recent report on the success and shortcomings of high schools in California. High school represents a critical phase in the educational development of K-12 students. Our report examines high schools through the lens of three groups of high school students.

Our Findings
Dropouts (Students Who Fail to Graduate). About 30 percent of the entering ninth grade class fails to graduate on time. Research and data suggest that the factors leading to student dropouts are in place by the time students enter ninth grade. Despite decades of trying, research has not identified programs or services that consistently reduce dropout rates.
The "General" Track (Students Who Graduate Without Qualifying for a Four-Year University). This includes about 45 percent of entering ninth grade students. About one-half of this group attends college after graduation and the other one-half enters the labor force. Research and data indicate that many in this group do not have clear postgraduation goals, which prevents these students from using high school most effectively to make a smoother transition to adult life.
The "University" Track (Students Who Graduate and Qualify for Admission to the State’s Public Four-Year Universities). These students account for about one-quarter of entering ninth grade students. Entering college freshmen frequently lack the English or mathematics skills required for study at the university level. Higher education admissions and placement policies contribute to the problem, as they fail to clearly communicate the skill levels needed for success in college.
Our Recommendations
Despite considerable differences in the problems facing these groups, several themes emerge in our recommendations that are consistent across the groups. Our recommendations address the problems experienced by high school students by strengthening accountability, improving information, and increasing flexibility.
We recommend the Legislature "fine tune" accountability programs by:
  • Adjusting existing accountability programs to focus more attention on the needs of students who are likely to drop out of school.
  • Establishing accountability for improving student transitions to college and work.
  • Aligning K-12 and higher education standards by using Standardized Testing and Reporting scores as admissions data for the University of California and the California State University.
We also suggest several ways the Legislature could employ information to help make high schools more responsive to student needs by:
  • Obtaining accurate dropout data by school and district within two years.
  • Evaluating state supplemental instruction and social promotion programs for elementary and middle school students.
  • Providing additional information and choices to help parents and students use high school to reach student goals for work and school.
Flexibility also is a theme of our report. Improvements could be made by:
  • Encouraging schools to provide a greater range of curricular options that respond to the needs and interests of students.
  • Giving districts greater latitude to use existing state and federal resources effectively to meet the needs of students.
The Bottom Line
While many critical factors are outside of the state’s control, we think our recommendations provide a strategic approach for how the state can contribute to improving high schools.


Maintaining the Master Plan's Commitment to College Access

February 13, 2004 - The expressed goal in current law is that all Californians should be afforded the opportunity to receive a college education. The Master Plan for Higher Education, originally adopted by the Legislature in 1960, has served as the state's higher education roadmap. This report describes the state's admissions policies and practices, and assesses how they relate to the Master Plan. While we conclude that the Master Plan's commitment to access can be maintained even in the current fiscal environment, this will require some adjustments in current policies and practices.


Overview of Special Education in California

November 6, 2019 - Recent legislation directed the Legislature and administration to work collaboratively to consider changes in how the state organizes, delivers, and funds special education, with the overarching intent to improve outcomes. With this report, we aim to inform these fiscal and policy conversations by providing an overview of special education in California.

Update 11/8/19: Adjustments made to per-student education costs


The 2014-15 Budget: Analysis of the Higher Education Budget

February 12, 2014 - This report analyzes the Governor’s 2014-15 higher education budget. We continue to have serious concerns with the Governor’s approach to funding the universities, particularly as it significantly diminishes the Legislature’s role in key budget decisions and allows the universities to pursue segmental over state interests. We recommend the Legislature take an alternative approach that: (1) designates funding for specific purposes (including enrollment at the California State University and debt-service payments), (2) shares cost increases among the state and students, and (3) monitors the universities’ performance in specific areas (such as student success). We think the Governor’s approach to funding the community colleges is much better but recommend various ways for the Legislature to refine specific community college proposals. Most notably, rather than augmenting a single student support categorical program by $200 million, we recommend the Legislature consolidate seven student support programs into a block grant, thereby offering colleges considerably more flexibility in deciding the best ways to support their students.


[PDF] Analysis of the 1995-96 Budget Bill, K-12 Education Chapter

February 22, 1995 - Analysis of the 1995-96 Budget Bill, K-12 Education Chapter


[PDF] Adult Education in California Public Schools: A Sunset Review

August 1, 1988 - This report, submitted pursuant to the "sunset" review provisions of Chapter 1270, Statutes of 1983 (Senate Bill 1155), contains our findings and recommendations regarding the adult education program administered by the public schools. Although some community college districts also operate adult education programs, this report, as directed by Chapter 1270, is limited to those programs operated by K-12 schools.