January 26, 2018 - In this post, we answer many questions legislators and others commonly ask about K-12 education in California. We begin by providing information on the main components of California’s public school system. We then review the state’s K-12 accountability system. Lastly, we explain the basics of school finance in California.
January 21, 2015 - Presented to: Senate Education Committee
May 14, 2018 - In this report, we analyze the 2018-19 May Revision education proposals. We first provide an overview of Proposition 98 funding and then focus on the Governor’s major proposals for K‑12 education, child care and preschool, community colleges, universities, and student financial aid. In the pages that follow, we offer many specific recommendations for the Legislature to consider. Our package of recommendations includes adopting some proposals, modifying others in certain ways, rejecting others but inviting better proposals next year, and rejecting some proposals in their entirety.
February 19, 2003 - We identify several areas where the Legislature could reduce the assessment burden on school districts while maintaining the state's emphasis on academic content and performance standards: the NRT portion of the STAR program, the primary language test, the Golden State Exams, and the physical fitness test.
January 20, 2015 - This report examines Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) for 50 school districts to evaluate whether they reflect thoughtful strategic planning and meet statutory requirements. We find that fulfilling all of the statutory LCAP requirements is a challenging undertaking for districts. Requiring districts to cover every area required in statute—regardless of local conditions—reduces the time and energy districts can spend on areas in need of greatest attention. We recommend the Legislature allow districts to focus their plans on their highest priority areas rather than require them to address all eight state-specified priority areas. We also find that the information in districts’ LCAPs related to the services they will provide to EL/LI students is often unclear and difficult to understand. We recommend several changes that would improve the quality of this information. We also recommend the Legislature clarify the metrics districts can include in their plans. Additionally, we recommend the state disseminate model LCAPs to help districts improve their plans moving forward.
March 8, 2016 - Presented to Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Education Finance
March 10, 2015 - Presented to Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Education Finance
December 20, 2017 - The Supplemental Report of the 2017-18 Budget Act required our office to examine how much existing funding and support is provided to these students and identify options for increasing that funding and support. This report fulfills this requirement.
March 18, 2014 - Presented to Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Education Finance
April 16, 2015 -
The state authorizes six types of alternative schools to provide educational options for students who could benefit from an environment different from their traditional schools or who cannot stay at traditional schools because of behavioral issues. These schools often are designed as short-term interventions to get these students back on track to graduate.
Currently, the state does not have sufficient information to determine how well alternative schools are educating students. We recommend the state collect better performance data for alternative schools and then use this information to set performance expectations, monitor their progress toward meeting those expectations, and support underperforming schools.
(5/13/15: Correction made to Figure 1 regarding number of opportunity and juvenile court schools.)
February 9, 2017 - An analysis of the Governor’s overall 2017-18 Proposition 98 budget package as well as his specific spending proposals for K‑12 education, including a summary of our recommendations.
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.
February 21, 2001 - Analysis of the 2001-02 Budget Bill, Education Chapter
February 21, 2007 - Data from several statewide assessments show a significant gap between the academic achievement of English learner (EL) students and their English-speaking peers. We recommend the Legislature fund the evaluation of the EL best practices pilot program established by Chapter 561, Statutes of 2006 (AB 2117, Coto). We also recommend the Legislature fund an evaluation of best practices in preparing teachers of EL students. In addition, we recommend improving the state’s assessment system so EL student progress can be measured and tracked.
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.
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
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.
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
We recommend the Legislature "fine
tune" accountability programs by:
We also suggest several ways the
Legislature could employ information to help make high schools more responsive
to student needs by:
Flexibility also is a theme of our
report. Improvements could be made by:
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.