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Narrowing California’s K-12 Student Achievement Gaps


The 2018-19 Budget: Proposition 98 Education Analysis

February 7, 2018 - In this report, we analyze the Governor’s overall Proposition 98 budget package as well as his specific spending proposals for K‑12 education and early education.


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.


California Public Higher Education: Funding Supplemental Services for Low-Income and First-Generation Students

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.


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.


K-12 Education in Context

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.


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 2019-20 Budget: Higher Education Analysis

February 21, 2019 - In this report, we analyze the Governor's higher education budget proposals.


[PDF] What Is the Variation in Racial and Ethnic Group Participation at California Public Colleges and Universities?

December 3, 2009 - What Is the Variation in Racial and Ethnic Group Participation at California Public Colleges and Universities? This is one of a series of issue briefs examining important questions about higher education funding in California. For more information on this topic, or to request other briefs from this series, contact the Legislative Analyst’s Office Higher Education section at (916) 319-8349, or visit our website at


Interim Evaluation of Community College Basic Skills Transformation Grants

December 5, 2019 - Chapter 22 of 2015 (SB 81, Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review) created a Basic Skills Transformation Grant initiative to improve basic skills education at the community colleges. The legislation directed our office to submit an interim evaluation by December 1, 2019 and a final evaluation by December 1, 2021. This brief fulfills the interim reporting requirement.


[PDF] Next Steps for Improving State Accountability for Alternative Schools

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.)


The 2022-23 Budget: College and Career Proposals

February 23, 2022 - In his January budget, the Governor proposes $2 billion in one-time funding across three programs to increase college and career readiness among high school students. In this post, we provide background on the state’s programs, describe and assess the Governor’s proposals, and provide our recommendations to the Legislature.


[PDF] California's Higher Education Transfer Function

November 14, 2007 - Presented to the Select Committee on College and University Admissions and Outreach.