Teacher Quality

The Governor's budget includes $58 million in new General Fund resources for programs targeted at improving teacher quality. Of this amount, $23 million is for programs at the University of California (UC) and the California Community Colleges (CCC), $1.5 million is to waive the $60 credential fee for all first-year teachers, and $10 million is for professional development for school personnel who work with English language learners. The remaining $23 million would augment $85 million in existing Proposition 98 funds to evaluate and train teachers. The budget also includes ongoing funding for Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment ($72 million), alternative credentialing ($24 million), staff development ($28.5 million), and UC Subject Matter Projects ($15 million).

We provide below, background and context for evaluating these proposals.

What Does It Take to Become a Teacher?

There are currently over 270,000 active full-time teachers in the state's public schools. The Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) is responsible for ensuring that teachers meet minimum requirements, specified through legislation. Any person that wishes to teach in a California public school must possess a permit or credential from CTC. There are over 100 different types of permits and credentials, each with specific requirements. These various permits and credentials broadly fall into two categories--"single subject" and "multiple subject." Single subject permits and credentials are specific to a subject taught by the teacher, such as math, science, or English. Multiple subject permits and credentials are required for elementary school teachers who generally teach several subjects. Through CTC, the state enforces qualification standards for new teachers and requires ongoing training for existing teachers. (Additional discussion and recommendations related to CTC can be found on page E-63 of this Analysis.)

Until recently, most people entered teaching after (1) completing a CTC-approved "fifth-year" training program offered by a graduate school of education and (2) passing several state-required tests. Once prospective teachers completed their training and passed the required tests, they submitted an application to CTC, which in turn issued a "preliminary" credential valid for five years. While this remains the most common pathway to teaching in California, the increased demand for teachers caused by class size reduction, high attrition rates, and retirements has increased the use of alternative routes. Figure 1 describes the major ways a person can enter teaching and the requirements for each route.

Preliminary Credential. As mentioned above, the preliminary credential is the most common pathway to teaching. Following their receipt of a bachelor's degree, prospective teachers complete a fifth-year program which includes courses on teaching methods and a semester of supervised student-teaching. Then, before applying for a credential from CTC, prospective teachers must pass the following tests:

After reviewing an applicant's records to confirm that all training and testing requirements are met, CTC issues a preliminary credential valid for five years. Teachers may renew their credential and convert it to a "clear" credential (good for another five years), if they meet specific renewal requirements. Every five years teachers must meet the following requirements for renewal: (1) complete 150 hours of professional growth (usually through staff development offered by school districts or classes offered by universities and colleges) and (2) 90 days of professional service (includes time spent as a full-time or part-time teacher).

Alternative Credential. The requirements for an alternative credential are almost the same as those for a preliminary credential. Instead of a fifth-year training program, however, alternative credential candidates participate in a two-year internship program coordinated by an institute of higher education and/or a school district. These programs are designed to attract people entering teaching as a second career because they allow them to work as paid intern-teachers while training to become a teacher. Upon completion of an internship program, interns receive a preliminary credential valid for five years.

Emergency Permit. Districts that are unable to fill teaching vacancies with individuals holding appropriate teaching credentials can request from CTC emergency permits that allow noncredentialed individuals to teach. To qualify for an emergency permit a person must (1) hold a bachelor's degree, (2) have passed the CBEST, and (3) demonstrate intent to pursue a teaching credential. The level of prior training in teaching for emergency permit holders varies dramatically. For instance, a person with a multiple-subject credential allowing that person to teach grades K-8 may apply for a single-subject emergency permit to teach ninth grade math because a district cannot find enough teachers credentialed in this area. At the other extreme, an emergency permit holder could be someone with no teaching experience. The permit allows a person to teach for one school year and may be renewed up to four times for a potential total period of five years. To renew the permit, individuals must take six units of college course work during the year.

Thirty-Day Substitute Permit. The requirements for a substitute permit are similar to those for an emergency permit, except a bachelor's degree is not required if a person has completed six semesters of college and is currently enrolled at a four-year university or college. Generally, substitutes cannot teach a given class for more than 30 calendar days in a row or 60 days in the school year. When no full-time teacher--either credentialed or holding an emergency permit--can be found to fill a vacancy, districts can place a series of substitutes in a classroom.

Special Considerations for Out-of-State Teachers. California's requirements for a teaching credential are among the most exacting in the nation. Until recently, California did not recognize teaching credentials from other states. This meant that out-of-state teachers with teaching experience found themselves having to meet California's academic and student teaching requirements before they could apply for a credential. The recent need for teachers highlighted the excessive barriers placed before out-of-state teachers, and in the 1997-98 session, the Legislature passed several bills to make it easier for qualified out-of-state teachers to become credentialed in California. For instance, Chapter 547, Statutes of 1997 (AB 1620, Scott), allows school districts to hire experienced teachers from out-of-state if they have received training comparable to that required in California. Also, Chapter 331, Statutes of 1998 (AB 858, Davis), allows out-of-state teachers with National Board certification to immediately become credentialed California teachers.

Credential or Permit Waiver. Under certain circumstances school districts and county offices of education can request waivers of specific requirements for any of the above credentials or permits. According to CTC, in 1996-97 approximately 1.5 percent of all teachers were teaching under a waiver. A significant number of waivers are granted to permit holders who have not passed the CBEST exam. Some waivers are also granted to individuals teaching outside of their credential subject area as an alternative to issuing an emergency permit for this same purpose.

Who Is Teaching?

California's need for teachers has been affected by both circumstance and policy choices. Some of the need is due to underlying demographics--growth in student enrollment and anticipated growth in teacher retirements. The state's policy choice to implement class size reduction on a rapid and statewide scale added greatly to the underlying demand for new teachers. Figure 2 (see next page) compares growth in enrollment with growth in the number of teachers. The sharply increased growth rate in teachers beginning in 1996-97 is due primarily to class size reduction.

Figure 3 provides a comparative overview of teachers from 1995-96 through 1997-98. During this brief time period, the age, level of experience, and other demographics of teachers have changed.

Figure 3
Characteristics of California Public School Teachers
1995-96 1996-97 1997-98
Number of teachers 231,112 248,886 268,779
Average age 43.5 43.1 42.8
Average years of experience 14.4 14.2 13.3
Average salary $42,243 $42,991 $44,585
Percent female 71% 72% 72%
Percent white, nonhispanic 80% 79% 78%
Percent with master's degree or higher 34% 32% 31%
Percent with emergency permit 5% 8% 11%

Teachers Are Younger and Less Experienced. The average age of teachers has decreased from 43.5 years in 1995-96 to 42.8 years in 1997-98. In addition, during the same time period the average number of years of experience has decreased from 14.4 years to 13.3 years. Around one-third of the teachers in classrooms today will retire within the next ten years. Currently, the average retiring teacher has around 25 years of teaching experience. New teachers hired to replace retired teachers, however, do not tend to stay in teaching. High attrition rates among relatively new teachers (less than five years of experience) means that California's experienced teachers will be replaced by a stream of younger and less experienced teachers.

More People Are Trained to Teach Than Actually Work in Classrooms. Although the state's number of active teachers is growing over time so too are the number of "inactive" teachers. For instance, in 1996-97 California teacher preparation programs recommended around 28,000 people for teaching credentials. Of these people, only around 70 percent went directly to teaching jobs in California public schools. The gap between people completing credential programs and new teachers is noteworthy because of the extreme need for teachers. It is possible that at some time in the future some of these people may teach, but it is uncertain how often this occurs. High attrition rates compound the effect of the gap. After five years, around half of public school teachers leave the system. These teachers may be leaving to teach at private or out-of-state schools, or they may be leaving the profession for other opportunities. However, the state does not have a good sense of where these teachers are going because neither CTC nor the Department of Education track this important information.

Increasing Number of Emergency Permit Teachers. School districts, in response to the trends noted above, have turned increasingly to hiring people holding emergency permits. Around two-thirds of California school districts employ teachers with emergency permits. The percentage of teachers with emergency permits has increased from 5 percent of teachers in 1995-96 to 11 percent in 1997-98.

Many low-income urban and rural areas rely heavily on emergency permit teachers. These districts face special problems in recruiting and retaining quality teachers. As shown in Figure 4 (see next page), emergency permit teachers account for 38 percent of all teachers in Compton Unified School District (Los Angeles County) and 21 percent in Reef-Sunset Unified School District (Kings County). In these districts, even a higher percentage of new teachers are emergency permit holders. For instance, over 50 percent of newly hired teachers in Compton Unified and Reef-Sunset Unified are teaching under emergency permits. As discussed above, emergency permit teachers generally come to teaching with limited teaching training and experience.

Figure 4
Percent of Teachers with Emergency Permits for Selected School Districts
School District Percent
Compton Unified (Los Angeles) 38%
Inglewood Unified (Los Angeles) 35
Ravenswood City Elementary (San Mateo) 28
Reef-Sunset Unified (Kings) 21
Delano Union Elementary (Kern) 19
Imperial Unified (Imperial) 19
Los Angeles Unified (Los Angeles) 18
Tulare Joint Union High (Tulare) 16
Oakland Unified (Oakland) 13
Dinuba Elementary (Tulare) 13

Evaluating New Proposals

California needs more quality teachers. To meet this challenge will require recruiting new talented teachers, encouraging qualified teachers that have left the profession to return, and retaining existing quality teachers. In addition, it will require raising the quality of existing teachers, and encouraging those teachers not up to the job to find another calling.

The state has taken several steps in recent years to improve teacher supply and quality. For example, new programs encourage classroom aides and emergency permit holders to pursue training to become fully credentialed teachers. In addition, the Legislature approved $67 million in the 1998-99 Budget Act to fully fund the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA) program, which provides support and training to first- and second-year teachers. Last year, the Legislature also provided increased retirement benefits for teachers that teach past the age of 62.

In the coming months, the Legislature will be considering many new teacher quality proposals, including various ones in the Governor's budget. When evaluating new proposals we suggest the Legislature consider the following principles from our Special Session Guide to K-12 Reform (January 1999):

Governor's Proposals To Enhance Teacher Quality

The 1999-00 Governor's Budget proposes spending $58 million in new General Fund resources and $32 million of federal Goals 2000 funds for new programs targeted at enhancing teacher quality. In this section, we make recommendations regarding each of these proposals, which are listed below:

Reading Professional Development Institutes

We recommend that the Legislature delete $12 million ($6 million to the University of California and $6 million of Proposition 98 funds) for Reading Professional Development Institutes because this type of training can be provided through existing programs, including the California Subject Matter Projects administered by the University of California and because the proposal is too narrowly drawn to address high-priority staff development needs. We recommend providing these funds instead to school districts for staff development priorities they identify.

The budget provides $6 million to UC to plan, develop, and administer an intensive training program ("Reading Professional Development Institutes") for teams of teachers and administrators involved in teaching reading to students in kindergarten through grade 3. The budget provides an additional $6 million to school districts for stipends of $1,000 for each of the 6,000 participating teachers. Teachers trained through this program are expected to return to their schools as "coaches" to other teachers.

California Subject Matter Projects (CSMP) Provide Training Already. The budget also appropriates $15 million to UC to fund "subject matter projects" in six areas (UC and California State University fund three additional programs using their own special funds), including reading and literature. This is the same amount provided for this purpose in the 1998-99 Budget Act. Through the CSMP, the university provides training each year to 67,000, or 25 percent, of California's public school teachers. This training is led by accomplished teachers and college and university faculty (from both public and private schools) at around 100 sites throughout the state. The projects develop teachers' content knowledge and teaching strategies through summer institutes and school-year programs. After training, teachers return to their school sites to assist other teachers as coaches and mentors.

The proposed Reading Professional Development Institutes are similar in form and content to programs offered at CSMP. We do not think it is necessary to create a new training program when an effective and proven program exists.

Proposal Too Narrowly Drawn. School districts should be able to choose the type of staff development training that best meets their needs. As we discussed earlier, these needs vary between schools and between districts. Permitting flexible use of resources allows districts to directly address their areas of need. Under the Governor's proposal, funding would only be available for the reading institutes. There are many other staff development opportunities that districts may view as high priorities, including CSMP, but the new funding would not be available for these purposes.

For these reasons, we recommend deleting $12 million for the Governor's proposed Reading Professional Development Institutes. Instead, we recommend providing the $12 million to districts as part of a staff development block grant. (Detailed recommendations for a staff development block grant are made later in this section.)

Governor's Teacher Scholars and Principal Leadership Institutes

We recommend that the Legislature delete $1 million for the University of California to plan and develop the Governor's Teacher Scholars Program and Principal Leadership Institutes because the proposal limits the ability of prospective participants to choose programs that best fit their needs. As an alternative, we recommend that the $1 million be used to expand the number of Cal Grant T scholarships for prospective teachers across the state to allow greater access and choice for prospective teachers.

From the General Fund, the budget proposes $500,000 to UC to plan and develop the Governor's Teacher Scholars program and $500,000 to plan and develop the Governor's Principal Leadership Institutes. Under the Governor's proposal, UC would begin spending these funds in the current year, as soon as urgency legislation (AB 2x, Mazzoni and Cunneen) providing the appropriation is enacted. Bachelor's degree holders in the Teacher Scholars program would be able to take the necessary course work for a teaching credential and master's degree in 15 months. Principal Leadership Institutes would provide administrator preparation training to teachers with an interest in becoming a principal. This training would be provided over two years and would result in a master's degree and/or progress towards a doctoral degree.

These training programs would be available at two UC campuses--Berkeley and Los Angeles. When fully operational, each campus would train 400 students annually in each of the programs. Thus, the total annual enrollment would be 800 when fully phased in. All participating students would receive a full scholarship, funded through private donations, for student fees and supplies. We estimate that UC would have to raise $4 million for this purpose.

Maximize Effect by Putting Resources Into Existing Scholarship Program. If UC considers the proposed programs a high priority for improvement of its current teacher and administrator training programs it may be appropriate for the system to develop these types of programs. However, we believe the state can better use its resources by using the proposed $1 million instead for Cal Grant T scholarships. Additional scholarships would allow prospective teachers to choose training that best meets their individual needs. For this reason, we recommend deleting $1 million for the planning of these programs. We recommend using the $1 million instead to expand the Cal Grant T program. This would provide an additional 220 prospective teachers with teacher preparation scholarships.

Teacher Peer Review and Assistance Program

We recommend that the Legislature make school district participation in the Governor's proposed teacher peer review and assistance program voluntary and reject the proposal to eliminate the mentor teacher program. We further recommend combining funding for the existing Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program with the existing mentor teacher program and the $16.8 million proposed for the Governor's new program, in order to allow local districts flexibility to provide support and assessment to all teachers.

The budget proposes eliminating the current mentor teacher program by July 1, 2000, and implementing in its place the California Teacher Peer Review and Assistance program. This proposed program would use exemplary teachers to assist veteran teachers in need of development in subject matter knowledge and/or teaching strategies. The budget proposes to add $16.8 million of new funding to train experienced teachers as mentors for the proposed program, which would become fully operational in 2000-01. School districts would receive $1,000 per teacher trained for this program. The Governor's proposal also includes $83.2 million for the existing mentor teacher program, but in 2000-01 this funding would be transferred to the new program.

Both appropriations for the budget year--a total of $100 million--are included in the special session legislation for this proposal (AB 1x, Villaraigosa and Strom-Martin), rather than in the budget bill. This bill also requires school districts to negotiate with the certificated employees' exclusive representative to create joint teacher-administrator peer review panels. These panels would select the mentor teachers. In addition, the proposed legislation allows districts to use student progress on state-adopted standardized tests as one basis to evaluate teachers. Districts that choose not to participate in this program will not receive their annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for revenue limits or any other state-funded program.

The Mentor Teacher Program. Since 1984 the state has provided school districts with funding for mentor teachers. This program allows a district to select up to 5 percent of its teachers to serve as mentors to other teachers. The 1998-99 Budget Act provides school districts $5,680 per mentor teacher. Most of the funding, between $4,000 and $4,629, must go towards teacher stipends.

Most school districts with BTSA programs use a portion of their mentor teacher funds to meet the local matching requirement of BTSA. Mentor teachers assist and support first- and second-year teachers in the program. The partnership between BTSA and mentor teachers has contributed to the success of BTSA.

Good Ideas, But Implementation Needs Improvement. Ongoing constructive teacher evaluation and support for teachers in need of improvement are important elements of any plan to improve teaching quality. For this reason, we support the overall goal of the Governor's proposal. We have significant concerns, however, with the specific approach taken by the Governor to implement these ideas.

Support and Build Upon Existing Programs. We believe the Governor's proposal can be improved upon by addressing the above concerns. Specifically, we recommend making peer assistance a local option rather than what is in effect a mandate. Districts that choose to participate would work with local collective bargaining units to develop a program that best meets local needs. Furthermore, we recommend preserving the mentor teacher program and combining its funding ($83 million) with funding for BTSA ($72 million) and funding proposed for the Teacher Peer Review and Assistance Program ($16.8 million). This would provide a total of $172 million and would allow local districts flexibility to provide support and assessment to all teachers. This also would allow districts to better direct resources to meet local needs.

Paraprofessional Teacher Training

We recommend approval of the $6.6 million proposed augmentation from Proposition 98 funds for paraprofessional teacher training. We recommend deleting the $3.4 million augmentation in federal Goals 2000 funding for the same program because our recommended level of funding allows adequate expansion. The federal resources should be used instead to address more immediate teacher training needs.

There are around 90,000 paraprofessionals--teachers' assistants, library-media aides, and instructional assistants--working in California's public schools. The current- year budget includes $1.5 million from Proposition 98 funds to provide scholarships and support to around 500 paraprofessionals interested in becoming credentialed teachers. The CTC is responsible for the administration of this program. The budget proposes a $10 million increase in funding, for a total of $11.5 million. This would provide services to an additional 3,300 paraprofessionals. Generally, paraprofessionals lack bachelor's degrees and have completed relatively few college courses. The scholarships allow them to enroll as a part-time student in a college or university while working part-time as a paraprofessional. Because of their part-time status, it usually takes many years of commitment before a paraprofessional can become a fully credentialed classroom teacher.

The Legislature approved funds for expansion of the paraprofessional program in the 1998-99 Budget Act. Former Governor Wilson vetoed the augmentation because he felt it was a higher priority to fund assistance programs for people who already possess their bachelor's degree.

Balance Long-Term Investment With Short-Term Needs. While it is worthwhile to make an investment in furthering the training of paraprofessionals, there are several other immediate teacher preparation and training priorities that also merit funding. For this reason, we recommend that the Legislature approve a balanced expansion of the paraprofessional training program by providing the $6.6 million augmentation requested from Proposition 98 funds. This would allow a more than five-fold program expansion in the budget year. We further recommend that the Legislature redirect the $3.4 million of federal Goals 2000 monies to staff development to address immediate teacher training needs. (The use of these funds is discussed in more detail later in this section.)

Teacher Credential Fee Waiver

We recommend deleting $1.5 million included to "backfill" revenue loss from a proposed waiver of the $60 teacher credential fee for new teachers because the waiver would have little to no effect on teacher supply. These funds would be more effective at attracting additional new teachers if used to provide more scholarships for qualified and financially needy students. We therefore recommend that the Legislature use the $1.5 million to fund an estimated 325 additional scholarships under the Cal Grant T program.

After meeting CTC's training and testing requirements prospective teachers apply for a teaching credential, which is renewable every five years. The CTC charges applicants a processing fee, which fully funds all CTC operations related to credentialing. The budget proposes to
(1) waive the $60 fee for all new teachers as a means of attracting more people to the profession and (2) replace the lost fee revenues for CTC operations with $1.5 million from the General Fund (non-Proposition 98).

Waiving the credentialing fee for new teachers would have little to no impact on the number of people entering teaching. Anyone who has reached the point of deciding whether to apply for a credential already has made considerable investments of time and money--fees for required tests and fingerprints costing around $500 in addition to the costs of training, which range from $2,500 to $15,000. It is difficult to imagine that a $60 fee would dissuade people from applying for a credential. Thus, waiving the fee would have no effect on the state's supply of teachers. As a result, the proposed expenditure of $1.5 million is not an effective use of state funds.

There are effective ways of boosting teacher supply. For instance, last year the Legislature enacted the Cal Grant T program, providing scholarships for fifth year teacher preparation programs. Currently funded at $10 million, the Cal Grant T program provides over 2,000 scholarships to students for teacher preparation programs who meet academic and financial requirements. By focusing resources on those for whom such help can make the difference in choosing teaching as a career, programs like Cal Grant T help the state attract more people to teaching.

In view of the above, we recommend that the Legislature delete the $1.5 million proposed "backfill" for waiving the credential fee for new teachers. Instead, we recommend that the Legislature use the $1.5 million to increase Cal Grant T funding. The $1.5 million would provide an estimated 325 additional teacher preparation candidates with scholarships.

Staff Development Block Grant

We recommend that the Legislature provide $53.9 million ($22 million from the General Fund and $31.9 million in federal Goals 2000 funds) to school districts for staff development training to address immediate teacher quality training needs.

In addition to the specific training problems proposed by the budget, school districts also need flexible resources to meet their general training needs. The budget proposes using $28.5 million of federal Goals 2000 funds for grants to local school districts for in-service mathematics staff development and tuition grants to allow mathematics teachers to take college-level mathematics courses.

The current-year budget includes $30 million in one-time Proposition 98 funding for a similar purpose. In our Analysis of the 1998-99 Budget Bill, we recommend against providing funding for this program for two reasons: (1) the proposal unnecessarily restricted local flexibility in meeting staff development needs by limiting expenditures to mathematics staff development, and (2) the tuition grant proposal was so broad that a teacher could take virtually any college-level mathematics course, regardless of its relevance to a school's curriculum or a teacher's staff development needs. We continue to have similar concerns with this year's proposal for mathematics staff development using Goals 2000 funds.

Provide Flexible Funds Through a Block Grant. Given these concerns, we cannot recommend that the Legislature approve the Governor's proposal. However, we recognize that districts have staff development needs. We also believe Goals 2000 funds are a reasonable source with which to support staff development activities. Therefore, we recommend approving $31.9 million in Goals 2000 funding for a staff development block grant ($28.5 million from the budget's math staff development proposal and $3.4 million from our recommendation on the paraprofessional training program). We further recommend including in the block grant $10 million proposed for English language learners staff development to increase local flexibility over how these funds are used. (Under our recommendation, consistent with the Governor's proposal, this $10 million would be distributed to districts based on their number of limited-English-proficient pupils.) In addition, we recommend providing an additional $12 million (General Fund) for the block grant (from our recommendation on the proposed reading professional development institutes earlier in this section). This would provide a total of $53.9 million for this block grant. These funds would be available to support district priorities for staff development.

Commission on Teacher Credentialing

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) was established in 1970 to ensure that high standards are set and met for teacher preparation and licensing of public school educators. It issues permits and credentials to all classroom teachers, student services specialists, school administrators, and child care instructors and administrators. In total, there are over 100 different types of documents issued by CTC.

As concern over teacher quality grows, so does attention to CTC's role in the process of ensuring high standards for teachers. In 1995 CTC convened the Advisory Panel for the Comprehensive Review of Teacher Credentialing Requirements (also known as the SB 1422 Advisory Panel from Chapter 1245, Statutes of 1992 [SB 1422, Bergeson]) to recommend improvements for teacher preparation and credentialing. In November of 1997 the SB 1422 Advisory Panel released its report, which included a statement of educational goals and recommended systemic changes for teacher preparation and training. Last year the Legislature adopted Chapter 548, Statutes of 1998 (SB 2042, Alpert and Mazzoni), implementing several of the SB 1422 Advisory Panel recommendations. Specifically, Chapter 548 encourages institutions of higher education to offer education minors and create "blended" programs so undergraduates can begin their teacher preparation earlier. The enacted legislation also requires that teacher training activities be aligned with state-adopted standards for teachers.

The section "Evaluating New Proposals" includes our recommendations related to the Governor's proposal to waive the $60 CTC credential fee for new teachers. In this item, we address additional recommendations for CTC.

Deny Request for Permanent and New Positions

We recommend that the Legislature deny the Commission on Teacher Credentialing's (CTC) request for $449,000, eight additional positions, and conversion of 6.5 limited-term positions to permanent status, because these positions are not adequately justified. As an alternative, we recommend that the Legislature provide $250,000 from the Teacher Credentials Fund for a comprehensive review of CTC's structure and credential processing protocols, in order to find more efficient ways of accomplishing workload.

The budget provides $449,000 for eight new positions for CTC in 1999-00 in addition to converting 6.5 limited-term positions approved in the 1998-99 Budget Act to permanent status effective July 1, 1999. If approved, this staffing level reflects over 20 percent growth in the permanent staffing of CTC since fiscal year 1997-98.

Meeting Workload Demands Requires Systemic Change, Not Just More Workers. The commission's workload has increased significantly since the implementation of class size reduction. It must process more credentials, respond to more questions from applicants, and review more discipline cases. As an alternative to increasing staffing levels, CTC has done little to improve its processing protocols.

It takes on average between 4 and 12 weeks for CTC to perform its primary task--processing a request for a teaching credential or permit. This processing time is excessively long compared to agencies with similar responsibilities, such as the state nurses and medical boards. This long processing time results from CTC's application review protocols. Although more positions may reduce this processing time, we believe that CTC would be able to make similar gains by improving how it processes credentials.

A comprehensive review of CTC's structure and credential processing protocols would answer the following important questions:

Invest in Good Information to Inform Future Decisions. Providing CTC with additional permanent positions at this time would serve as a band-aid fix for its current backlogs. It avoids addressing the structural reasons for the backlogs. From our observations of CTC we believe it can make significant efficiency gains by modifying its organizational structure and processing protocols.

For the above reasons, we recommend the following:

This item of appropriation includes $250,000 for the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), with the collaboration and assent of the Department of Finance and the Legislative Analyst's Office, to develop a request for proposals (RFP) to conduct a comprehensive review of CTC's organizational structure and credential processing protocols. The three agencies shall select a contractor for this study that meets the requirements outlined in the RFP. The three agencies shall submit a report of the contractor's finding and recommendations to the Governor and the appropriate policy and fiscal committees in each house no later than March 1, 2000.

Information Technology Requests

We withhold recommendation on the Commission on Teacher Credentialing's (CTC) request for $438,000 from the Teacher Credentials Fund to replace and expand its information technology infrastructure, pending receipt and review of CTC's information technology plan due on March 1, 1999.

In the current year CTC received $113,000 to begin a multiyear process to upgrade its existing computers and acquire additional computers. This funding was provided on two conditions: (1) CTC would complete all year-2000 computer upgrades and (2) an information technology plan would be developed and submitted to the Legislature for review by March 1, 1999. The CTC has completed all system-critical year-2000 computer upgrades, but at the time this Analysis was prepared it had not yet completed its information technology plan.

The budget provides CTC with $438,000 from the Teacher Credentials Fund to expand efforts to upgrade and replace computers. The CTC is requesting these funds because many of its computers are old and have insufficient memory to work effectively. The request appears reasonable. However, an increase of this magnitude needs to be justified in the context of the long-term information technology plan currently under preparation.

We anticipate CTC's report will be available by March 1, 1999. Pending receipt and review of the report, we withhold recommendation on the $438,000 budget request.

Governor's Accountability Proposals

The 1999-00 Governor's Budget includes a total of $207 million for initiatives aimed at establishing a system of accountability for the state's public K-12 school system. Of this total, $12.4 million is proposed for the California Community Colleges (CCC) for "high school report cards" and "middle college high schools." We discuss these proposals in the CCC section of this Analysis. The remaining funds proposed in the budget for K-12 accountability are included in two special session bills. Senate Bill 2x (O'Connell) includes $2 million for development of a high school exit exam, which we discuss later in this section. Senate Bill 1x (Alpert) includes $160 million from Proposition 98 funds and $32 million from federal funds, for the Governor's main accountability programs. We discuss the proposals contained in SB 1x below.

The Governor's "Public School Performance Accountability Program," contained in SB 1x, has three distinct parts described below:

Academic Performance Index. Under the Governor's proposal, the Superintendent would design an Academic Performance Index (API) for each public school based upon at least three components: (1) Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test scores, (2) student and school staff attendance rates, and (3) high school graduation rates. Test scores and other data from spring 1999 would be used as the base year for judging subsequent changes in the API. The State Board of Education would determine the "proficient" level of API scores.

High Achieving/Improving Schools Program. Schools would be eligible for "Governor's Performance Awards" under the High Achieving/Improving Schools Program beginning in the budget year for either (1) exceeding the proficient level for the API, or (2) improving upon its prior-year API by a growth target set by the state board, which must be at least 5 percent. The budget includes $150 million (General Fund) for these awards. Schools that do not meet at least one of the above expectations may be forced to participate in the Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program beginning with the 2000-01 fiscal year.

Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program. The budget proposes $42.3 million for an Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program, involving 200 low-performing schools. A more detailed description of this program and our recommendations follows later in this section.

The Governor's set of proposals provides a framework for implementing an accountability system, but leaves many important details to be worked out either by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or the state board.

LAO Guidelines for a State Accountability System

Earlier this year, we provided the Legislature A Special Session Guide to K-12 Reform (January 1999) in which we outlined the following guiding principles for the Legislature to consider in designing an accountability system:

We applied these principles in reviewing the Governor's proposals and in making recommendations.

Governor's Performance Awards

Technical Funding Change Would Make $150 Million Available for Upcoming School Year

We recommend that the Legislature approve the proposed appropriation for the Governor's Performance Awards for expenditure in 2000-01. This would make available (on a one-time basis) an additional $150 million for schools in the upcoming school year without any practical delay in the first payments of the Governor's Performance Awards.

Under the Governor's proposal, the first annual selection of schools to receive Governor's Performance Awards is to be made by the state board based on API scores to be calculated in June 2000. SB 1x appropriates $150 million for the performance awards for the 1999-00 fiscal year. This presumes that the state board would be able in the month of June to (1) calculate all the school API scores, (2) determine on the basis of those API scores which schools are to receive performance awards, and (3) make the award payments. This schedule is overly optimistic. First, the school API scores depend, in part, on student scores on the STAR test, which is administered under current law as late as May 25th. The API scores for high schools also depend on graduation rates, which cannot be determined until the school year ends. Apart from these considerations, too many things would have to go right in processing scores and payments for over 8,000 schools for the award payments to be made before the fiscal year ended. Finally, even if the payments were made in June, as a practical matter, schools could only put the funds to effective use as part of their subsequent school year budget (2000-01).

In view of the above, it seems inadvisable to tie up $150 million of Proposition 98 funds for a school year in which the funds cannot be used. We propose a simple solution: change the funding start date from 1999-00 to 2000-01. This would cause no practical delay in the award payments. It would, at the same time, allow the Legislature to get an additional $150 million out to the schools (for various one-time activities) at the start of the 1999-00 school year. (In the K-12 Priorities section of this Chapter we recommend a list of one-time spending priorities for this $150 million.)

Hold Districts Accountable for School Performance

We recommend that the Legislature make school districts the state's point of contact in the proposed High Achieving/Improving Schools Program.

As we discussed in our Special Session Guide to K-12 Reform, the state should make school districts its point of contact in any state accountability framework. Local school districts are given important responsibility in almost all aspects of school life. They are designed, through locally elected boards, to reflect local community priorities and concerns, and are in a better position than the state to determine how best to motivate their own schools, administrators, and teachers to improve performance.

The Governor's approach bypasses school districts by giving performance awards directly to schools. It is not necessary, nor advisable, however, to exclude school districts from the performance awards (given under the High Achieving/Improving Schools Program). For example, if districts were given a formal role in the accountability system, the state could specify that districts make sure that most, if not all, of their schools attain desired levels of improvement. Under the administration's approach, there are no direct roles for districts, so no such expectations are made of them. Indeed, in the absence of explicit expectations on districts, the incentives for districts can be counter-productive. That is, a modest number of schools within the district boundary receiving Governor's performance awards may be enough for a district to portray itself as a success, and diminish any incentive for it to improve performance at its other schools. As we pointed out in our special session guide, for an accountability system to work, districts need to be accountable to the state and schools need to be accountable to districts.

Accordingly, we recommend that the Legislature amend SB 1x to make districts the state's point of contact in the High Achieving/Improving Schools Program.

Authorize Districts to Give Bonuses As Part of Performance Awards

We recommend that the Legislature amend SB 1x to authorize school districts to use Governor's performance awards to grant bonuses to school staff, in order to give districts an additional "tool" for rewarding the people responsible for improved school performance.

As discussed above, the Governor's accountability proposal includes $150 million annually for "Governor's performance awards," to be given each year to schools that show high achievement or improvement, based on criteria to be developed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. These performance awards will need to be spent on one-time activities that do not commit schools to ongoing expenditures, because no school can be assured that it will receive an award each year.

In order to add another useful purpose to local spending options, we recommend that the Legislature authorize local districts (or schools) to use Governor's performance awards for one-time bonuses to reward school staff. This option could serve as an important motivating tool. Moreover, since the performance awards are intended to reward schools for superior achievement or improvement, it would be particularly appropriate to use the funds to directly reward school staff who made the achievements possible.

Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program

The 1999-00 Governor's Budget proposes $32.3 million in federal funding and $10 million in Proposition 98 funds for the Immediate Intervention/Underperforming Schools Program, both appropriations included in SB 1x. This new program would support school reform activities in 200 schools selected from the nearly 5,000 schools across the state that are estimated to score below the national average on the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR) in both 1997-98 and 1998-99. This program is modeled after the federal Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Program and will have to follow that program's rules to qualify for the $32.3 million in federal funds. The federal program is very prescriptive, and it requires funding to go directly to schools, thereby bypassing districts. For this reason, the Legislature would be unable to use districts as the state's point of contact for this program.

Under the federal program, California is eligible to receive over $16 million annually for a three-year period for comprehensive school reform starting in the current year. Governor Wilson's veto of the first $16 million in the current year however, has made a total $32.3 million available for the budget year. Of these federal funds, $26.5 million must be spent on Title I schools. The 1999-00 Governor's Budget augments these federal funds with $10 million in Proposition 98 funds, making $42.3 million available for the 200 schools (an average of over $210,000 per school). The Governor's proposal provides schools with between $25,000 and $50,000 for planning grants. With the planning grants, schools are to hire an "external evaluator" who, with the assistance of a broad-based schoolsite and community team, will develop an action plan to improve the academic achievement of the school's pupils. A school submitting an action plan by March 1, 2000 (for purposes of the first annual round), will receive an implementation grant of $150 per pupil for each fiscal year the school is in the program.

What Is Comprehensive School Reform?

The Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Program (also known as the "Obey-Porter" program after the congressional authors) is a three-year federal effort to encourage the implementation of school reform programs that are based upon promising practices to improve schools. The initial federal legislation identified 17 model programs (including Success for All, Modern Red School House, Accelerated School Projects, and Roots and Wings), but allows the funds to be used on other program models that meet specified criteria. Currently, over 40 program models are recognized by the federal government as meeting the requirements of the federal law. In the Governor's proposal, the State Board of Education would adopt a list of programs that it believes meet the federal requirements, and state goals.

The Governor's Proposal Appears to Overbudget for Its Stated Purposes

The Governor's proposal overestimates the cost of providing $150 per pupil to the 200 schools. Assuming that all 200 schools received the maximum planning grant of $50,000, a minimum of $32.3 million would remain available under his proposal for the implementation grants. If the average sizes of the elementary, middle and high schools participating in the immediate intervention program approximate the statewide average sizes, only $24 million would be required for the implementation grants at the proposed $150 per pupil amount. Looked at another way, in order to use up the entire $32.3 million available for implementation grants, the average size of the schools participating in the program would have to exceed the statewide average by 40 percent. This does not seem likely.

The apparent overbudgeting for implementation grants opens up at least three options: (1) appropriate less money for the program, (2) increase the number of participating schools, or (3) increase the per-pupil grant amount.

Modify the Funding Mechanism

We recommend that the Legislature increase the implementation grants to $175 per student, and that the funding be a lump-sum that schools could use over the two years of the program.

As discussed above, the overbudgeting for implementation grants provides the Legislature with three options. In this section, we recommend the option of increasing the per-pupil funding level at each school as well as covering the cost of both program years upfront. Based on our calculations, the Legislature could increase the funding level for each school from $150 per student to $175 per student. As we explain below, providing planning grants between $25,000 to $50,000 plus $175 per student will allow the Legislature to provide schools with enough funding to pay for the two-year program costs with the amount included in the budget.

The Northwest Regional Education Laboratory, under contract with the U.S. Department of Education, has produced a catalog of all of the Comprehensive School Reform models describing in-depth each of the models, and typical experienced costs for a school of 500 students. The annual costs of the programs range from $25,000 to $70,000. The laboratory's survey also found that costs are generally larger in the first year, and decrease in the following years. On the basis of two years of program participation (the standard under the Governor's proposal), total program costs at the high end of the range in the study would be about $140,000. For the same size school, the Governor's proposal would provide between $100,000 to $125,000 in the first year of the program, and an additional $75,000 in the second year for a two-year total of up to $200,000.

Based on our analysis, the Governor's proposal provides too much funding per school for the cost of the immediate intervention programs. We propose providing implementation grants of $175 per pupil ($25 higher than the Governor) as a lump-sum for the two years of the program. Assuming planning grants of $25,000 to $50,000 per school (same as the Governor), a 500 pupil school would receive a total of $112,000 to $138,000, an amount commensurate with the high end of the range for the comprehensive school reform models.

Provide Funding in a Lump-Sum Instead of Annually. A way of allowing schools greater flexibility to choose the best program for them is to grant the schools all of the funding for the length of the program in one lump-sum payment instead of annual payments. A second advantage to the lump-sum grant approach is that schools will recognize that this is a temporary funding source which will not be continued indefinitely.

Based on our calculations, the Governor's proposal provides enough funding for 200 schools to receive all of their funding in a lump-sum payment in the budget year. In subsequent years, the Legislature could then expand the number of schools participating relative to the Governor's approach, because the full amount needed for the first round of schools already would have been provided in 1999-00. Thus, we recommend that the Legislature increase the amount of the implementation grant to $175 per pupil, and provide all of the funds as one lump-sum grant instead of an ongoing grant.

School Participation Should Be Voluntary

We recommend that the Legislature revise the Governor's immediate intervention program to make it strictly voluntary.

The Governor's initiative stipulates that if fewer than 200 schools volunteer for the Immediate Intervention program, the Superintendent of Public Instruction shall randomly select schools to participate. (These would be selected from schools performing below average.) We believe that it is necessary to have the program remain voluntary for two reasons--(1) federal law requires it, and (2) the reform programs require local support to succeed.

In order to receive the funds from the federal government, California must use the funds for competitive grants reviewed by "experts." So, a school would have to actually apply for the funds, and SDE would have to have experts evaluate the merits of the proposal based on some criteria. We do not believe that the Governor's proposal is consistent with the federal law. We recognize that the federal rules would only apply to the $32 million in federal funds, and that SDE could provide grants to mandated schools with the $10 million from the General Fund. However, the second reason to maintain a voluntary program is that all of the comprehensive school reform programs require school faculty to "buy-in" to the reform process. Of the programs we surveyed, the school reform models required at least 50 percent of the faculty to vote in support of the plan, while some required as high as 80 to 90 percent faculty "buy-in." Most programs also require some level of parental support. Existing programs realize that without local support, they will not be effective. School faculty are not likely to be highly supportive of a state-mandated school reform plan.

For these reasons, we recommend that the Legislature revise the Governor's proposal by making participation strictly voluntary. The immediate intervention program concentrates on schools, which appears unavoidable because of the requirements of federal law. Under the Governor's proposal, failure of these schools results in direct state intervention. We believe that school districts should be provided an opportunity to improve these schools prior to state intervention, as discussed in the next section.

Districts Should Intervene First; State Intervention Should Be Last Resort

We recommend that the Legislature require school districts to intervene in schools deemed educationally deficient under the Immediate Intervention Program. Only if school district intervention fails should the State Superintendent of Public Instruction subsequently intervene. In that circumstance, we recommend that the Legislature grant the Superintendent more professional discretion than that proposed by the Governor.

The Governor's proposal specifies that schools not meeting state performance goals after two years in the Immediate Intervention/ Underperforming Schools Program shall be deemed "educationally deficient" schools. The proposal would require the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to assume legal responsibility for these schools, and reassign the principal.

The proposal further requires the State Superintendent to take at least one of the following actions for each educationally deficient school:

Make the Districts Intervene First. The Governor's proposal requires the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to intervene in the governance of educationally deficient schools not as a last resort, but as the first step. Moreover, the proposed intervention mechanism is automatic, leaving little to the professional discretion of the Superintendent. We believe it makes more sense to require the relevant school district to intervene at the first determination that a school is educationally deficient (which would occur after two years in the Immediate Intervention/ Underperforming Schools Program). In most cases, that intervention should be sufficient to achieve desired improvement in the school. If, after another one or two years, a district is unable to "turn the school around," then state interventions may be necessary, as we discuss further below.

Give the Superintendent Greater Flexibility. If after one or two years of district intervention, the school is still considered educationally deficient, the State Superintendent should have the authority to take any of the actions stated above, but should not be required to do so. The Governor's proposal unnecessarily restricts the Superintendent's discretion to determine the best approaches to improve performance at these schools. It also creates an automatic process under which the state could be forced to take over legal responsibilities and duties for numerous schools across the state. While we believe that all of the sanctions proposed by the Governor should be available to the Superintendent as "tools," the decisions of if and how to intervene at any school site should be left to the discretion of the Superintendent, based on professional judgment and the particular circumstances at each educationally deficient school. We therefore recommend that the Legislature amend SB 1x to grant the Superintendent of Public Instruction appropriate professional discretion in determining sanctions for schools deemed to be educationally deficient.

High School Exit Exam

The Governor's budget proposes $2 million in Goals 2000 funds to the State Department of Education (SDE) to develop a high school exit exam in reading, writing, and mathematics to be approved by the State Board of Education by July 2000. The funds and implementing provisions are included in SB 2x (O'Connell). The proposal does not specify when the test would first be administered, but requires that passage of the test be a condition for graduation, beginning with all high school graduating classes of 2003. Although the test represents only a small expense in the budget year, the test could result in expenses in the tens of millions of dollars annually once it is administered to pupils.

Potential Costs of a High School Exit Exam

There are three main costs which will likely result from the implementation of a high school exit exam--test administration, higher retention rates, and remediation costs.

Test Administration. The cost for administering the test would depend, in part, on how much of the test is multiple choice compared to short answer or essay. Other states that have implemented high school exit exams have experienced costs ranging from $5 to $20 per student each time the exam is administered. Another factor is the number of students who would need to retake the test. Some states offer the test as many as four times per year. Based on this information from other states, we estimate that the test administration could cost between $3 million and $15 million per year depending upon the cost per test and the number of students who need to retake it.

Retention. The cost of increased enrollment from retaining high school seniors an extra year is potentially great, but also highly uncertain. Any increase in the number of high school seniors retained for not passing the exam could be canceled out by an increase in high school drop-outs due to student frustrations with the exam. The state General Fund would experience increased costs, however, to the extent a net increase in the number of high school seniors does occur because the Proposition 98 minimum spending guarantee would increase by almost $6,000 for each additional student. For each 1 percent net increase in high school students due to retention, the Proposition 98 cost would be about $20 million.

Remediation. The cost to the state for increased remediation is highly uncertain. California already has a significant amount invested in remediation programs. With a high-stakes graduation test, there may be an increase in demand for these remediation programs, but the extent to which existing efforts would meet the demand is unknown. Because SB 2x mandates that graduation be tied to passage of the exam, the state may face compelling pressures to ensure that all schools have adequate resources to offer necessary remedial education.

Policy Issues on High School Exit Exams

We recommend that the Secretary for Education report to the Legislature at hearings on SB 2x on important design issues for the high school exit exam.

We see the high school exit exam as a good "tool"for districts to use to motivate students and parents. However, there are many significant policy issues that the Legislature needs to first address. For instance, we are concerned that the administration's proposal makes graduation contingent on passage of the exam. This is a decision that may be more appropriately left to locally elected school boards. We think the Legislature should also consider the following:

We recommend that the Secretary of Education report at hearings on SB 2x on these design issues.

Provide SDE With More Choices in Designing the High School Exit Exam

We recommend that the Legislature authorize the State Department of Education to contract out for the design of the exam to any vendor instead of requiring design by a local education agency.

The Governor's proposal calls for SDE to allocate $2 million in Goals 2000 funds to a local education agency (LEA) to evaluate the Golden State Examinations for possible conversion into a high school exit exam. A local education agency is either a county office of education or a school district.

We believe that the Governor is unnecessarily limiting SDE's ability to contract with the best possible vendor. The SDE has contracted evaluation and test designs out to LEAs in the past, but mainly to allow Proposition 98 funds to be used. Since the funding source for this initiative is Goals 2000, and not Proposition 98, the funds could be used for state operations or state contracts. For these reasons, we recommend that the Legislature provide the funding to SDE to contract directly with any vendor to design the high school exit exam. The LEAs could certainly compete for the contract, but the competition pool would be larger under our recommendation.

Return to 1999-00 Budget Analysis Education Table of Contents
Return to 1999-00 Budget Analysis Table of Contents
Return to LAO Home Page