An Agenda for the Future: Mapping the Terrain of California Education

State & Federal Policy

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

**Fensterwald, J. (2017, May 4). State board inscribes 'California Way' on state plan for new federal law [Web log]. Available at

This article reports on California's draft plan for compliance with ESSA, called the California Way, which details how the state will spend federal funds. One main feature of the plan is an accountability website known as the California School Dashboard, the current version of which ranks performance on each of five indicators. These data will determine which schools are in the bottom 5 percent and therefore eligible for more intensive help under ESSA. With changes in federal regulations, states have more control over spending than in the past, and state education officials indicate that the plan "has been written to meet, not exceed, federal requirements." Although the plan describes equity as its guiding principle, advocates express concerns that the plan does not include enough specific goals for improving performance gaps for English learners and low-income students. The article also identifies a set of issues not addressed in this draft which the final plan will need to include. An open comment period was to begin in late May 2017, and the State Board of Education will finalize the plan in September 2017.

Louie, V. (2017). Research to improve outcomes for English learners. William T. Grant Foundation: New York, NY. Available at

The authors argue that current English Learner (EL) classifications and assessments fall short of providing the information needed for educators to best serve this diverse population. ESSA has shifted EL student accountability and reporting requirements to Title I, putting EL student needs front and with other school efforts to improve academic outcomes. In order to reduce inequality for EL students, the article suggests developing assessments that tease out EL student performance on content knowledge, English language proficiency, and academic language, ensuring that educators can use them to meet the full range of EL students needs. They further suggest broadening and deepening the EL student data to help educators serve students differentially and over the course of their entire educational careers, even after reclassification. For instance, different groups of EL students have different needs, and once students are reclassified they may not perform identically to non-EL students. For these reasons a more nuanced data collection could be key to helping educators serve their students.

School Choice

Toll, D., Barth, R., & Peiser, B. (2017, March 28). Trump education budget needs work: Charter school CEOs [Web log]. Available at

Leaders from three major charter school networks voice their opposition to the Trump administration’s March 2017 “skinny budget.” These three networks consider themselves partners with, not alternatives or opponents to, public education. Charter schools serve some of the most disadvantaged populations in the country, and some of the programs with proposed cuts (e.g., Pell grants) are programs students benefit from the most. The authors argue that charter schools cannot fully support their students without these programs. They conclude that they cannot support a budget that helps some, not all, students.

Blume, H. (2016, May 10). Union-commissioned report says charter schools are bleeding money from traditional ones. Los Angeles Times. Available at

The article describes a study conducted by MGT of America to examine the influence of charter schools on finances in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The report concludes that charter schools in Los Angeles County are costing LAUSD over $18 million dollars per year in lost student funding, with a net loss of $4,957 per student. The report suggests that this shortfall is a major threat to LAUSD's financial stability and will impair its ability to maintain building infrastructure and provide special education services. Supporters of charter schools say that the report is misguided because putting financial pressure on traditional school districts to improve their performance is one of the main benefits of charter schools. The California Charter Schools Association also states that the district would be facing significant financial challenges regardless of charters.

Prothero, A. (2017, May 30). Will pro-charter victory in Los Angeles spread to other cities? [Web log]. Education Week. Available at

After a May 2017 runoff election, the most expensive in the county's history, charter school advocates now control over half the seats on the LAUSD school board. The article discusses the ramifications of this change, both in Los Angeles County and elsewhere. Because Los Angeles is home to both high-profile charter school proponents and a large, powerful teachers union, LAUSD often serves as a test ground for battles between pro- and anti-charter groups. Charter school advocates hope to use their majority to adopt an initiative, backed by the Broad Foundation, to double the number of charter schools in Los Angeles County. Advocates also plan to apply the lessons learned from this election to other states and cities.

Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)

Humphrey, D. C., Koppich, J. E., Lavadenz, M., Marsh, J. A., O'Day, J., Plank, D. N., Stokes, L., & Hall, M. (2017). Paving the way to equity and coherence? The Local Control Funding Formula in year three. Policy Analysis for California Education. Available at LCFFRC_04_2017.pdf

This report from the LCFF Research Collaborative draws on case studies of eight California districts to examine several main issues from the third year of LCFF implementation. First, with regard to meaningful stakeholder engagement, districts continue to increase their capacity to enlist their stakeholders; most focus primarily on parents, often through closer engagement with their parent advisory groups. Second, pertaining to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation, most districts refer to the CCSS in their Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP), but only some described standards implementation as central to their goals and strategies. Third, researchers learned that most districts allocated resources to targeted student groups in the form of counselors, additional teachers, social workers, and increased course offerings, but study data revealed divergent interpretations of how to include funds in the LCAP. Last, with regard to equity and coherence, most districts correctly understood the intent of the law to advance equity, yet two districts defined equity differently; one distributed resources equally and another targeted the 10 percent of students mostly likely to attend college. The degree to which LCAPs reflected coherence in district plans varied; some had well-articulated and aligned goals and strategies, while others made little connection between strategies contained in the LCAP and other district efforts. The authors recommend the state and others restate the equity intent of LCFF, that they offer support to increase district capacity, and that they allow districts to develop alternatives to the LCAP template.

Chen, T., & Hahnel, C. (2017). The steep road to resource equity in California education. EdTrust West. Available at

This report investigates the extent to which LCFF has advanced the equity goals that motivated its development. The authors find that high poverty districts are in fact receiving more state and local funds than they did prior to LCFF. Despite this promising development, students at high poverty schools are still less likely to have equal access to resources like counselors, librarians, and advanced courses. The authors further find that while LCFF has increased funding for many districts, it has not necessarily freed them from constraints on spending and programmatic decisions. For example, districts now face increased obligations to fund the teacher retirement system—these payments consume a considerable amount of the additional LCFF funds. To better serve students, the authors suggest that districts push more money, personnel, and access to rigorous coursework to schools with greater percentages of high-need students. The report concludes with a set of suggestions for state leaders and other stakeholders, among them a call to champion the equity intent of the law while increasing transparency for district budgets.

**This document is considered a priority reading.