The Education Trust–West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, kindergarten through college, and to forever close the achievement gaps separating low-income students and students of color from other youth. Our basic tenet is this — All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels.
On March 20, 2013, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released “Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in Oakland,” an in–‐depth study that examines teacher quality policies and practices in the Oakland Unified School District.
The study was commissioned by the Oakland Effective Teaching Coalition, a group made up of diverse organizations committed to helping Oakland’s students succeed and its teachers be supported in the classroom. The Effective Teaching Coalition is comprised of Great Oakland Public Schools Leadership
Center, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), Youth Together, Youth Uprising, The Education Trust—West, SEIU Local1021 and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Our coalition sponsored the NCTQ study so that an organization with an outside perspective could help collect the data, highlight important issues, and increase awareness of ways to support effective teaching. While the NCTQ study does not include every possible solution, the Effective Teaching Coalition agrees the district should seriously engage with the data and the recommendations.
To view the study, go to http://bit.ly/NCTQOak
School finance has the power to bring tears to my eyes. Sometimes, when I am reading the latest School Services of California bulletin, I start squinting. Then I start yawning. Then, before I know it, I’m squinting and yawning simultaneously, causing my eyes to water. When I see the words “revenue limit,” I begin looking for a pillow. The explanation of the difference between a “Test 1” and a “Test 2” year for calculating Proposition 98 funding can actually cause my brain to melt out of my ears.
Despite these disturbing effects, my organization, the Education Trust-West, is focusing our attention on education finance. Earlier this year, we released “The Cruel Divide,” looking at the difference in funding between wealthy and poor districts. After running the numbers, we found that the poorest districts in California actually receive $620 less per pupil than the wealthiest districts. Around the time that we released that paper, the “Occupy” protests were in full swing, and the issue of income inequality was in the media spotlight. To this day, I wonder if I shouldn’t have taken our finance briefs to the Occupy encampment in downtown Oakland and given a detailed explanation of the impact of Proposition 13 on unrestricted school district revenue. My speech would have given protestors something useful to attack – or saved downtown by turning them catatonic.
Last week we released our second finance paper, “Tipping the Scale Towards Equity,” using a new set of school finance data collected by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR). This paper examines differences in spending on teachers and schools inside California’s 20 largest school districts.
To read more, click here.
As the debate over school funding and weighted student formula continues to heat up in California and around the nation, The Education Trust—West releases its latest report, Tipping the Scale Towards Equity: Making Weighted Student Formula Work for California’s Highest-Need Students. Using new data submitted by school districts to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education, this report reveals disturbing school funding inequities and inconsistencies in California’s twenty largest school districts.
“California’s education funding system is fundamentally unfair,” said Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust—West, a statewide education policy, research, and advocacy organization that works to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement for students of color and students in poverty. “As a state, we fail to adequately fund our schools. We fail to fund school districts based on the needs of their students. And as this report reveals, we fail to distribute education dollars to local schools based on student need.”
The report reveals that:
Almost all of California’s 20 largest school districts have significant teacher salary gaps between their highest- and lowest-poverty schools. Within the districts studied, lower-poverty schools with more experienced teachers receive far more funding per teacher than higher-poverty schools. Teachers in better-off schools can earn up to $6,600 more than teachers in the poorest schools. For an average-size elementary school with 34 teachers, the annual teacher funding gap would be $224,000.
Per-pupil school spending is not clearly aligned to student need. For example, within a single district, per-pupil school spending can range from $3,692 to $5,424—a difference of over $1,700. This spending is not clearly targeted to the needs of students in schools or any other discernible metric.
There are large gaps between the per-pupil revenues that districts receive from the state and the dollars per student that they report spending at the school level. For example, one California district took in $7,445 per student in revenue from state and local sources in 2009-10, but reported that it spent, on average, $3,053 per student at the school level that same year. A lack of clear accounting for district- and school-level spending makes it impossible to determine how districts are investing their funding.
“Without a clear and transparent set of accounting rules for education spending at the district and school levels, California’s parents, educators, and other stakeholders can’t understand or evaluate how districts are spending their scarce resources. Nor can they determine whether funding targeted for low-income students and English learners is supporting their educational programs or being used for other purposes,” continued Ramanathan.
The report identifies promising work in other states and California school districts to more equitably distribute education funding to schools; empower school communities to make decisions on spending; and increase financial transparency. The report calls on state policymakers to use the lessons learned from these models and build on Governor Jerry Brown’s 2012 proposal to adopt a weighted student formula (WSF) that would have distributed education funding based on student need. It recommends that any future WSF proposal include strong assurances that the additional funding generated by low-income students and English learners will be spent to support their educational needs. It also recommends that the state adopt a transparent set of rules for district- and school-level expenditures; promote local stakeholder involvement in school spending decisions; and provide strong accountability for spending dollars effectively.
“Governor Brown took an important step in calling for California to shift to a weighted student formula,” continued Ramanathan. “But sending additional dollars to school districts through a WSF model won’t fix the school funding gaps identified in this report. California policymakers must commit to the school-spending equity, transparency, and accountability necessary to make weighted student formula work for high-need schools and students,” he concluded.
To read a copy of the full report, click here.
To access a user-friendly web tool to see school spending patterns within each of the twenty largest districts in the state, click here.
Recently, the state released the latest results from the STAR test, which is intended to show administrators, teachers, and parents how students across California are performing. The story these results tell us in 2012 is the same story we’ve seen for years now. It’s a story of slow and incremental growth in student achievement for our low income students, students of color, and English Learners. This is especially the case in our secondary schools. While I’ll be the first to acknowledge any progress made in increasing student achievement, the bottom line from these latest results is that too many of our students are not getting to the finish line as quickly as we need them to get there.
The sad truth is that wide gaps in achievement still exist. The most striking gap is the one for our English Learners. What this year’s STAR results show us is a growing gap between English Learners and non-EL students across all grade levels in English Language Arts (ELA). Take a look at 8th grade ELA, for example. The gap has grown by 20 percentage points between 2003 and 2012, with just 12% of 8th grade EL students reading and writing at grade-level.
This year’s STAR test results also reveal a lag in student achievement for high-need students at the middle and high school levels. In other words, what we see from the STAR results is that traditionally underserved students continue to struggle in the secondary grades. This is particularly troublesome given that we see gaps are actually narrowing between high-need students and their more advantaged peers in the core elementary subjects. Additionally, if we look at achievement by proficiency band, we see even greater disparities, with low-income students and students of color disproportionately represented at the lower bands of proficiency.
These results are striking and the trends are undeniable. While our students might be moving closer to the finish line, it is taking too long for them to get there. It’s time to admit that what we’ve been doing as a state for all these years quite simply isn’t working anymore. Now’s the time to look at these results and to start thinking outside the box on what can be done to accelerate student achievement. Now’s the time for our state to follow the lead of innovative districts and charters who are doing something different and getting better results for students.
If you are interested in a more detailed analysis of the 2012 STAR test results, our team here at Ed Trust—West has created a powerful presentation for you to look at. You can find it by clicking here.
We believe great school leaders and highly effective teachers play the most important roles in closing opportunity and achievement gaps. If you do, too, please help us stop Assembly Bill 5. This bill guts all objective accountability on adult job performance in public schools while undermining local authority and adds new unfunded state mandates of over $50 million.
We know that tackling stubborn achievement gaps requires giving the students who have the least more of everything that matters, including equitable access to effective teaching. AB 5 will prevent reforms to California’s teacher evaluation system necessary to achieve this goal.
At the very time voters are being asked to invest more in public education, this bill creates additional barriers to using pupil progress toward grade level standards in the evaluation of teachers and principals, a 40-year old law recently upheld by the courts in the Doe v. Deasy decision.
AB 5 cannot be waived and therefore will preclude the State of California or ANY local district in California from a waiver of No Child Left Behind/Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) because it runs explicitly counter to federal ESEA waiver and local Race to the Top application requirements.
Lastly, AB 5 mandates processes that are counter to and would immediately nullify best practices in teacher evaluation systems and innovative work being done locally in California districts and charter schools, including meaningful parental and community involvement and feedback in evaluations.
Click here to send a letter asking your California State Senator to vote NO on AB 5 today! The State Senate could take a floor vote on AB 5 as early as Monday.
Thank you for your support.
Every morning that I drop my daughters off at school I place their futures in the hands of two teachers. My youngest stands in line outside the kindergarten classroom and when the teacher walks down the hall, her face lights up with a smile. When she comes home, she tells me what she learned in school with a level of excitement that can only be experienced by adults second-hand through the voice of a child. My oldest is less excitable but just as excited about learning. She calls her teacher, “Teacher” in a reverential old-fashioned sort of way – the kind of reverence you can only experience as an adult second-hand, through the eyes of a child.
When I was a teacher I saw children from only one angle. My view was from inside a school, looking out. Now, as a parent, I see my children’s teachers and I’m on the outside looking in. For the first time, I understand a teacher’s true impact. Every day in school opens up new possibilities. When a child starts to read, it’s magical. When you see them applying lessons from school into aspects of every day life, you get confused and wonder, “Where did they learn that?” Then you remember it’s no longer all up to you. They have a teacher.
So this Teacher Appreciation Week my level of appreciation has reached a whole new level: one of a parent who has now begun to understand the extraordinary impact of teachers on the two little people I love the most. With this new perspective, I extend my sincere gratitude to all of our teachers for the work they do every day to transform our children’s – and our – lives.
Join the Education Trust—West in appreciating California teachers this week by doing any of the following:
- Share a story about a teacher who supported you or share your thoughts about which qualities you think great teachers embody.
- Write a thank you to a teacher letting him or her know how much you value the important contributions s/he has made in your life.
- Contact your neighborhood school about volunteer opportunities that allow you to “give back”. While not everyone can volunteer during the workday, there are events after business hours or on the weekends that would benefit from your time and effort.
- If you are a parent or guardian, talk with your child about the ways in which they are grateful for their teacher(s) and ask them how they might tell them.
Our new report, The Cruel Divide: How California’s Education Finance System Shortchanges its Poorest School Districts, paints a startling picture of inequity. California’s highest poverty districts receive $620 less per student from state and local sources than the state’s wealthiest districts. For a mid-sized school district of 6,000 students, that amounts to over $3.7 million per year.
Most people know that California school districts have suffered a series of brutal budget cuts over the past five years. What’s less evident to the public is the differential impact of these cuts based on the size and wealth of school districts. Our report illustrates that poor districts get less revenue than wealthy districts. As a result, when their budgets are cut, they have to trim far more services than wealthy districts and their financial health becomes far more precarious.
Adults make these decisions but kids suffer. Our poorest districts cut education support services like counseling and nursing. They cut their school year and eliminate summer school. Children lose arts, music and other enrichment activities. Meanwhile, students on the other side of the tracks, a zip code away, have everything they need to succeed.
For four decades, there have been efforts in the legislature and the courts to fix our finance system. Our report reveals how far those efforts still have to go. Governor Brown has taken a step in the right direction in calling for a streamlined school finance system and a weighted student formula. But for the Governor’s proposal to work, the dollars have to go to the school-level to the students who need them. As we noted in our 2005 Hidden Gaps Report, district-level spending can hide huge gaps in funding between schools. As we reform our state education finance system, we should fix inequities at both levels.