Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education
The California Master Plan for Education
Public education is a vital interest of our state in that it provides Californians with the capacity, knowledge, and skills to sustain our system of government, to foster a thriving economy, and to provide the foundation for a harmonious society. As the global technological economy continues to evolve, Californians require additional, enriching educational opportunities throughout their lives. Today, students enter, exit, and re-enter the education system at various points in their lives, bringing increasingly diverse learning needs to each classroom. To be responsive to Californians' needs, our state must have a comprehensive, coherent, and flexible education system in which all sectors, from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education, are aligned and coordinated into one integrated system.
In 1999, the California Legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 29, calling for the creation of a new Master Plan for Education. With this charge, California began a new journey to a new destination in a new century - namely, to provide a coherent educational system that is attentive to learner needs, literally from birth through old age. This Master Plan for Education will serve as the roadmap for that journey, with two primary goals: to provide every family with the information, resources, services, involvement, and support it needs to give every child the best possible start in life and in school; and to provide every public school, college, and university with the resources and authority necessary to ensure that all students receive a rigorous, quality education that prepares them to become a self-initiating, self-sustaining learner for the rest of their lives.
A child entering preschool in 2002 can expect to graduate from high school in 2016 and, if he or she chooses, complete her or his bachelor's degree in 2020. It is beyond our ability to know with precision the learning needs of Californians in 2020. The primary need of every student is to become a capable learner who can readily learn whatever content becomes relevant to her or his life and work; therefore, we must craft an educational blueprint that addresses this need and helps frame the decisions we make now by anticipating the diverse learning needs of the future.
The sobering reality of California's education system is that too few schools can now provide the conditions in which the State can fairly ask students to learn to the highest standards, let alone prepare themselves to meet their future learning needs. This reality and several additional compelling issues lead us to construct a comprehensive Master Plan at this time:
The students who have been served least well in our public schools, colleges, and universities - largely students from low-income families and students of color - also make up an ever greater proportion of California's increasing population; we must extend to them the same degree of educational promise that has been provided to the generations of California students that preceded them.
- As it was in 1959 when the Master Plan for Higher Education was first developed, California is challenged by estimates of a large increase in postsecondary education enrollment demand ('Tidal Wave II') over the next decade that can be accommodated only with careful systemic planning and sufficient investment.
- Also similar to the conditions of postsecondary education in 1959, today California's K12 education system is governed by a fragmented set of entities with overlapping roles that sometimes operate in conflict with one another, to the detriment of the educational services offered to students. In addition, fragmentation and isolation prevent K-12 and postsecondary education institutions from effectively aligning and reducing the obstacles students face as they transition from one education sector to another.
- California's K-12 system operates without a clear vision or direction, with the result that it is susceptible to constant and major change by policy-makers that impedes schools' ability to plan for and deliver an education that meets the needs of students.
- California's educational institutions are often too rigidly structured to accommodate the increasingly diverse needs of the state's students.
- The continued economic viability of the entire state depends on a high quality educational system that uses effective strategies to help learners achieve their educational potential and objectives, that responds to high priority public needs, and that continuously engages in efforts to envision the future learning needs of Californians for successful transition to the rapidly evolving world of the modern economy. Providing all students the opportunity to achieve their highest academic and skill potential will enable them to pursue greater economic prosperity over a lifetime, better serving both them and society.
In addition to the foregoing structural issues, there is increasing concern over the disparity in quality of the education that our children are receiving. California no longer has any racial or ethnic group that is a majority of the state's population, yet schools serving large concentrations of low-income students, as well as those serving large numbers of Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans, disproportionately receive fewer of the resources that matter in a quality education, resulting in lower student achievement. In urban and rural schools, which serve these students in higher concentrations, researchers estimate that as many as half of high school seniors leave school without the skills they need to succeed in further education or the world of work. The implications at the personal and societal level are enormous.
California's business community is increasingly concerned that California's low performance in state and national testing is occurring during a period in which students are required to have more substantial knowledge, and the ability to apply that knowledge, as well as more technical workplace skills in the post-industrial economy. One major newspaper recently stated, "the ranks of the working poor are also expanding and California is evolving, minute by minute, into a two-tiered society,"a statement supported by the following facts:
- Barely half of California 4th and 8th graders (52 percent in both cases) demonstrated even basic competence in mathematics as measured by the 2000 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often cited as the nation's report card. Only 15 percent of 4th graders and 18 percent of 8th graders demonstrated proficiency in mathematics that year.
- NAEP scores from 1998, the most recent numbers available, reveal that 48 percent of 4th graders and 64 percent of 8th graders were basic readers, while fewer than one quarter of 4th and 8th graders were proficient or advanced readers.
- Fewer than half of California's 4th and 8th graders demonstrated a basic understanding of science on the 2000 administration of NAEP, ranking California last among the 40 states that participated. Only 14 percent of 4th graders and 15 percent of 8th graders demonstrated proficiency in science.
- Only 56.9 percent of Latino students who entered high school in 1996 graduated four years later. Black students had a similar graduation rate of only 57.8 percent. In contrast, Asian and White students graduated at rates of 86.3 percent and 77.6 percent, respectively.
- Despite the selective nature of admission to the California State University and the University of California, about half of all freshmen regularly admitted to CSU during the past decade have required remedial instruction in English or mathematics, or both, while approximately one-third of UC freshmen have required remedial instruction in English.
- Among the graduates of California's public high schools, White students are roughly twice as likely as their Black and Latino peers to attain CSU and UC eligibility, and Asian graduates are roughly twice as likely as their White counterparts to attain CSU and UC eligibility - a relationship that has existed since 1983.
- Data compiled by the California Council on Science and Technology (2001) indicate that women of all races, and African American and Latino men, represent underutilized pools of labor in the science and technology sector (which provides high-paying jobs). Differences in educational attainment and in choice of educational major contribute to these groups' under-representation in science and technology occupations and industries.
- The percentage of American households with at least one computer doubled from 1994 to 2000, rising from 24.1 percent to 51 percent. Computer ownership varies by racial, ethnic, and income groups, however, with 55.7 percent of White households and 65.6 percent of Asian households owning a computer in 2000, compared to 32.6 percent and 33.7 percent of Black and Latino households, respectively.
- The 2000 Employment Policy Forum report indicates that as many as 70 percent of students entering the workforce do not have sufficient skills to adapt to the simple writing needs of a business environment.
- The National Alliance of Business reports that a 1998 survey of 430 CEO's of product and service companies, identified in the media as the fastest growing sector of U.S. business over the last five years, found that 69 percent of them reported the shortage of skilled, trained workers as a barrier to growth, up 10 percent from the year before.
These data are indicative of the huge gap that exists between what many Californians need from their educational system and what they are actually receiving. To date, this gap has been only marginally affected by the many major reforms that have been imposed on our public schools, colleges, and universities since the mid-1980's. It provides stark evidence that a piecemeal approach to reforming education is ineffective. A comprehensive, long-term approach to refocusing education in California is clearly needed; and this approach must have a clear focus on improved student achievement. The Master Plan should be used by the Legislature as a template to ensure that proposed education legislation in coming years is consistently directed toward reaching the goals set forth in this Plan.