Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education
Access to Quality Education
Access To Adequate Learning Support Services
Learning support is the collection of school, home, and community resources, strategies, and practices, and environmental and cultural factors, that gives every young person the physical, emotional, and intellectual support he or she needs to overcome any and all barriers to learning. Learning support includes the following two categories of strategies:
- Additional instruction that supplements the general curriculum - the provision of extra time, for more focused instruction designed to help students achieve California learning standards and/or for increased student-teacher instructional contact time.
- Student support services and programs needed to address the barriers to learning - strategies and interventions that address barriers to student academic progress and which may include school guidance, violence and drug abuse prevention programs, tutoring, accommodations for physical and learning disabilities, coordination of community services, and increased parent or family involvement.
Many existing learning support programs and interventions are more fragmented than integrated in their operations, frequently do not have sufficient resources to serve all students who could benefit from them, are more specialized than comprehensive, and are too often marginalized as a useful but not necessarily essential component of education. A comprehensive learning support system is needed to unify multiple learning support programs and services into a coherent structure that can achieve economies of scale while contributing to the creation and maintenance of a safe, healthy, nurturing education environment and culture that reflect the school's or campus's mission to promote the achievement of every student.  Since students do not all mature and progress in their learning at the same pace, the types of learning support appropriate to student needs will vary in different schools and at different grade levels. Recognizing these differences, we recommend:
The State should require and fund the provision of flexible time and instruction, to support learning and ensure successful transitions between education levels.
Although the PreK-12 curriculum and basic conditions for learning should be common for all students, individual students have unique learning styles and learn in a variety of ways; and success for all students requires new, flexible ways to structure time and deliver instruction. Our current system for delivering education provides limited hourly funding for before- and/or after- school tutoring, but basically assumes that all students at each grade will achieve a prescribed set of standards within a set amount of instructional time. Because students learn in a variety of ways, educators should have freedom to use instructional materials and time flexibly to enhance the achievement of all students. The need that many students have for differential attention is normal, and a healthy education system addresses these needs routinely by using multiple strategies, all geared toward mastery of specific knowledge, competencies, and skills. Using integrated instructional strategies could greatly enhance a student's success throughout his/her lifetime, as most jobs of the future will require a greater command of academic skills and how they are applied to solve real world problems in the 21st century workplace. However, this flexibility should not delay students' achievement or interfere with timely and successful transitions to succeeding levels of schooling. It is also important to assure that flexible use of time is not improperly resorted to as a means of accommodating enrollment pressures through multi-track, year-round school schedules that have reduced the numbers of calendar days of instruction and, hence, of students' opportunities to learn.
Postsecondary education students also learn in a variety of ways, and postsecondary educators should use a variety of strategies to enhance the success of all their students. As with their public school counterparts, postsecondary faculty should focus on ensuring that every student acquires the knowledge, competencies, and thinking skills necessary for continued success as they pursue their educational objectives. Accordingly, we further recommend:
State and local policy-makers should define adequate learning support in K-12 education as those resources and interventions necessary to meet the academic and career preparation needs of all students, which help ensure that all students attain the state academic standards, and which help all students who desire to do so meet college preparatory requirements and requirements for career success in the workplace.
The State should move aggressively to eliminate the use of multi-track year-round school schedules that result in fewer calendar days of instruction.
The State should assign responsibility and provide targeted resources at the postsecondary level to enable increased numbers of postsecondary education students to succeed in their academic coursework and attain certificates, industry certifications, and degrees, and to ensure that no category of student fails to achieve their educational goals in disproportionate numbers.
School districts and public postsecondary education institutions, respectively, should provide additional learning support services at kindergarten, grades three and eight, in the last two years of high school, and during the first year of college to assist students who take longer to meet standards or who may be ready to accelerate.
Although it is important to meet the needs of students throughout their PreK-12 education experience, there is currently a particular need for additional targeted interventions at key transition points for many traditionally underserved students. As with other forms of learning support, these must be developed with the intention of addressing student learning and development rather than remediating failure. They must enable students to meet the State's academic content performance standards and college entrance and placement requirements. An abundance of research demonstrates that a child who has not developed reading proficiency by grade three will be frustrated and disadvantaged for the balance of his/her educational experience. Parents can and should be enlisted as partners with teachers and other early child care professionals, to ensure that students receive the encouragement and assistance they require to master this critical learning skill.
Our academic content standards call for all students to be provided instruction in algebra by grade eight, and research documents that students who fail to master algebraic concepts dramatically reduce the likelihood that they will go on to postsecondary education and succeed there. Timely learning assistance and accurate information about postsecondary education and career opportunities take on greater significance during the last two years of high school, as students seriously prepare themselves for life after high school. Parents provided with accurate and current information about the requirements and options for postsecondary education and careers can be a valuable and effective resource to school personnel, in the task of helping prepare every student to make informed choices regarding the proper preparation to successfully pursue a full range of post-high school options.
The first year of postsecondary education is critical in many ways in determining whether a student will persist and eventually earn a degree or certificate, or drop out before achieving his/her educational objective. The importance of providing focused and timely learning support to freshman students in postsecondary education will remain critical, until we have eliminated the disparity in the quality of educational opportunity students receive in California's public schools. Examples of instances when learning support may make a significant difference to the success of students include extended learning opportunities provided to English language learners who need them, additional community college courses provided to high school seniors who need them to meet university entrance and placement requirements, and additional services provided to students with identified disabilities who need them to meet their academic goals.
Access to Qualified Site Administrators and Other Educational Personnel who Maintain an Educational Culture that is Inviting and Safe, and that Places a High Value on Teaching Excellence and Student Achievement
Educational leaders play a significant role in creating and maintaining campus environments and cultures that encourage students to persist in their studies and that have a direct impact on teaching and learning. Their leadership influences whether teachers, counselors, and other professional staff elect to remain at an institution, the degree to which parents, the business community, and communities at-large can be engaged as true partners in supporting students' maximum academic and career achievement over a lifetime, and the degree to which the physical plant is maintained in a safe and healthful condition.
Throughout the nation it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract and retain high-quality candidates to school leadership positions. Surveys by national professional organizations have documented this unsettling trend, especially with regard to site principals.  In California, the situation is exacerbated by several factors, including a more stressful work environment, the poorest site administrator-to-student ratios in the country, and inadequate facilities that result in seriously overcrowded conditions. However, in California and elsewhere, a much more serious cause for concern is that standards-based legislation is holding principals accountable for student achievement but is not providing principals the authority to manage the fiscal and human resources in their schools. California also experiences another serious problem related to the training of school administrators: training programs offered by postsecondary institutions focus on management,when they should be giving systematic attention to the development of leadership.
Both to address the shortage of candidates for education administration positions and to ensure that prospective candidates acquire the myriad skills they will need to be effective, we recommend:
Local school districts and postsecondary education institutions should develop partnerships to recruit, prepare, and educate quality educational leaders.
The principalship is an extremely complex and difficult job in today's schools, as is the superintendency of school districts; and California may soon be facing a severe shortage of qualified school administrators. Training outstanding administrative leaders must be regarded as a long-term developmental process, requiring a coordinated effort among all stakeholders. Postsecondary education institutions offering administrator preparation programs would be well advised to look at leadership training programs in other fields, such as the military and business, in addition to consulting with current school and college leaders to determine the array of skills required of today's school leaders, as well as to identify practices that should be avoided.
Low-achieving schools tend to be hard-to-staff, be impacted by socio-economic issues, to have a history of failure, and to have considerable turnover in staff at all levels. Leadership in these schools is particularly challenging and multi-faceted, and requires strong administrative and instructional skills. New administrators are often not sufficiently prepared to do what is necessary to improve student achievement in these schools and are not given adequate support by their districts to significantly improve instructional programs. Most administrative training programs fail in preparing newly assigned principals to initiate and sustain effective programs to improve student achievement and reverse patterns of substandard performance so common in those schools. Accordingly, we further recommend:
The State should encourage and support school district efforts to provide school principals with greater authority to use human and fiscal resources in different ways to achieve greater success in promoting student achievement.
School districts should provide more resources, such as additional staff and professional development, to principals in low-performing schools.
School districts should increase salaries for administrators serving in low-performing schools.
The State should take steps to ensure qualified leadership for the California Community Colleges.
Today's community colleges must address the academic achievement of all students, irrespective of their levels of preparation. Dramatic changes in the demographic, cultural, educational, and linguistic diversity of students challenge community colleges to modify their curricula and instructional strategies to better meet the needs of diverse learners. These challenges and traditional practices of community colleges - requiring prospective administrators recruited from faculty ranks to forfeit seniority and denying them return rights - serve to discourage outstanding faculty leaders from aspiring to community college administrative positions. Left unaddressed, these practices prevent the community colleges from attracting individuals who could truly provide educational leadership in addition to any administrative and management skills they would bring with them.
The 2000 report of the Community College Leadership Development Initiative documented some of the leadership challenges facing California community colleges. In particular, the report noted that political factions sometimes prevent campuses from making important decisions, and that frequent turnover of executive officers and low campus morale have contributed to a deterioration of institutional effectiveness. With regard to leadership positions, the average length of tenure for a community college chief executive officer is 4.4 years in California, compared to an average of 7.5 years nationally. Further, smaller numbers of well-qualified people are seeking administrative leadership roles due not only to the leadership challenges, but also to the lack of return rights to permanent faculty positions and competitive job salaries. This situation exists when, in the next ten years, California will need an estimated 360 new community college academic administrators.
The education doctorate has traditionally been viewed as the terminal degree for professional education leaders. California's public, independent, and private colleges and universities offer few doctoral programs with an emphasis on community college leadership. Further, they do not currently offer sufficient numbers of education doctorate programs of any sort to community college (and PreK-12) personnel who seek this degree as a means to better meet the needs of their students and institutions as wellas for other professional development reasons. California relies on private and independent colleges and universities for about 70 percent of its doctorate holders in education.25 Moreover, in the absence of any public postsecondary education institutions' agreeing to do so, an independent university has agreed to host a community college leadership development institute to expand the pool of prospective community college administrators. To both ensure that more opportunities are available to prepare community college and school administrators and to make those opportunities more affordable, we further recommend:
The California State University and University of California systems should develop and offer preparation and professional development programs for community college leadership, the content of which should include development of the capacity to lead by inspiration and a sensitivity to and comfort with diversity and multi-culturalism. These professional development programs should include the establishment of a state-level or campus-based center devoted to community college leadership development and leadership issues.
The California Community College system should improve the terms and conditions of administrative employment in community colleges, including offering qualified administrators return rights to permanent faculty positions as an incentive to attract outstanding professionals to community college leadership positions.
The State should expand recruitment for counselors trained in career guidance, as well as in academic and psychological fields, in order to ensure that students have the assistance they need to make informed choices about preparation for their post-high school activities.
California is currently experiencing a critical shortage of counselors. Its ratio of approximately 979 K-12 students per counselor is the highest in the nation (the national average is 513:1). Twenty-nine percent of K-12 districts in the state have no counseling program, and among those districts that do have programs, student access to counseling varies considerably, by district organization and grade level. The National Association of Counselors, in its national standards document, has clearly embraced career guidance as one of its objectives; but very little attention has been paid to that objective throughout state credentialing systems. In California, the complexities of the diverse student population, heavy caseloads, and recent focus on academically rigorous courses have combined to overwhelm an already short-staffed counseling system, leaving little, if any, emphasis on workforce preparation guidance. It is imperative that California focus on attracting and retaining qualified counselors, and on equipping all school personnel with a greater awareness of career options as part of the State's effort to develop human capital.
Access To a School Or Campus Physical Plant That Is Safe, Well Equipped, and Well Maintained
California's promise of access to free public K-12 education and low-cost postsecondary education extends beyond simply assuring a seat for the six million children who annually enroll in public schools or the two million who annually enroll in public colleges and universities. The condition of the school or campus facility is as critical to the quality of the educational experience students receive as are the qualifications of the instructional and administrative staff.
Together they define the conditions of learning, or what we have come to accept as the opportunities for students to learn. In a 1998 survey, student behavioral issues (school violence, drug use, drinking, teen pregnancy) topped the list of problems the public felt were "very serious and widespread"in California schools, with 74 percent of those polled holding this opinion. In a 2000 replication of this survey only 59 percent of those polled continued to believe school violence is a serious and widespread problem, although it continued to lead the list of behavioral problems and trailed only lack of parental involvement among the school problems surveyed.
An earlier study conducted by Educational Testing Service (ETS) found an increase in gang activity involvement on American high school campuses between 1989 and 1995, rising from 15 percent to 28 percent of the student body, and a concurrent increase in "violent victimization"of 12- to 19-year-old students. However, the incidence of gang activity involvement for Black students rose from 20 percent to 35 percent; and for Latino students, it increased from 32 percent to 50 percent. Accompanying this increase in gang presence was an increase in fear among students, particularly Black students. Fear and learning are not good companions; nor is fear a school characteristic that attracts and retains qualified teachers.
Inequalities in the condition and maintenance of public schools and colleges subject students to materially unequal opportunities to learn, based purely on where students happen to live within the state. This inequity is unacceptable if the State is to have and meet rigorous learning expectations for all students, and recent court action substantiates that position. As a result, we believe it is the State's responsibility to ensure that all students are provided with equitable opportunities to learn; and we therefore recommend:
The State should guarantee suitable learning environments for all students, including buildings, classrooms, and other facilities.
Significant research documents that clean, safe, well maintained, and otherwise suitable learning environments have a positive impact on student learning, while the opposite is true of unsuitable environments. In addition, as noted in the foregoing sections, survey data indicate that unsuitable environments have a negative impact on the ability of schools to provide the quality teaching and leadership that is necessary to provide a high-quality education. Therefore, the environment of every school, college, community-based learning center, or university facility, should reflect the following characteristics:
- School and college facilities located within a reasonable commuting distance of students' homes;
- Clean and well-maintained classrooms and other learning environments, in adequate numbers to deliver the local educational program;
- Buildings with adequate ventilation, and necessary heating and air conditioning;
- Buildings and classrooms in good repair and free of fire and health hazards;
- Uncrowded classrooms with adequate space for other instructional needs;
- Adequate laboratories and studios for students to complete rigorous work in all subjects;
- Lavatories and sanitary facilities that are unlocked, accessible, well-stocked, and maintained in decent and safe condition;
- Outdoor space sufficient for exercise and sports and free of health and safety hazards;
- Adequate school healthcare facilities;
- Adequate food service facilities;
- A safe and supportive school environment, including protection from harassment or abuse of any kind; a fair and nondiscriminatory system of student discipline, and a student body of a manageable size which permits the development of a safe and personalized learning community; and
- A drug-free and violence-free school.
The State should establish clear, concise, and workable standards for facilities, to ensure a high-quality/high performance teaching and learning environment.
The State should require each school district to prepare and adopt, with appropriate public review and consultation, a five-year facilities plan to meet or exceed state facilities standards.
The State should establish design standards for subsidized early childhood education facilities, appropriate to young children's development.
There are other ways to provide high-quality teaching and learning opportunities that do not depend on perpetuation of traditional schools or college campuses serving large numbers of students. The tools of technology provide a means by which schools, colleges, universities, and local communities can work together to collectively provide high-quality teaching and learning opportunities for students. A student's community environment is as much a locus for learning as the classroom. Recognizing these possibilities, we further recommend:
The State should establish an Innovation Fund to support innovative projects and intersegmental collaboration in education, particularly when they seek to improve learning opportunities for students enrolled in low-performing schools or to increase the use of public facilities located in the service communities of schools.