Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education

Access to Quality Education

The Vision

The central focus of California's vision for a coherent educational system is on both learner needs and outcomes. Accordingly, schools, colleges, and universities must make serving students' learning needs their primary focus, including at the most advanced levels of education. School districts, county and regional entities, community-based organizations, postsecondary education institutions, business and industry, and the State must all collaborate in building an aligned system of education that ensures the availability of resources to meet learner needs. All functions and policies of our education system must be regularly reviewed and revised to ensure that each supports this focus. In short, this vision requires a dynamic plan that is based on learner needs, comprehensive, grounded in data, and reviewed regularly for evidence of progress and need for revision.

We envision an education system in which specific rights, obligations, and expectations for students and education providers will be clearly expressed, so that all participants in the educational process, including families, can understand and respond to them. These rights, obligations, and expectations would define what we consider to be the essential elements of high-quality teaching and learning to which all students and education providers should have access. The Joint Committee proposes that theserights, obligations, and expectations be defined as follows:

Every student would be entitled to:

Every student would be expected to:

Every education provider would be expected to:

All parents would be expected to:

The State would be expected to:

Within this context, students would attend school regularly, prepared to apply themselves to the lessons and assignments they were given by their teachers. When they didn't fully understand course content, they would ask for clarification rather than remaining silent. Teachers would continuously monitor student performance with an eye toward identifying those students who are having difficulty understanding material or who could progress more rapidly than the class as a whole. They would refer students to supplemental learning support or accelerated learning opportunities, as appropriate. Teachers would feel free and empowered to supplement traditional instructional materials and would improve instructional practices to facilitate student learning, including initiating programs to enlist parents as partners in the teaching-learning process. Within this rich teaching and learning environment, students, parents, and education professionals would all work toward ensuring that each student completed high school fully prepared to transition successfully to work or to further education at a postsecondary education institution.

"If we do not educate all our people adaptive equipment for those with for tomorrow's jobs, our society could become increasingly polarized between the rich and the unskilled... No issue will be more for sharpening our competitive advantage, spurring overall growth, and for ensuring that the benefits of that growth are shared by all Californians, than investing in ourselves."

-- California Economic Development Corporation Visions: California 2010, 1992

Parents would know and understand what they could expect the school or college to provide to their children and would feel free to ask how they could support teaching and learning objectives. They would offer their assistance confidently, knowing that school personnel would help them acquire any skills they needed to be most effective in assisting their children or would direct them to community resources from which appropriate assistance could be obtained. Parents would ensure that an appropriate studylocation were provided to their children and regular time set aside for them to complete any homework that might have been assigned by their teacher. Parents would feel welcome at school sites and would ensure that their children respected their schools by contributing to keeping them clean and safe. They would easily engage in ongoing dialogue with school counselors, advisors, health, and other school personnel to maintain mutual alertness to any conditions that might have an effect on the learning of their children and would collaborate on ways to address such conditions, when discovered.

State policymakers would identify these student rights as essential pre-conditions for every public school, college, or university and would endeavor to ensure that annual budget decisions reflected a priority for these items in the education budget. This vision reflects a historical commitment to supporting public education but also a firm understanding that a substantial increase in education investment will be required, and a belief that this additional investment will result in fewer Californians' not having the capacity to acquire gainful employment and/or eventually falling under the supervision of the criminal justice system.

The components of quality

Meeting the challenge of providing educational access to all Californians is more than a matter of numbers - although understanding the magnitude of demand is essential to any comprehensive planning effort. California has a long-standing commitment to providing access to high-quality education at all levels. However, current indicators of student educational experiences and learning outcomes provide a dismal picture of the quality of education available throughout the state, particularly for those categories of students who historically have not been well served in public schools, colleges, and universities.

The essential features of education include teaching and learning. Research demonstrates that high-quality teachers are the school-based component that has the greatest impact on the educational experiences, and subsequent success, of students. However, even the most effective teachers cannot make much of an impact on a student not disposed to learn or pre-occupied with the more basic concerns of health, shelter, and safety. Parents play a significant role in determining the extent to which their children are disposed to learning. This Master Plan for Education therefore begins with the needs learners in their earliest years and the experiences they need to nurture their natural curiosity and stimulate a disposition for learning. Once the early learner enters formal schooling, s/he should interact with caring adults, in safe and inviting environments, be challenged to grow intellectually and socially, and be provided the support and encouragement to meet clear learning expectations. Put simply, all students should be provided access to more than a seat in a classroom; they should be provided access to the educational components that are essential for a quality education system. These components include:

California's requirement of compulsory education for all children must be viewed as a contract between the State and our students/parents, complete with rights and responsibilities. Every school-age student in California has a fundamental constitutional right to a high-quality, state-provided education, which we believe includes a rigorous curriculum that prepares students for successful transition to both work and postsecondary education. Accordingly, the State must provide all students with the resources, instruction, and support necessary to enable them to achieve the competencies that the State's academic content standards, college admission requirements, and the competitive work place demand.

Building and maintaining an infrastructure of high-quality education personnel is of particular concern. Education is fundamentally a human process and requires both teachers and learners. In addition, the focus of this Plan on meeting student needs for learning support requires that attention be given to building a cadre of other professional personnel such as counselors, librarians, administrators, and classified staff, who collectively create the culture in which teaching and learning take place. These personnel must work in a complementary fashion to ensure that students' innate capacity for learning is nurtured and that students are supported as they make career and academic choices.

Access To The Conditions That Promote Learning

Newborns enter the world poised to develop intellectually, socially, and emotionally from the experiences of their first several years of life. As their senses develop, their brains begin to form relationships between things and events in an incredible journey, learning new smells, sounds, tastes, feelings, sights, even scientific reasoning. Parents and educators have long known that infants and toddlers thrive when they have responsive care, individual attention, and enriching experiences. Evidence from cognitive science, developmental psychology, and neuroscience has shown that efforts to meet these needs not only comforts children, it affects the ways in which children's brains develop and lays the groundwork for later learning and achievement.[1]

Not all children currently have opportunities to benefit from enriching experiences during the early years of their lives. Low-income children have the most to gain from high-quality childcare but are least likely to experience it. In California, nearly half of all school age children live in families with low incomes and more than a quarter under the age of five live in poverty.[2] Key experiences to which infants and toddlers should have access include:

The foregoing issues may not be entirely educational in nature, but they are crucial to our goal of producing ready learners who can benefit from a high-quality educational experience. California families, child care and education providers, and health care professionals are called upon to work together to ensure that all children have opportunities for enriching experiences during their early years of life, and that they receive the developmental screenings, assessments, and intervention services necessary to provide them a solid foundation for lifelong learning and achievement. Families and health and social services providers are further called upon to collaborate to ensure that children of all ages will continue to receive the services essential to their continued readiness to learn.

We offer the following recommendations of what state policymakers can reasonably do to promote children receiving the services needed to promote their readiness to learn...