Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


IDEA is a network of UCLA scholars and students, professionals in schools and public agencies, advocates, community activists, and urban youth. IDEA's mission is to make high quality public schooling and successful college participation routine occurrence in low income neighborhoods of color. Research and advocacy are the tools IDEA uses to empower individuals, build relationships, and create knowledge for civic participation and social change. Linking a great public research university with committed educators and supportive community alliances, IDEA seeks to become the intellectual home of a broad based social movement that challenges the pervasive racial and social class inequalities in Los Angeles and in cities around the nation.

UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access

There are 29 publications in this collection, published between 2002 and 2007.
Brown v. Board of Education Series (2)

Separate and Unequal 50 Years after Brown: California's Racial "Opportunity Gap"

We commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's promise in Brown v. Board of Education: a public school system "available to all on equal terms.” However, findings from a recent Louis Harris survey of California teachers, together with other evidence presented in this report, make clear that California schools remain both very separate and very unequal.

Brown vs. Board of Education Booklet

This booklet was designed for K-12 classrooms and community groups examining the legacy of Brown v Board for California. The booklet chronicles the national battle for equal schooling up to and since the Brown decision. It also highlights the history of school segregation in California and the ongoing struggle for equal schooling.

High School Exit Exam Series (4)

MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS: CAHSEE Results, Opportunity to Learn, & the Class of 2006

California’s Class of 2006 is the first group of students required to pass the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) in order to receive a diploma. CAHSEE asks students to show what they know by answering 72 multiple-choice English-language arts questions, completing 1 writing task, and answering 80 multiple-choice questions in mathematics. Students who get 60% correct on the English test and 44% in math by the end of their senior year get diplomas. The rest do not, even if they have passed all of their classes.

Although 20 states currently have an exit exam requirement, most allow students to demonstrate their proficiency through other means (other standardized tests or assessments, course grades and passage, culminating projects, portfolios of work, etc.) if they fail the test. No students are granted diplomas unless they meet clear standards. Because California has only a single measure of student proficiency, it is one of only eight states that automatically denies diplomas to students who fail the paper-and-pencil exam. The stakes for students are very high: students lacking diplomas are 75% more likely to be unemployed and are estimated to have 30% lower lifetime earnings than students with diplomas. These impacts are most severe for students of color.

This report presents new analyses of CAHSEE data released by the California Department of Education (CDE) on August 15, 2005 and other publicly available data about California schools. Section I shows striking connections between student performance on the CAHSEE and the resources and opportunities their schools provide. The schools where large numbers of students have not passed the CAHSEE are also schools with fewer qualified teachers, overcrowding, and multi-track schedules that limit learning time. Section II demonstrates that the CDE over-estimates the percentage of students who have passed either the ELA or mathematics portion of the exam by using a formula that excludes students who are more likely to fail the exam. The CDE leaves out of its formula more than 40,000 students who either dropped out during the 10th or 11th grade, or stayed enrolled but did not re-take the exam in the spring of 2005. Using a more accurate calculation based on the actual number in the Class of 2006 who, as 10th graders, were required to take the exam, we found that state-wide pass rates declined from 88% to 80% on the mathematics section, and from 88% to 81% on the Englishlanguage arts section. More than 60% of special education students and 40% of English Learners have not passed at least one of the tests. A smaller, but unknown, percentage of students (between 60-79%) have actually passed both tests and are eligible for a diploma. These pass rates would be lower if the calculation included all of the 9th graders from 2003. Section III raises important questions that cannot be answered by existing publicly available data, including the actual number of diplomas that will denied to students due to the CAHSEE requirement, the impact of the CAHSEE on dropout rates, and the relationship between passing rates on the CAHSEE and school conditions. These questions must be answered before the full impact of the exam can be understood.

Policy Brief: High School Exit Exam Failure Rates and Opportunity to Learn

California has required students to take the High School Exit Exam since 2001. This exam assesses core academic skills in two areas: Mathematics and English Language Arts. To date, the results of the Exit Exam have been used as part of California’s accountability system. Current law calls for the state to withhold diplomas from students in the class of 2006 who do not pass either section of the Exit Exam. The law also states that it is the responsibility of school districts to “prepare pupils to succeed.”

Policy Brief: A response to the HumRRO Evaluation

In 1999, the California Department of Education contracted with the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO), an independent evaluation firm based in Alexandria, Virginia, to perform annual evaluations of the quality and impact of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). HumRRO’s Fall 2004 Report asserts that California’s high schools have made a great deal of progress in preparing students for the CAHSEE. It recommends that California deny diplomas to students in the Class of 2006 who do not pass the High School Exit Exam. Our review of HumRRO’s points to a number of problems with HumRRO’s analysis and conclusions. In fact, HumRRO’s data reveals that many California schools still are not adequately preparing students for success on the CAHSEE.

1 more workshow all
Multiple Perspectives on Multiple Pathways Series (2)

Restructuring and Reculturing Schools to Provide Students with Multiple Pathways to College and Career

The prevailing way of conceptualizing multiple pathways to college and career segregates or “tracks” students into college prep or voc-ed curriculum. Recent research and public commentary have shown that tracking neither provides students with equal educational opportunities nor serves the needs of employers for a well-educated workforce. Recognizing that tracked schools are both inequitable and ineffective, educators have been exploring alternatives to tracking practices since the 1980s.

This paper focuses on one attempt to redefine and restructure the academic curriculum, pedagogy, and course structures of California schools into “multiple pathways” to college and career. The Preuss School at UCSD “detracks” its curriculum, i.e., establishes high instructional standards and presents rigorous curriculum to all students while varying the supports available to enable all students to meet high the school’s academic standards.

Detracking high schools can provide students with access to multiple pathways when they complete high school. By gaining access to a rigorous academic curriculum, they are well prepared for both college and career. This approach requires a school district to assemble a portfolio of schools, each with a different theme or focus (such as performing arts, science academies, interactive technology, etc.). When a district assembles a portfolio of theme-based schools, each of them rigorous, then students (and their parents) are enabled to choose from an array of possibilities. This form of curriculum differentiation aligns well with the democratic project of providing equal opportunities for all students to learn and to have significant life choices when they complete high school.

Pipelines, Pathways, and Payoffs: Economic Challenges and Returns to Changing Demographics in California

For individuals, success and persistence in schooling has a huge economic impact on their lives. Educational attainment affects the kinds of employment job seekers can find, the amount of money they earn, the housing conditions and lifestyle they can afford, the level of savings they can accumulate for retirement, their risk for incarceration, and the likelihood that they will live in poverty or need to rely on transfer payment for basic needs. Perhaps less obviously, the state also has a strong stake in the educational attainment of its residents. One element of the state's economic stake is its financial balance, since the demand for incarceration and poverty-related state services declines with higher levels of educational attainment, while higher rates of per capita income permit the provision of a fixed set of state services at lower average rates of taxation.

Historically, California has experienced a "brain gain", as the flows of highly educated and skilled workers supplemented its own investments in developing educational opportunities for its residents. Long-running transitions toward migration flows in which lower levels of education are more heavily represented, in conjunction with projected demands for increasing numbers of well-educated and skilled labor in California, will require the state to either substantially improve educational success among its next generation of students or suffer from a shortfall of skilled workers.

Responding to the changing demographic features associated with shifts in migration and the emergence of a "Tidal Wave II" generation presents a challenge to providing broad-based educational success for Californians. First and second generation immigrants comprise a large fraction of California's K-12 students and the composition of California's students in term of immigrant generation differs substantially by ethnicity. Factors which place students at a disadvantage - poverty, single-parent households, low levels of parental education and linguistic isolation - also vary substantially by ethnicity and immigrant generation, and the effects of these disadvantages are apparent in rates of high school graduation, college-going, continuation and completion.

In order to reap the labor market rewards of education and meet expected demand for a well-educated labor force, improvements in continuation and completion rates as well as the situated integration of curriculum with the knowledge and practices of California's evolving industries are needed. To be broadly effective, education must be relevant to student aspirations and industry needs and provide a solid academic foundation for students to continue their educations in subsequent settings. Within these broad constraints, however, an overemphasis on a single discipline, instructional setting, style of learning, set of instructional supports or academic level is unlikely to address the varied needs of California's diverse student populations. Improvements in the K-12 setting are especially critical because enrollment is mandatory and broad, attrition is currently substantial, and the knowledge and skills acquired in this setting are fundamental to subsequent success in college and the workplace. Countering attrition is likely to entail the provision of supportive services tailored to the specific needs of students laboring under the disadvantages of poverty, limited English skills, and parental supports which may be restricted as a result of parents' own limited educations or single parenthood. Because students' own motivations are essential in their educational success, the integration of professional and technically-related training which provides clear context and relevance of the knowledge they learn in school is equally important, both in countering attrition and solidifying their new skills.

Retention Report Series (5)

Urban Teacher Retention Policy: A Research Brief

This research brief summarizes interim results from a longitudinal study designed to inform policies aimed at curbing the high rate of attrition from hard-to-staff urban schools. These policies range from ensuring specialized teacher preservice education that willthat will prepare teachers for the challenges ahead to ongoing support for professional development and advancement. As an initial step in assessing the impact of specialized urban teacher preparation on retention, the research brief first summarizes interim cross-sectional retention data and compares it to national norms. Second, the brief outlines an expanded conception of retention that captures movement or migration away from teaching into other professional roles in education. These “role migration” data help inform retention-oriented policies aimed at professionalizing the education workforce. The third section of the brief reports another form of migration—movement away from high-priority schools to less challenging contexts—and suggests the role improved working conditions might play in retaining teachers in the schools that need them most.

Courses of Action: A Report on Urban Teacher Career Development.

This paper presents findings from a study investigating relationships among the reasons for entry, preparation experiences, workplace conditions, and future career plans of fifteen UCLA Teacher Education Program graduates working in urban elementary schools in Los Angeles. More specifically, the analysis examines why these early career teachers stay in or consider leaving the urban schools in which they are teaching. The findings highlight the need to reconceptualize notions of teacher retention in order to better acknowledge and support the development of deep, varied, successful careers in the field of urban education. The data suggest that these urban teachers will remain in urban education if they can adopt multiple education roles inside and outside the classroom, and receive professional support during the whole of their professional careers not just the beginnings of their teaching.

The Fragility of Urban Teaching: A Longitudinal Study of Career Development and Activism.

This paper describes the creation and development of UCLA’s Urban Teacher Education Program in Center X. Specifically, it focuses on Center X’s effort to partner with local communities to create alternative sites of learning for novice teachers. The paper includes the story of Center X graduates working in one Los Angeles elementary school in order to set the stage for the research question: under what conditions do highly-qualified urban teachers remain committed to a career as a social justice educator? The paper reports preliminary retention data from a longitudinal study of Center X graduates and explores the issue of how professional learning communities emerge in urban schools.

2 more worksshow all
Williams Watch Series: Investigating the Claims of Williams v. State of California (16)

The Inequitable Treatment of English Learners in California's Public Schools

Gandara and Rumberger investigate the extent to which California’s English Learners—one-fourth of the state’s public school population—have access to the teachers, instructional materials, and facilities that will enable them to succeed in an English-only, standards-based policy system in which they must learn and compete for grade-to-grade promotion and high school graduation along side (and on the same terms as) their English speaking peers. Gandara and Rumberger conclude that that these students receive a substantially inequitable education vis-à-vis their English-speaking peers, even when those peers are similarly economically disadvantaged. They demonstrate that California has failed in its duty to guarantee that EL students have the teachers, the curriculum, the instruction, the assessment, and the support services they need to achieve meaningful access to the same academic content as native English speaking students. Furthermore, when the state has become aware of specific substandard learning conditions for English Learners it has failed to act effectively to correct these problems. Furthermore, with an ill planned class size reduction program and the poorly articulated implementation of Proposition 227, the state has worsened the learning conditions for these students.

You Can't Always Get What You Want: School Governance In California

Timar examines the institutional framework for California’s educational governance from historical and contemporary perspectives. While the Court has affirmed the state’s responsibility for the quality of educational services in schools, the state has delegated to schools the responsibility for delivery of educational services. The conditions alleged in the Williams case raise concerns about the capacity of this governance structure to provide California’s students with an adequate and equal education. Consequently, the question that frames this study is how do state structures and policies support or constrain the capacity of schools to deliver an adequate and equal education. Specifically, the paper addresses the following questions: Who is responsible for ensuring that schools have adequate resources? What means are available to determine if schools’ curriculum, personnel, facilities, and instructional materials are inadequate? What means exist for determining if a school is performing satisfactorily? What means exist for remedying deficiencies in schools? The paper’s major theme is that the irrationality, incoherence, and limited efficacy of California’s increasingly state-controlled system of governance are major contributing factors to the substandard conditions in many California schools.

The Role of California’s Parents in Insuring Quality Schooling For All

Rogers explores the role of parents, ordinary citizens, and local school boards in preventing or detecting and thus helping to correct substandard conditions in California’s schools. California has constructed an elaborate accountability system for insuring school quality and promoting school improvement that includes substantial references to parent participation. Rogers seeks to make sense of the State’s commitment to and practice of engaging parents in its accountability system. It answers the following questions: Does the State of California offer a clear vision of how parents can help insure that their children’s schools offer the full range of learning opportunities promised by the State? What conditions are necessary for parents to play such a role? Does the State provide for these conditions? Rogers’ offers a four-part analysis. He first considers the meaning of parent involvement in educational accountability, focusing on the role of parents in accessing, contributing to, and acting upon information about students’ opportunity to learn and school quality. Second, Rogers draws on a wide array of State policies on parent involvement in public school accountability and school improvement to lay out a comprehensive overview of the State’s commitment to parent participation in educational accountability. Third, he uses empirical evidence from two case studies to assess whether California provides parents with the opportunities that its own framework claims to provide. Fourth, building upon the State of California’s own vision of parent participation in accountability, Rogers points to the requirements of an educational accountability system that allows parents to play a meaningful role in insuring safe and quality learning conditions for all students.

13 more worksshow all