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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.

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

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.

Cover page of Racial Isolation, Poverty and the Limits of Local Control as a Means for Holding Public Schools Accountable

Racial Isolation, Poverty and the Limits of Local Control as a Means for Holding Public Schools Accountable


Drawing on research in Oakland, California over a twenty-year period, Noguera considers how poverty and racial isolation have contributed to the problems confronted by schools in that district and other inner-city communities around the state. He illuminates the factors that hinder the development of social capital in low-income communities, and, in doing so, demonstrates why local control does not make it easier for school systems to address the academic needs of poor students. The wide variation in the ability of different communities to generate revenue and other support for schools at the local level creates inequalities in the learning conditions and opportunities that schools provide students. The design of the state’s public education system exacerbates these inequities. Specifically, the state’s current approaches to local control make it possible for advantaged parents and communities with a vested interest in the affairs of public schools to monitor conditions in their schools. However, this form of local control is inadequate as a mechanism for holding schools accountable in high poverty areas. Noguera concludes that in order to improve reform efforts and policy implementation, the state must enact measures to mitigate the effects of poverty and racial isolation. Rather than presuming that all schools can be treated the same, the state must develop strategies to build the social capital of parents and cultivate the civic capacity of communities in low-income areas. Without such measures, local control will remain little more than a guise through which the State can shirk its responsibility for insuring that all students have access to quality education.

Cover page of Access to Textbooks, Instructional Materials, Equipment, and Technology:Inadequacy and Inequality in California’s Public Schools

Access to Textbooks, Instructional Materials, Equipment, and Technology:Inadequacy and Inequality in California’s Public Schools


Oakes and Saunders address four questions: 1) Are textbooks and curriculum materials essential to students’ education in California? 2) Do all students have access to these resources? 3) Has the State failed to correct (or even contributed to) gaps or inequalities in access to instructional materials? 4) Are there policies the State could follow that would lead to better access? Drawing both on empirical research and the analysis of current state policy, Oakes and Saunders show that, although textbooks and instructional materials are fundamentally important to students’ education, many California students do not have access to them. At many schools, instructional materials inadequacies converge with problems in staffing and facilities. Schools serving low-income students, English language learners, and/or non-white student majorities are most plagued by inadequacies in instructional materials. Furthermore, by not mandating that students be provided with instructional materials, and by not investigating their availability through existing oversight mechanisms, the State has contributed to shortages and disparities in access. An analysis of other states’ policies, however, shows that the State could take measures that would insure students access to sufficient and appropriate textbooks and instructional materials.

Cover page of Education Inadequacy, Inequality, and Failed State Policy: A Synthesis of Expert Reports Prepared for Williams v. State of California

Education Inadequacy, Inequality, and Failed State Policy: A Synthesis of Expert Reports Prepared for Williams v. State of California


This report synthesizes the findings of a set of expert reports analyzing the plaintiffs’ claims in Williams v. State of California, and it presents the implications of those reports for changes in state policy and practice. It examines California students’ access to three basic requirements for educational quality and opportunity: qualified teachers; adequate textbooks and other relevant instructional materials; and clean, safe, and educationally appropriate facilities. It reviews the role of these resources and conditions in providing or limiting access to students’ opportunities for achievement, and, more specifically, it places the availability of these basic requirements in the context of California’s current standards-based education policies. This report considers both the overall availability of these essential conditions to California students and patterns in their distribution among schools serving different student groups. This synthesis also supplements the material in the expert reports with information from documents produced by the California Department of Education (CDE) and other State agencies, information generated by California schools and districts, and reports of independent organizations. Finally, it assesses the past performance of state education policies and officials in providing California’s students with the educational essentials they require, and suggests policy alternatives that would bring considerable improvement.

Cover page of The Unending Search For Equity: California Policy and the"New" School

The Unending Search For Equity: California Policy and the"New" School


Grubb and Goe examine California’s funding policies through the lenses of established approaches to school finance and the “new” school finance perspective. They draw upon historical evidence, empirical research on school funding, and analyses of policies in other states. They find that while California has made some progress in equalizing funding across districts (largely through litigation and legislation), significant disparities remain. Additionally, the state’s use of categorical funding reduces flexibility, and creates a finance system unresponsive to particular school needs. The state’s funding decisions are often uncoordinated; they are usually made in isolation from other policy decisions and without regard to instructional conditions in classrooms. Consequently, funding policy changes meant to bring improvement are often undermined by school conditions that are not taken into account. In contrast, Grubb and Goe argue that California should adopt a “new” school finance perspective that allows educators and policy makers to determine effective practices and resources at the local level. Funds can then be allotted to these instruments according to their effectiveness. The Williams Case offers an important opportunity to reconceptualize these questions, since its focus of attention is the level of educational opportunities actually experienced by students.

Cover page of Civic Lessons

Civic Lessons


Michelle Fine examines how facilities’ problems, exposure to high levels of under-credentialed teachers, substantial teacher turnover, and inadequate books and materials produce adverse psychological and academic effects on children and adolescents attending schools with these characteristics. Using multiple methods of data collection across a diverse sample of elementary, middle school, high school, and college youth, Fine uses the voices of students to expose the adverse consequences of substandard schooling. She reveals that schools are not neutral institutions through which students pass without being affected. Indeed, the conditions in the schools that are the subject of Williams v. California have psychological, academic, and ultimately economic consequences that substantially worsen already existing social inequities. Despite the fact that poor and working class youth are asking for clean and safe school environments, quality educators, and rigorous instruction, the evidence suggests that the more years they spend in their schools, the more shame, anger, and mistrust they develop, and the more their engagement declines. Fine concludes that these schools are educating low-income youth and youth of color away from academic mastery and democracy and toward academic ignorance and civic alienation.

Cover page of Educational Equity and School Structure: School Size, School Overcrowding, and Alternative Organizational Structures

Educational Equity and School Structure: School Size, School Overcrowding, and Alternative Organizational Structures


Lee, Ready, and Welner focus on the interface between educational equity and the structure of schools, examining school size, school overcrowding, and two features of school organization: magnet schools and schools-within-schools. They provide an interpretive summary of existing studies of these topics, concentrating on how these structural issues relate to social stratification in student outcomes, particularly academic achievement. The evidence they provide is drawn from both national studies and, when available and appropriate, from research that discusses the effects of school structure in California's schools. Lee, Ready, and Welner use this evidence to define which size high schools are best for all students (under 1,000 students), which responses to school overcrowding are appropriate (building more schools rather than adding portable classrooms or multi-track year round schooling), how magnet schools can decrease rather than increase inequality (by making regular public schools more like magnet schools), and how creating smaller learning communities in high schools can work well for everyone (by not allowing this mechanism to increase stratification). They also show that California policies have not promoted these responses, and, in many cases may have actually exacerbated inequality in educational outcomes by race, ethnicity, and class.

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

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.

Cover page of California's Public School Accountability System

California's Public School Accountability System


Russell examines the extent to which California’s test based policies promote and/or inhibit California students’ access to basic learning resources and conditions. Russell reviews the history of California’s assessment systems and describes the current Academic Performance Index (API), analyzes recent survey data on the impact of testing, considers the experiences of other states, and simulates results under an alternative design for accountability in California. He finds that California’s accountability system has numerous technical shortcomings that prevent it from being a valid and useful indicator for either holding schools accountable for student learning or determining which schools are “low-performing” and warrant state intervention. The design of the system sets a target for schools that far exceeds national averages in student performance. The standardized test on which the API rankings are based is not aligned to state standards; in addition, problems in calculating accountability rankings from results on the test make the former poor expressions of student achievement. However, he also concludes that even if the technical shortcomings were fixed and/or prior decisions were altered to make expectations for most schools more reasonable, California’s single-minded focus on student outcomes as measured by standardized tests fails to adequately prevent, detect or deter gross disparities in education. A system that focuses solely on student learning outcomes, no matter how broadly defined, cannot provide schools and their constituents with information that allows them to identify why students succeed or fail to succeed. Furthermore, reliance on standardized testing tends to result in a narrowing of curriculum and instructional strategies. Evidence from other states shows that more successful accountability systems are possible. Russell concludes that an improved accountability system in California should include an emphasis on educational inputs, the use of better and more varied output measures, and a sensitivity to local contexts.

Cover page of What Educational Resources Do Students Need to Meet California's Educational Content Standards?

What Educational Resources Do Students Need to Meet California's Educational Content Standards?


Koski and Weiss examine California’s educational content standards and related high-stakes accountability measures. They pose the following questions 1) Are higher content standards and stiffer accountability enough to ensure that all children achieve at high levels? 2) Can we be sure that all California students and schools—particularly those in low-income minority communities—enjoy the necessary support, conditions, and resources to succeed? Koski and Weiss answer these questions with an in-depth analysis of California’s K-12 standards and other related state policies, looking specifically at the minimum level of resources and conditions required for students to meet the state’s standards. Their analysis makes clear that California’s standards-based reform strategy and accountability scheme require the provision of basic educational tools, including teachers with particular knowledge and skills and appropriate instructional materials and facilities. However, the state’s policies do not address these requirements explicitly. No standards or accountability mechanisms currently exist to ensure that all children in California have the educational conditions and resources necessary to achieve at the high levels prescribed by the state. Koski and Weiss conclude that the state must analyze its curriculum frameworks and content standards systematically to create parallel standards that delineate the minimum educational resources and conditions required at each grade level for all students to have an adequate opportunity to learn the state’s standards.