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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 Concept 6 and Busing to Relieve Overcrowding: Structural Inequality in California Schools

Concept 6 and Busing to Relieve Overcrowding: Structural Inequality in California Schools


About 6% of California’s students attend schools that operate on a multi-track calendar known as Concept 6. On this calendar, three tracks rotate throughout the school year, with two tracks in session at any given time and a third on vacation. This results in the school year being broken up into separate blocks by two two-month long vacations, which occur at different times for different tracks. This calendar provides for the maximum enrollment given a school’s existing space. However, students who attend schools operating on the Concept 6 calendar suffer several clear disadvantages. These schools remain large, even with the implementation of this calendar. Students at Concept 6 schools also lose instructional time, since they have fewer days of school compared to other students, fewer nights for teachers to assign homework, and delays due to the need to review material at the beginning of each block of instruction. Furthermore, because of uneven distribution of curriculum across the different tracks, students have limited access to courses (including Advanced Placement courses) and specialized programs; the ill-timed breaks mean students have less access to extra-curricular activities. Students in Concept 6 schools have poorer academic performance than their peers in other schools. Likewise, busing seeks to address the negative effects of overcrowding, but creates inequities of its own. Students who are bused to school due to overcrowding suffer several disadvantages, including reduced parental involvement, an incentive to skip kindergarten (to avoid having to ride the bus), limited access to after-school programs, and poorer academic performance. Overall, students who attend schools on the Concept 6 calendar, as well as students who are bused to relieve overcrowding, receive a significantly lower quality education than that provided to the overwhelming majority of students in California.

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

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.

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 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 Essential Learning Conditions for California Youth: Educational Facilities

Essential Learning Conditions for California Youth: Educational Facilities


Ortiz begins with research showing that safe, healthy, and uncrowded school facilities are a basic ingredient of a good educational program. When teachers work in well-designed and highly functional school buildings, they are able to be more effective than when they must teach in inadequate facilities. Ortiz sets these findings against the evidence that a high proportion of California’s educational facilities are inadequate because they are crowded, old, and in need of repair and modernization. She finds that pressures from increased enrollment in the state due to demographic changes and class size reduction, an average age of the state’s school buildings of over 25 years, and the high cost of facilities have all contributed to the current inadequacies. However, the State’s responses to the many problems with educational facilities have been severely limited by flaws in policies establishing the state’s relationships with local districts with regard to funding, inventory, and oversight of educational facilities. The State has failed to establish a system of state financing to ensure that funds are available to and used by districts with schools in the poorest conditions. It has failed to promulgate minimum standards for school facility conditions and maintenance, develop systematic ways of monitoring conditions in schools throughout the state, or maintain effective investigation and correction processes when serious deficiencies are reported.

Cover page of School Facility Conditions and Student Academic Achievement

School Facility Conditions and Student Academic Achievement


This paper shows that the condition of school facilities has an important impact on student performance and teacher effectiveness. In particular, research demonstrates that comfortable classroom temperature and noise level are very important to efficient student performance. The age of school buildings is a useful proxy in this regard, since older facilities often have problems with thermal environment and noise level. A number of studies have measured overall building condition and its connection to student performance; these have consistently shown that students attending schools in better condition outperform students in substandard buildings by several percentage points. School building conditions also influence teacher effectiveness. Teachers report that physical improvements greatly enhance the teaching environment. Finally, school overcrowding also makes it harder for students to learn; this effect is greater for students from families of low socioeconomic status. Analyses show that class size reduction leads to higher student achievement.

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 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.

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.