School Accountability and Funding: Can California Get It Right?
SummaryMore than 500 people in northern and southern California attended the 29th annual EdSource Forum in March 2006 entitled Accountability and Funding: Can California Get It Right? The accountability focus was on finding a balance between the currently mismatched state and federal accountability systems. On funding, attention turned to tensions between raised academic expectations and a state funding system that pre-dates that change.
Forum sessions began with top state leaders and local superintendents discussing accountability.
In Fremont, Jack O’Connell, California superintendent of public instruction, likened the state’s growth-model accountability system to the long jump and the status-model federal system to the high jump. He reported that states without a previously established accountability system have had a much easier time implementing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) than California, which developed its accountability system in 1999. Glee Johnson, president of the State Board of Education, outlined steps that led to California’s current accountability system. She also described the state’s intervention programs for underperforming schools and detailed plans to assist underperforming districts in response to NCLB.
In Pomona, state Secretary of Education Alan Bersin focused his remarks on efforts to “harmonize” the state and federal systems and their fundamentally different requirements. He emphasized that success requires having an accountability system that is understood and accepted by parents and the public. The major item being discussed in state-federal negotiations, he said, is the alignment of intervention systems and related reporting mechanisms. A key objective is coherence and transparency.
An engaging and informative panel of superintendents addressed implications for schools and districts. Sue Burr of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association moderated the Pomona panel, and Joe Nuñez, California Teacher’s Association official and State Board of Education member, moderated in Fremont. Superintendents Carl Cohn (San Diego City Schools) and Dale Vigil (Hayward Unified School District) were joined in Pomona by Jean Fuller (Bakersfield City School District) and in Fremont by Kelvin Lee (Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District).
As the Forum shifted to the afternoon focus on school funding, attendees heard from Ted Mitchell, Chair of the Governor’s Advisory Committee for Education Excellence. The task of this nonpartisan and independent committee, he said, is to make recommendations on the efficacy and adequacy of education funding, the functioning and effectiveness of governance structures, teacher recruitment and training, and the preparation and retention of school administrators.
The committee will be informed, in part, by newly commissioned research studies on the adequacy and effectiveness of the state’s finance and governance systems. A panel on that research was led by Susanna Loeb, associate professor at Stanford University’s School of Education and study coordinator, who said the independent research initiative will explore three basic questions:
- What do California’s school finance and governance systems look like?
- How can existing resources be used more effectively to help students? and
- To what extent are additional resources needed so that California students can meet the goals we set for them?
Project researchers presenting information about their studies were: Ron Bennett, president & CEO of School Services of California; Mike Kirst, professor at Stanford University’s School of Education; and Jon Sonstelie, professor at UC-Santa Barbara’s Department of Economics. Results are expected to be released in early 2007.
The day’s moderator was Christopher Cross, chairman of Cross & Joftus, LLC and an author who has written extensively in the fields of education and public policy.
TranscriptsJack O'Connell, State Superintendent
Glee Johnson, State Board of Education president
Download Susanna Loeb's powerpoint presentation
Download Ted Mitchell's powerpoint presentation
Audience poll results