LEGISLATIVE ANALYSTS STUDY OF THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP
This paper recommends that the legislature undertakes, as one of its approaches to addressing the achievement gap, the implementation of a strategy to address the lowest performing public school student group, not including those already in special needs programs. The strategy would include, but not be limited to, the educational establishment as the deliverer of necessary services to pre-school, elementary, secondary students- as well as their adult parents or guardians. It would also engage the California Community College System and the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation as described below.
The strategy would focus on nine California counties* and up to five school districts** within them, where there is the largest enrollment of the targeted K-12 student population. At the same time the focus would include neighboring community colleges that have established Umoja programs. These Umoja programs would be the points of entry for parents of participating school students who would enter community colleges themselves (if the parents were not already college graduates). A special sub-population of the parents who would attend community college would include selected prison inmates who would participate in a prison to college program, if they are parents of selected K-12 students.
The focus for services associated with this legislation would be families of children who are the lowest performing student group. For the most part, it will package proven practices that have worked with this population including:
A. Achievement -gap closing K-12 schools which demonstrated in recent Years high academic achievement on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) in English and math.
(See Attachment #1 and Attachment #lA)
**. See Attachment #3
B. California Community College Umoja Programs (See Attachment# 4) which have had evaluations of their relative effects on student engagement, persistence, and program completion (See Attachment #6).
C. African American Student Enrollment, Community Colleges with Umoja, and Prisons (See Attachment #5 and Attachment #SA).
D. National studies of education in correctional institutions which provide compelling evidence that completing a postsecondary degree or certificate and participating in job training while serving time, ameliorates the proficiency gap in skills with incarcerated adults. Incarcerated individuals in job training programs score 18 points higher in numeracy than incarcerated adults who do not. Yet 79 percent of adults in federal and state prisons are released with absolutely no exposure to a postsecondary education, 77 percent leave without participation in a job training program, and 58 percent leave with no exposure to any type of correctional educational programming (ABE, GED etc.)(See Attachment #7).
The administration of this program will chiefly rely upon selected County Offices of Education and the neighboring Community Colleges to engage other supportive agencies like Health and Human Services or Housing and Urban Development the Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation to assist eligible families.
The end goal is to stimulate higher academic achievement for the lowest performing student group; however, this effort should not be limited in its approach by past strategies. Innovation and flexibility in the delivery of services to students and their families should take precedence over commitment to ineffective past practices.
The leadership for this inter-agency effort should engage the nine County Superintendent of Schools and the corresponding Community College presidents which have Umoja Programs (See Attached lists of Counties, School Districts and Community Colleges with Umoja Programs Attachment #4 and a description of Umoja Programs in Attachment #6).
The charge to the inter-agency administrators is to assure that any resources allocated to address this goal actually be spent in ways that expand student and their family's access to quality instruction, instructional support, parental training and family support related to improving student performance. Expenditures for this service are intended to supplement, but not supplant services these students and families currently receive.
Applicant agencies (counties, school districts, community colleges) must commit to developing a multi-agency, multi-year plan that provides support to families of low achieving students designed to increase their performance in schools. Student performance will include multiple measures, including test scores, grades in school, completion of college and career course work, regular school attendance, and acceptable student behavior in school.
Sources of effective practices promising practices should include high performing schools that serve mostly the targeted student population, technology support programs such as Khan Academy, Moby Max, and Project Lead the Way courses; prison-to-college programs for eligible incarcerated parents; community college entrepreneur training for adult parents and community college Umoja Programs.
While county offices and related community college(s) should develop the plan and garner broad-based community and employer support for its goals, there must be a clear delineation of areas of responsibility for the actual implementation of the program. And there must be provisions for periodic monitoring of the quality of implementation and the ability to make timely operational adjustments as required. There will be a focus
on results of the implementation of these inter-agency plans.
Evaluation of programs established under this policy should be funded at a sufficient level to enable critical analysis of which components and which specific locations work and which should be discontinued over reasonable term of implementation. The academic achievement of targeted students will be a major criterion of successful evaluations, but there may be other criteria used to justify continued support, as academic performance improvements may take more time.
The implementation of this recommendation may build upon legislation already introduced such as AB 735 (Weber) which is a t wo-year bill introduced in 2018. However, that legislation does not include the concept of inter-agency collaboration. Its funding mechanism is available only to school districts, not community colleges, nor Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. And it does not call for participation by business organizations or other potential employers of parents of low performing students. So additional legislative provisions are warranted, beyond AB 735.
Rationale for this policy recommendation
Five realities help frame the justification regarding this topic:
- The lowest performing student group has endured int er-generational legal and quasi-legal discrimination in USA since they were brought to the country as slaves in While many members of this group have overcome some of these barriers, many others have not been able to do so. This phenomenon is manifested in many ways, including persistent failures in education at all levels, low rates of adequate employment, and economic well-being
- Past legislation to improve the lot of these students usually lump such students in broad categories such as urban, disadvantaged, low income, or under-representative While well intentioned, none of those resulting programs focused enough on the lowest performing student group to accurately identify needs nor provide the remedies required.
- Older youth and adults who wind up in the school-to-prison pipeline cost the state about $50,000 per inmate, while the corresponding K-12 cost of public school students in California is more like $10,000 per student. The estimated supplemental and concentrated components of AB 2635 (Weber et al) of 2017 was $4,000 per pupil, and that bill passed two policy committees and the floor of the California State Assembly. This recent legislative experience suggests that this proposal has potential viability. Moreover, Weber's bill became the basis for negotiating with then Governor Jerry Brown, who signed into law the Low-performing Student Block Grant (LPSBG). The LPSBG delivered $300 million dollars to California public school districts to address the low performance of all qualified students. As mentioned elsewhere, that bill addressed much of policy advocated in this paper, except it was one-time funding. It did not attempt to address the needs of parents of eligible students
- The new aspects of this legislation call for the focus on only nine counties, where most of lowest performing students are enrolled in public schools. Additionally, it calls for inter-agency collaboration-management, monitoring, and Finally, it would urge building upon existing programs across a wide spectrum such as the Community Colleges' Goal 4 "to reduce the equity gap among underrepresented student via California Promise Program and Guided Pathways framework." It would extract lessons from the San Quentin's Robert E. Burton Adult School-tops among the states 12 prison schools and winner of the Distinguished School award for its 1,180 inmates enrolled in the school. It would also consider findings and policy recommendations drawn from a national study of education for inmates to assist them with reentry into normal family and civic life--"Equipping Individuals for Life," cited in Attachment# 7.
- Despite the one-time, 2019 Low Performing Schools Block Grant (LPSBG) allocations to school districts and county offices, there is no on-going remedy to the achievement gap dilemma for California. That does not mean that the goal is impossible to reach. It simply means that the study that the Legislative Analyst will undertake is timely, and perhaps overdue. As a lifelong educator and researcher, I believe the study can benefit from this proposal (See Attachment # 8).
To read the full legislative analysis study of the achievement gap download the PDF