The Education Trust-West 2011 Policy Agenda

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As 2011 begins, California faces significant challenges that threaten the future of its students. California ranks in the bottom 15 percent of the nation in reading and math on national assessments, and wide opportunity and achievement gaps persist in our schools. Governor Jerry Brown’s new budget projects a $25 billion shortfall and proposes significant cuts to the state’s universities and community colleges. While the governor seeks to spare K-12 education from cuts of more than $2 billion, spending levels will still fall in 2011-12 as one-time federal stimulus money dries up.

At the same time, there is reason for hope. Governor Brown and the new legislature have the potential to usher in an era of change in Sacramento, removing the political gridlock that has stalled the passage of key education reforms. As the most diverse state in the nation, one in which students of color make up 73 percent of California public schools, California is well positioned to leverage its great linguistic and cultural diversity when competing in an increasingly global economy. And with public universities and a technology sector that are the envy of the nation, California must be at the forefront of producing the next generation of this nation’s leaders and innovators. Now is the time to leverage California’s assets and push for change that will accelerate the pace of progress in the state’s public schools. The status quo is no longer acceptable. Therefore, we must focus on reforms in four critical areas:

1. Ensure access to effective teachers for every student.

While teachers and principals are the most valuable resources in our schools, we need to find new ways to support and leverage our precious human capital—and ensure that our highest-need students have access to our very best teachers and leaders.

2. Ensure accountability for student performance and the equitable use of education resources.
As we confront the dual challenges of budget deficits and persistent achievement and opportunity gaps, we must maintain high expectations for student performance while ensuring that scarce dollars benefit the students of color and students in poverty who have been traditionally underserved by our education system. 

3. Support access to and success in college and career, from K-12 through higher education.
We need to raise expectations, prevent students from being “tracked” into lower-level courses and programs based on perceived ability, and ensure accountability for student attainment so that all students are eligible to attend college and are prepared for both college and career success. 

4. Implement statewide data systems that support teaching and learning at the local level.
Our state must have a longitudinal data system that provides critical information to decision-makers at all levels to address student needs and improve education systems. Here, we lay out the targeted policy recommendations that we believe will promote positive change in each of these areas. We encourage our state’s leaders to take bold, reform-minded actions to close the achievement and opportunity gaps that have long stifled the promise of so many of our state’s students of color and students in poverty—thereby ensuring that every child in California receives a high-quality education.

Download the 2011 Policy Agenda

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.