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 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 andprograms based on perceived ability, and ensure accountability for student attainment, so that allstudents 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.

Accountability for Student Results

College and Career