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GSPP Faculty Research Featured in Statewide Research on California K-12 Education, Getting Down to the Facts II

In advance of a newly-elected Governor and State Legislature, a comprehensive study of the California PreK-12 education system was released earlier this week. The study, Getting Down to the Facts II, is the second effort to highlight the analysis and expertise of leading researchers to shed light on the opportunities and challenges in California education reform.

Goldman School of Public Policy faculty contributed to two reports in Getting Down to the Facts II; the first stressing the importance of integrated and transparent education data in policymaking, and the second on the impact of school finance reform on student learning outcomes.

Stronger data infrastructure needed

California Policy Lab Faculty Director and Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Jesse Rothstein, collaborated with Meredith Phillips and Sarah Reber at UCLA, to examine the current state of data and data systems that address the California education system. They found that California education data systems are behind other states, and such weaknesses stymie the efforts of policymakers to answer important questions about California education.

They write that “California leaders would have a stronger basis for determining the school and policy improvement efforts they want to implement. Such systems create the transparency that local educators and state leaders require to identify needs and areas of growth, validate intervention strategies, and monitor progress. They shed light on how well state policies and programs are working (together or separately) and identify areas where change is needed.”

Finance reform plays role in student achievement

Rucker Johnson, Associate Professor, with Sean Tanner, PhD ‘16, examined the impact of a 2013 California finance mechanism, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), on student learning outcomes. LCFF resulted in greater funding for school districts serving disadvantaged student, and provided those districts with greater flexibility on how to spend those funds.

Although the policy and its outcomes are still in its infancy, Rucker and Sean write that “LCFF provides a test of how state policy and school resources can shape student achievement and reduce inequality…[The study’s] findings suggest that both revenue and flexibility can be productive in enhancing the academic achievement and educational attainment of disadvantaged students.”

The Getting Down to Facts II project seeks to create a common evidence base for understanding the California K-12 education system. It produced 36 research studies written by dozens of experts to distill research on student success, governance, personnel, finance, and equity. The report raises important questions about what is needed for major California education reform to succeed and investigates the inequities in funding and access to quality education—and even whether key metrics exist to build and measure a quality K-12 education system.

Find all 19 research briefs and 36 technical reports at the Getting Down to Facts II website here.