Students First: Renewing Hope for California's Future

Sheila Grant

Governor's Committee on Education Excellence
November 2007

The final report of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Committee on Education Excellence (see here), released last week, finds that California's education system "turns common sense on its head." It blames this system for the Golden State's educational woes and notes that school leaders who achieve success have had to work around the rules and bypass the system. The Committee developed a series of inter-related priorities to "create a constantly escalating cycle of continuous improvement" in the state. In the area of teaching and leadership, the report recommends implementing merit pay, adding extra compensation for math and science teachers, and creating more professional advancement opportunities for teachers who want to stay in the classroom. The second "priority": funding. The report criticizes California's "categorical" system of financing, which distributes funds through over 100 discrete categorical programs and thus causes a maze of bureaucracy that distracts principals from their roles as "instructional leaders." The third priority is about streamlining governance and strengthening accountability. It emphasizes data collection. A "reality gap" between what Californians think is occurring in schools and what is actually occurring leads to complacency (from citizens and government) about education-reform efforts. The Committee repeatedly emphasizes that all of its reforms should be implemented as a package; piecemeal, a la carte tweaking, the authors write, may do more harm than good. This report is far-reaching and doesn't mince words. Will Californians follow its lead? Find it here.

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