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Fri Apr 24, 2015, 07:25 AM

An Alternative To Failed Education ‘Reform’ (If We Want One)


California – the state with by far the most K-12 students, one in eight – has started to take education policy in a different direction.

As Claremont Graduate University professor Charles Taylor Kerchner explains in an op-ed in Education Week, the Golden State is an “outlier” when it comes to education, veering sharply away from policies pushed by President Barak Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“The state has refused to sign on to the test-score-accountability provisions of the federal agenda,” Kerchner writes. And, “The state legislature has terminated its old statewide testing system altogether and suspended its single indicator system.”

Also, at a time when politicians pay more lip service to inequity in the country, California’s education policy has actually taken steps to address that problem. “The state has coupled the revival of its financial fortunes with a revolutionary change in how it spends its education dollars,” Kerchner explains. Through the state’s recently enacted local-control funding formula, “substantial fiscal control” is now in the hands of local school districts, and “districts with low-income students, English-language learners, and foster youths receive 20 percent more in the current version of the formula. Those where 55 percent of students fall into one or more high-needs categories will get an additional grant.”

These changes have turned “the education policy of the last four decades on its head,” Kerchner argues, and instead of fiscal austerity and top-down accountability, financial support for local schools has grown, local authorities have been empowered to create change, and trust and verification have taken over from rigid oversight.

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