tate-by-State Analysis Looks Solely at Education Policy Environments, Provides Road Map for Schools’ Success
On January 7, national education reform advocacy organization StudentsFirst published its first-ever State Policy Report Card, a new tool for improving student achievement that doesn’t look at individual or school-wide test scores or teacher effectiveness, but instead gauges how well each state’s education policies are serving students and schools.
According to the report, California’s K-12 public education system lags behind the national trend on education reforms, and would benefit from increased focus on instituting a meaningful teacher and principal evaluation system that incorporates student growth as a significant factor, and eliminating restrictions on public charter school growth, among other student-centric reform policies.
“The most powerful way to improve student achievement from outside the classroom is to shape policy and implement laws at the state level that govern education,” said StudentsFirst CEO and Founder Michelle Rhee. “That is why our report card focuses singularly on the education policies in place in each of our states. And when we look solely at policy, it’s clear that we have a long way to go toward improving our education system in America.”
The national report raises serious questions about whether states’ education laws and practices are contributing to student success. Nationally, nearly 90 percent of the states received less than a “C” grade on the State Policy Report Card, and no state earned higher than a “B-”. California received an overall grade of “F,” with a grade point average of 0.69, for its performance in three critical areas: elevating teaching, empowering parents and spending public dollars wisely. The state ranked 41st nationally, but was praised in the report for requiring school districts to provide facilities for charter schools. The top two states, Louisiana and Florida, each earned a B- for beginning to adopt the kind of student-centered policies that bring more rigor and accountability into their school systems and expand parents’ access to quality school choice.
“Today’s findings reflect a school system that continues to operate in the same way, doing the same thing and expecting different results,” said Senator Ricardo Lara, Chairman of the Legislative Latino Caucus. “As evident by data, we can do better, our kids and families deserve better. Our students can and will achieve, but it can’t happen unless we bring all stakeholders to the table and have an honest dialogue. We have the power to change things for the better, but it requires courage to use it.”
“StudentsFirst is a strong advocate for student-centered policies that work and an important partner in the education reform movement,” said Assemblyman Ian Calderon. “It’s clear there is no one silver bullet to solving the crisis in American public education, but teachers are key and putting the right laws in place can truly transform student achievement. I’m glad they are waging that battle.”
Built on StudentsFirst’s experience, education research, and evidence from successful school districts, the report card evaluated California’s policies based on three critical pillars: elevating and improving the teaching profession, empowering parents with information and choice, and ensuring public dollars are being spent wisely in ways that help students learn. The report is the most comprehensive state-by-state assessment of these three policy areas, which StudentsFirst selected because research shows they can have the highest impact on student achievement.
“In just a short period of time, StudentsFirst has proven itself to be a leading voice for education reform and for our kids,” said Kristin Olsen, Vice Chair of the Assembly Education Policy Committee. “They provide a necessary counterweight to influential unions and fight effectively for the kinds of student-focused policies that will improve public schools and increase achievement. My colleagues in the Legislature would be well-advised to listen to what StudentsFirst has to say.”
StudentsFirst plans to update and release the State Policy Report Card annually, and aims for lawmakers to use the report as a roadmap to pass laws and policies that prioritize student interests and close achievement gaps between groups of students.
Focusing on enacting common-sense laws and policies will be the singular mission of StudentsFirst California and its nearly 200,000 members in 2013 and beyond. The 2013 California State Policy Report Card can be viewed, downloaded and compared to other states on the StudentsFirst report card web site here: http://reportcard.studentsfirst.org.
For more information about California’s State Policy Report Card or StudentsFirst in California go to http://www.studentsfirst.org/state/california or contact Erin Shaw at EShaw@studentsfirst.org.