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By Tim Hunt

It's well past time to track student data

Uploaded: Apr 29, 2019

Seven years ago, former Gov. Brown convinced the Legislature to change the state funding formula for education so it gives districts with challenging student populations more money.

It’s been in effect for six years, but there’s still a huge gap between well-performing districts and many loaded with students learning English or coming from socio-economically disadvantaged (poor) families. For most districts, more money has not translated into better results.

And the governor was strangely not curious about tracking results, rejecting Legislative requests to develop monitoring mechanisms.

That’s changed in two key ways. The Legislative has given State Auditor Elaine Howle, who has a reputation for shooting straight from her non-partisan office, a mandate to determine how the funding formula is working in three large districts from across the state.

Equally importantly, Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed developing an educational data system that will track students from pre-school through high school and into higher education. Education reform advocates have sought this information for years, only to run into road blocks at the state levels.

The Tri-Valley’s Senator, Steve Glazer from Orinda, is carrying SB 2 to create the system. It already has passed its first committee hearing according to a column by Dan Walters of CalMatters. Developing the system is critical, particularly if it further equips educators to intervene with struggling students while they are early in elementary school. If a student is not reading a grade level by the fourth grade, it is very difficult for the student to perform in schools because classes get larger and teachers have less time to spend with individual students.
Walters points out that many districts fail, but there are standouts that educate students from difficult backgrounds very well. The opportunity is to learn what those districts are doing right and copy it. I was privileged to work with Marilyn Avenue Elementary in Livermore nearly 20 years ago when a two determined principals and a dedicated staff collaborated with the community to turn around education for students there. Test scores climbed nearly 100 points in short order and were approaching the 800 level (distinguished school recognition) before the state scrapped that testing system. Those scored improved as the number of students from poor families learning English more than doubled to more than 60 percent.
Walters cited a Fresno Bee article about the Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District in the San Joaquin Valley that has the third highest poverty rate of any district in California (mostly farmworkers’ children) and consistently turns out high school graduates ready for college.