WORLD-CLASS SCHOOLS

 

Summary

• California has world-class universities and is at the center of the global knowledge economy. It should aspire to have world-class K-12 public schools.

• California students are performing below the national average despite an increase in schools funding.

• California spends the least of all but four states on its public schools when our high cost of living is accounted for, even after recent increases in funding.

• We have all the tools we need to "flip the classroom" and turn teachers into tutors and the Internet into an instructor.

• We need a grand bargain to professionalize teaching, raise teachers’ wages, and modernize the school day.

 
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Problem

California’s schools are uniquely unequal, home to the highest and lowest ranked districts in the nation. California’s schools are also the most unequal when it comes to student performance by race. Student performance of African American and Latino students has been declining — the latter to second-poorest in the U.S. Only 40 percent of non-white and non-Asian students meet state education standards.

California increased funding for schools but did not improve student performance. Other states saw their student performance improve which led to an overall decline in California’s relative performance, from 33rd to 42nd for overall grades and scores nationwide between 2012 to 2016. Four out of ten students in the California State University system are required to take remedial English and Math.

California’s high cost of living makes life hard — especially for teachers. Just 17 percent of them can afford a median-priced home in the community where they teach.

Accounting for the high cost of living, California spends the least per student of all but four other states. As a result, California has the fourth worst teacher-student ratio in the U.S.. 22.5-to-1.

College attendance rates are low. Only 30 percent of California’s ninth graders will go to college. By 2030, if trends continue, California companies will lack the one million college-educated workers they need to continue operating in the state.

School reform in Washington, D.C. suggests that student performance can improve by dismissing underperforming teachers and financially rewarding performance.

But school reform has so far not dealt with the fundamental problem of the lack of instructional time. Scholars have known for decades that academic instruction time at three hours a day is too short and more like five and a half are needed. Recently, researchers have found that summer vacation worsens the race and class gap in student performance.

California’s establishment has given up on serious educational reform and deferred to teachers’ unions. Gov. Brown dismisses the ability of Sacramento to improve the state’s schools and has simply devolved ever more control to local school boards.

 
 
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Solution

We need to personalize education for every student by automating lecturing and freeing up teachers to better meet the needs of each student. This is called “flipping the classroom,” and it is already being implemented in many schools to significant student performance improvements and teacher and parent satisfaction.

The digital revolution makes flipping the classroom possible through online lectures and instruction from Khan Academy and other high quality series. While some students are watching online lectures — appropriate for their level and pace — other students are being tutored by teachers who might be specialists in math, reading, science and other subjects.

Personalizing instruction allows for the cultivation of the social and emotional intelligence needed in an increasingly automated world. Leadership, empathy, teamwork, and coaching are skills that cannot be automated.

For flipping the classroom to work, we need to reform the school day and school year. Society is long overdue in aligning the school day to the 9-5 work day. A school day of that length would allow schools to eliminate both homework for students and after-school work for teachers. It would better integrate aftercare, sports, physical education, and the arts into the school day and make it available to all students. And it would reduce the negative impact of summer vacation, especially on low-income children.

Teachers would work a normal 40 hour work week and be rewarded as professionals. A normal school schedule would not require any increase in total hours worked since they work 10 hours and 40 minutes per day on average currently. Normalizing the schedule into a 40 hour week would allow teachers to work shorter days for more weeks, like other professionals.

Under such a reform, teacher salaries should be raised to professional levels with continuous education required to improve student performance. A new regime would require a grand bargain where teachers would exchange higher pay for a reformed school day and the end of tenure.