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The Effects of Funding and Resources on Instruction and Innovation

In the eighth of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges.

Instruction in developmental education is not simply a matter of what happens in the classroom. The colleges in which classrooms are embedded have their own influences on what happens inside the classroom. In this working paper we examine funding and resource issues, and the dominant ways resources are spent; and the funding from the state’s Basic Skills Initiative. In a subsequent working paper, No. 9, we analyze five additional institutional issues: 1. the influence of the course as the basic unit of educational provision; 2. the importance and form of professional development; 3. the crucial role of adjunct faculty, and their isolation from the rest of the institution; 4. the notion of data-driven reform; 5. the community college as a laissez-faire institution, contrasted with some policies that move away from this model toward more coordination, centralization, and understanding of mutual responsibilities among both faculty and administrators.

These institutional influences make it difficult for individual faculty or even departments to make much change on their own. These also imply a large agenda for change — some of which require additional funding in obvious ways, and are therefore impossible in periods of fiscal decline, but some of which simply require using existing resources in different ways. Some of them challenge the nature of the community college in fundamental ways, making innovation that more difficult. But all of them have the potential to facilitate the improvement of instruction in basic skills in ways that make innovation an institutional responsibility rather than the idiosyncratic activity of individual faculty.

The Effects of Funding and Resources on Instruction and Innovation

Assessment and Alignment: The Dynamic Aspects of Developmental Education

In the seventh of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges.

Developmental education is typically a dynamic sequence of courses taking place over time, with the presumption that each activity — an initial assessment, then a series of courses leading to college-level courses — is articulated with the next. However, there are many issues in this process. One of the first is that the assessment exams used are themselves problems — inconsistent among colleges, uncoordinated with subsequent courses, opaque to students who take these assessments without understanding how important they are. They provide information for placement, but no information for the diagnosis of what skills a student lacks, so they are virtually useless to instructors. The upshot is that the assessment process does a poor job of placing students.

Then the alignment of courses presents other problems. Horizontal alignment, or coordination of all sections of a course at the same level, typically does not take place since instructors are usually responsible for their own courses — even though some colleges have moved to common exit exams to force some uniformity. Then vertical alignment — the coordination of one course in a sequence with the next course — virtually never takes place, except in those few cases where departments are organized themselves into learning communities of cooperating members. The conclusion to this Working Paper outlines a series of steps that might help correct the various alignment problems. In the end, alignment requires a shift in thinking, from one emphasizing the improvement of individual course — valuable as that might be — to one focusing primarily on a program of courses over time, and requiring collective action among assessment, matriculation, research, and instruction.

Assessment and Alignment: The Dynamic Aspects of Developmental Education

Two new PACE Publications

PACE announces two new publications:

The Road Ahead for State Assessments:

The Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) have jointly produced a report that offers policy guidance for a new generation of state assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The report, The Road Ahead for State Assessments, aims to inform the work of the two U.S. Department of Education-funded consortia charged with developing a new generation of state assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards: the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers Consortium (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). The adoption of the Common Core State Standards presents states across the nation with an unprecedented opportunity to enhance the educational opportunities they provide students. States that have adopted the Common Core State Standards are now in the early stages of revising curriculum frameworks, adopting new instructional materials, developing new systems of assessment, and providing professional development for teachers to prepare them to deliver instruction aligned to the new standards.

The Quality Teacher and Education Act: First Year Report:

In June 2008, the voters of San Francisco passed the Quality Teacher and Education Act (QTEA) with a 69.8% majority, authorizing the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to collect $198 per parcel of taxable property, indexed annually for 20 years. Heather Hough, Susanna Loeb, and David Plank of the Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA) and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), in collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District, have documented the passage of this policy and are now engaged in a three-year evaluation (starting in 2009-10) of the implementation and effect of QTEA, focusing on the elements that directly affect the teacher workforce (teacher compensation, support, and accountability).

This first-year report documents the implementation of QTEA and how this affects the recruitment and retention of high quality teachers, the overall improvement of the teacher workforce, and the strategic removal of less effective teachers. To study the effect of QTEA on teacher outcomes, the authors use a mixed-methods approach, combining analysis of the district’s administrative data with original data collection.