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Education Dollars Doesn't Equal Education Outcomes

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

State policymakers are rolling out $1.75B to add three hours to the school day and extend the school year by 30 days for students who are low-income, English language learners and foster youth.

Raising California K-12 student outcomes from the bottom quartile nationally to the top by 2035 is a key goal for the 21st Century Alliance. New education dollars might be cause for celebration if we knew the funding would be translated into outcomes for kids. But we don’t know, and we will likely never know.

California doesn’t have mechanisms in place for understanding how education dollars are spent, or whether they are reaching our neediest schools and students. We don’t even have the capacity to effectively determine whether the billions of state and federal dollars allocated to address pandemic-related learning loss have been spent at all. Nor do we know whether they have helped kids in a meaningful way.

Responsible governance means getting serious about a student data system that allows us to evaluate the relationship between spending, educational interventions and student outcomes. The Governor has championed the cradle-to-career data system that will be a lynchpin of this effort, but progress has been maddeningly slow.

In the interim, a new tool from Pivot Learning and UnboundEd allows educators, policymakers and parents to evaluate how ready a given school district is to translate new funding into outcomes for kids. The District Readiness Index uses 30 metrics to gauge a district’s ability to deliver results, and allows stakeholders to identify areas where their district needs to improve. As the state drags its heels on accountability, the District Readiness Index offers a helpful, if only partial, solution.

Without transparency and oversight, we can’t know what works. We can’t learn from our successes, or our mistakes. We can’t help the California kids that need our help the most.

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