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Is California’s big investment in needy students paying off? Few signs yet that achievement gap is closing

By in Press Enterprise on June 19, 2017

By Jessica Calefati, CALmatters

California’s new system for funding public education has pumped tens of billions of extra dollars into struggling schools, but there’s little evidence yet that the investment is helping the most disadvantaged students.

A CALmatters analysis of the biggest districts with the greatest clusters of needy children found limited success with the policy’s goal: to close the achievement gap between these students and their more-privileged peers. Instead, test scores in most of those districts show the gap is growing.

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The test scores echo a broader and growing concern about the Local Control Funding Formula from civil rights groups, researchers and legislators.

The formula implemented in 2013 sends more money to schools with higher concentrations of foster youths, kids learning English and students from low-income families. But four years after it was adopted, there are few signs the program is working, and questions have arisen about whether the $31 billion invested so far is being spent effectively.

The concern has created a high-stakes confrontation with Gov. Jerry Brown, the formula’s architect, because his goal of shifting more responsibility to the local level means the state does not track basic information, such as how much grant money each district gets for needy students and how they spend it.

“The state has spent tens of billions of dollars trying to lift poor kids and not one penny evaluating whether any of it is working,” said Bruce Fuller, an education policy professor at the UC Berkeley. “That’s outrageous. We’re heading into Year Five. It’s time to discern what’s effective […]    

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