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January 22 | Senate Press Release

Today State Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge) introduced SB 237, a measure which would require elementary schools to screen students for dyslexia.


“Sadly, students with dyslexia far too often go unidentified, untreated and their trouble with reading negatively impacts them throughout their life,” stated Senator Portantino. “While some dyslexics overcome their challenges, far too many bright students have lower graduation rates, are less likely to attend college, and go on to have a much higher incarceration rates than those who do not have it. By accurately screening students at risk for dyslexia early in their school experience, we can help them succeed.” 

January 6 | CalMatters

By Bill Lucia

The Legislative Analyst Office recently reported a $26 billion windfall. And, some are suggesting California should restore across-the-board cuts. But politicians must recognize solutions embedded in the June budget did not embody shared sacrifice – kids and teachers took a disproportionate hit.

June revenues were deliberately pessimistic. As a result, the Legislature could low-ball the Proposition 98 minimum school funding guarantee. In addition, the state relied heavily on payment deferrals to schools to close the budget gap. $12.5 billion in IOUs were established requiring schools to wait until next year to get paid what they are owed today. 

December 22 | New York Times

By Erica L. Green and Eliza Shapiro

In August, Connecticut’s schools chief, Miguel A. Cardona, logged on to a virtual meeting of New Haven’s school board, ostensibly to hear why its members had decided not to open the state’s largest school district for in-person classes this fall.

Most of the district’s students had not fully participated in remote learning, he said. Its most vulnerable populations had the most to lose by not returning to school buildings, and the district had met public health metrics for reopening. But although Dr. Cardona later suggested the board reconsider, he declined to overrule it.

“All of you, whether you have a very strong position on one end or the other, are here because you care about the success of children and the community,” he concluded.

December 1 | Los Angeles Times

By Nina Agrawal 

The state of California has failed during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide a free and equal education to all students, violating the state Constitution and discriminating against Black, Latino and low-income families, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

These children have been left behind during months of distance learning, lacking access to digital tools as well as badly needed academic and social-emotional supports, according to the lawsuit filed by the Public Counsel on behalf of California students, parents and several community organizations.

November 16 | EdSource

By Louis Freedberg and Ali Tadayon

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “sounding of the alarm” to beat back the surge of the Covid-19 virus represents a severe setback for efforts to further reopen schools in California, as millions more students now attend schools in counties barred from offering face-to-face instruction in regular classes.

On Monday, Newsom applied what he called an “emergency brake” on reopening schools and businesses in almost every part of the state, based on coronavirus rules announced months ago. Of the state’s 58 counties, 41 counties are now on the Tier One purple list, the most restrictive of the state’s coronavirus monitoring list.

November 15 | San Diego Union-Tribune

By Kristen Taketa

San Diego Unified is proposing adding dozens of standards for new and expanding charter schools after a new state law gives districts more leeway to deny charters.

Under the proposed criteria, San Diego Unified would consider the potential financial and enrollment impact of a new or expanding charter school on the district.

Before the law change, the district could not consider those factors.

November 13 | Daily News

By Linh Tat

The Los Angeles Unified School District and Associated Administrators of Los Angeles have reached an agreement regarding how to bring students and staff back to campus for in-person instruction, one of several agreements the district has been negotiating with its employee groups.

Although district officials have said they hope to see a general reopening of schools in January if possible, no plans have been firmed up, as the district continues to negotiate with the teachers union and other employee groups, and as they continue to monitor the current spike in coronavirus cases.

November 11 | The 74

By Katie Silberstein and Marguerite Roza

Under California’s Local Control Funding Formula, the San Diego Unified School District’s highest-needs schools generated $1,468 more per student in 2016-17 than the average amount generated across all district schools. Yet, according to our new study, once that money passed through the district, those same neediest schools wound up receiving $127 less per student than the district’s average school. In fact, 12 of the 14 California districts we studied passed along a smaller share of formula-generated dollars to the schools with the highest-needs students.

November 9 | EdSource

By Sydney Johnson

High school students planning to apply to the University of California now have a broader set of courses they can take to meet the math requirement for admission to the public university system.

As more high schools across California have developed and adopted new college-prep math courses, math education and equity advocates have urged the state’s public universities to allow these courses to count toward admission requirements.


Under the new rules adopted in October, students in 11th and 12th grade can take data science, computer science, statistics and other approved quantitative reasoning courses to satisfy the required third year or recommended fourth year of math needed to be eligible for UC.

November 4 | Los Angeles Times

By Howard Blume

The titans of Los Angeles school politics — charter-school advocates and the teachers union — have fought to an expensive draw in Tuesday’s school board races, with a winner expected from each side and a board majority that could tilt in favor of charters.


In District 3, which covers most of the western San Fernando Valley, union-backed incumbent Scott Schmerelson led charter-backed Marilyn Koziatek by 54% to 46% of votes cast Wednesday evening. In District 7, which stretches from South L.A. to the Harbor area, charter-backed Tanya Ortiz Franklin was in front of union-backed Patricia Castellanos by a tally of 58% to 42%.

November 4 | EdSource

By Sydney Johnson

Teachers, administrators and parents wondering about the status of California’s annual standardized tests can expect to get clarity this week.

On Thursday, the State Board of Education will vote on whether to revise and shorten the state’s annual standardized Smarter Balanced tests in math and English language arts.

“We want to ensure we are providing flexibility and options to districts in an ever-evolving environment right now,” said Rachael Maves, deputy superintendent of instruction and measurement for the California Department of Education. “We are coming off a year of very little data, and I feel hopeful that we are starting down the path of collecting some.”

October 31 | Hechinger Report

By Tara Garcia Mathewson

At Ronald D. O’Neal Elementary School, in Elgin, Illinois, none of the third graders could read and write at grade level according to state tests in 2019. Nearly 90 percent of the school population is considered low-income and nearly three-quarters are labeled English learners, meaning that the state language arts test assesses their reading and writing ability in a language they’re still trying to learn.

Just nine miles away sits Centennial Elementary School, where 73 percent of third graders met grade-level standards on that same test. A fifth of Centennial’s student body is considered low-income, and 17 percent get extra supports as they learn English.

October 30 | EdSource

By Howard Blume

Grades of D and F have increased in the Los Angeles Unified School District among middle and high school students in a troubling sign of the toll that distance learning — and the coronavirus crisis — is taking on the children, especially those who are members of low-income families.

The district released a chart Monday indicating that based on 10-week interim assessments, failing grades are increasing across the board, but are surging the most in lower-income communities. Compounding the disturbing trend, students in these same communities, hard hit by the spread of COVID-19, have the lowest attendance.

October 30 | EdSource

By Yuxuan Xie

The above map gives a broad indication of the kind of instruction offered by all or most public school districts in a particular county — whether via in-person or distance learning, or a mixture of the two. It does not include private, parochial or charter schools, or special education or other small group classes for students with special needs that districts are offering through the state’s “small cohort” guidance. “In-person instruction” refers to counties where most or all districts offer some form of in-person instruction in regular classes, or plan to offer such instruction in November, often in hybrid formats, to some or all grades, and to those students who wish to participate.  It is based on information from county offices of education from Oct. 22-29, supplemented by EdSource research.

October 29 | Legislative Analysts Office

This post begins by covering the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee and overall Proposition 98 spending, then covers spending for K-12 education. The EdBudget part of our website contains dozens of tables providing more detail about the 2020‑21 education budget package.

October 28 | USA Today

By Erin Richards

American high schoolers are approaching graduation with less of a grasp on reading and still-low math scores – and that's before factoring in the pandemic.

The average reading score for high school seniors dropped between 2015 and 2019, while math scores for those soon-to-be-graduates remained flat, according to the latest round of national test results released Wednesday.

And just as in many other aspects of American society, the divide between the academic haves and have-nots keeps growing. The most-proficient 12th graders – those with scores at the top of their class – are scoring better in reading than they did nearly 30 years ago. The least-proficient 12th grade readers are even further behind than they were in 1992, with scores that declined in that time period.

October 22 | Los Angeles Times

By Howard Blume and Laura Newberry

In a significant move to bring more students back to campus, Los Angeles County schools will be permitted to bring 25% of their students back to campus at a time, provided that they need special services best offered in person.


Students receiving priority would include those learning English and those with disabilities.

The action announced Wednesday by Supervisor Kathryn Barger comes in response to pressure to allow more students on campus and reports that schools elsewhere have reopened with relative safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

October 14 | Sacramento Bee

By Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Sawsan Morrar

Marcheri Smith hovers behind her son Tulley as he strains to hear his teacher’s instructions on Zoom and worries, like many parents at Sacramento City Unified schools, whether her son is falling behind.

With spotty internet, tight budgets, glitchy devices and piling responsibilities, Smith’s family is just trying to make it through each day.

“I don’t sleep at all,” she said.

September 16 | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

The first significant change to the state’s 7-year-old K-12 funding system, the Local Control Funding Formula, is a signature away from becoming law.

But if Gov. Gavin Newsom accepts the recommendation of his advisers at the California Department of Finance and ignores the Legislature’s near-unanimous vote favoring the significant reform, he’ll veto the legislation within the next few weeks. Hundreds of nonprofits and civil rights groups signed a letter last week urging him not to do that; signing it instead would ensure that funding for “our highest-need, most vulnerable students is actually directed to support them,” the letter said.

September 7 | Sacramento Bee

By Sawsan Morrar

Tens of thousands of families in Sacramento are dealing with a new layer of uncertainty one day before Sacramento City Unified schools are set to begin their first full days of online instruction.

The district delivered a cease and desist letter to the Sacramento City Teachers Association calling on the union to use the district’s distance learning schedule. But some teachers on Monday said they instead plan to move forward with schedules they collectively created together as a union and are different than the district’s plan.

September 5 | LA Times

By Howard Blume

Citing safety concerns, the leader of the Los Angeles teachers union said Friday it opposes reopening campuses for small in-person classes or one-on-one services for students who are disabled or learning English — even though county health officials have cleared the way to do so.

Some outside advocacy groups pushed back against the union’s position and the unwillingness of the L.A. Unified School District to address the issue directly and publicly.

August 27 | OC Register

By Editorial Staff

After Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 98, a budget trailer bill that froze this year’s school funding based on last year’s average daily attendance, a group of charter schools and their students filed a lawsuit charging that the state was violating the students’ constitutional right to an education and threatening the financial viability of their schools.


The annual guaranteed per-pupil funding under the state’s Local Control Funding Formula is approximately $10,000, but the lawmakers’ decision to hold school districts “harmless” for lost enrollment in the pandemic chaos meant that students at schools with declining enrollment would share in the extra funding for students who were no longer there, while schools with increasing enrollment would have to get by with less than the annual per-pupil guarantee.

August 22 | Sacramento Observer

By Observer Staff

At the tender age of 5, Samaiya Atkins and her father Marcus Atkins have high hopes and dreams for a high-quality, public education. When Mr. Atkins realized his daughter could get that level of rigor at a new school with an established reputation for developing high-performing scholars just a few blocks away from their home in the Meadowview community of Sacramento, he was ecstatic and quickly signed Samaiya up for Tecoy Porter College Prep.

Meadowview is the community where Stephon Clark, an unarmed Black man was shot and killed by the Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard giving rise to local and national protests.  Fostering hope out of tragedy, Black community leaders built Tecoy Porter College Prep, a new college-prep charter school for students grades K-5 — just yards away from where Clark was killed — and named the playground in his memory at a groundbreaking on February 4, 2020 with his family.  “I want them to know Stephon is a part of Sacramento history,” said his brother, Stevante Clark. “The remembrance of Stephon is what we want the kids to keep in their hearts and in their minds.” 

August 12 | LA Times

By Howard Blume 

With families anxious about the quality of online learning, the Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan that will restore structure to the academic schedule while also allowing for an online school day that is shorter than the traditional one.

The plan leaves some parents and advocates in the nation’s second-largest school system wanting more teaching hours. There also are parents who want fewer mandatory screen-time hours for their young children — a reflection of the complexities of distance learning and the widespread parent angst over the start of the school year next week at home, online.

August 6 | APM

By Emily Hanford


Sonya Thomas knew something wasn’t right with her son C.J. He was in first grade and he was struggling with reading. “Something was going on with him, but I could not figure it out,” she said. 

Teachers and school officials told her that C.J. was behind but would catch up. They told Sonya to read to him at home. But she did read to him. C.J. liked the Veggie Tales stories and “The Big Friendly Giant” by Roald Dahl. His older sister read the Goosebumps books to him. 

August 6 | CalMatters

By Dan Walters

The huge Los Angeles Unified School District is ground zero in California’s perpetual political war over educating millions of children on the short end of the state’s chronic “achievement gap.”

LA Unified, the nation’s second largest school system, has nearly 10% of the state’s 6 million public school students, the vast majority of whom are considered to be “at risk” due to poverty, lack of English language skills or foster child status.

July 30 | LA Times

By Howard Blume

With the Aug. 18 start of the school year fast approaching, parents and students face uncertainty over how online instruction will be conducted as the Los Angeles teachers union and district officials haggle over the rules and schedules for distance learning.

The union, United Teachers Los Angeles, opposes a proposal under which teachers would have to instruct students remotely while working an 8:30 a.m.-to-3 p.m. schedule that would closely mirror a traditional school day. The union has countered with a shorter work day structured somewhat differently.

July 29 | CalMatters

By Dan Walters

The pandemic-truncated 2020 legislative session, which resumed this week, has no shortage of business to conduct and just a month to do it — unless Gov. Gavin Newsom grants an extension.

Legislative leaders have imposed a tightly restricted schedule of committee hearings, with very limited public input, and asked their members to drop non-essential bills. In other words, they should be doing only what needs to be done and setting aside everything else.

Senate Bill 614 would be a good candidate for deferral, since it proposes to jettison California’s quarter century-old method of testing the readiness of prospective teachers to develop students’ reading skills, and is vague on what, if anything, would replace it.

July 29 | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

Four growing charter school organizations are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and the California Department of Education, charging that the state’s formula for funding K-12 schools during the pandemic will illegally deny payments for additional students in their schools.

Their schools are being underfunded by millions of dollars and their students’ constitutional rights are being violated, the lawsuit claims.

July 22 | Mercury News

By John Woolfolk

Now that the great summer debate has been settled and most California schools will be teaching online instead of opening their classrooms for the fast-approaching school year, parents like Martin Rauchwerk have one request: Reassure us online instruction will be better this time around.

“I forgave them for the spring,” said Rauchwerk, whose younger son will be a junior at San Jose’s Leland High School, “but I’m not going to forgive them for the fall.”

State and local officials say online schooling will look a lot different than in the spring. Districts say they’ll make sure students have computers and check in daily. Those students will also follow a regular bell schedule and be graded, unlike when schools were thrown into chaos after the coronavirus pandemic abruptly shuttered classrooms in March.

July 17 | Los Angeles Times

By John Meyers and Sonali Kohli 

Most California public and private school campuses will not reopen when the academic year begins under statewide rules announced Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, shifting instead toward full-time distance learning in response to the summer surge in coronavirus cases.

Schools will remain closed in 32 counties on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list. Public health conditions in those communities led state officials last week to require a variety of facilities to close, including gyms, shopping malls, hair and nail salons and places of worship. The counties are home to 35.5 million Californians.

July 16 | Los Angeles Times

By Howard Blume and Paloma Esquivel

More than 50,000 Black and Latino middle and high school students in Los Angeles did not regularly participate in the school system’s main platform for virtual classrooms after campuses closed in March, a reflection of the deep disparities faced by students of color amid the COVID-19 pandemic and of the difficulties ahead as L.A. Unified prepares for continued online learning.

The numbers, reflected in a first-of-its-kind report by Los Angeles Unified School District analysts examining student engagement during campus closures, paint a stark picture of students in the nation’s second largest school district struggling under the new pressures of online learning.

July 3 | Sacramento Bee

By Mackenzie Hawkins 

School funding in California has long adhered to the guiding principle that the money follows the student.

But under this year’s education budget, lawmakers and education advocates warn, the state will abandon its traditional allocation formula in favor of a system that harms the very schools — disproportionately, charter schools and personalized education programs — that have performed best under pandemic pressures.

California’s public schools usually receive money based on a combination of the prior year’s funding and the current year’s average daily attendance — a metric that reflects not the number of students enrolled, but rather how many students show up each day.

July 2 | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

In negotiations with school districts around the state, the California Teachers Association has argued, with some success, that school districts lack the authority to force teachers to do live online instruction or to record lessons for later use. Some districts have accepted that assertion.

But some attorneys for school districts are challenging the CTA’s position. They point out that the Legislature encourages distance learning in legislation that accompanied the state budget Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law last week.

July 2 | CalMatters

By Dan Walters

During his second governorship, journalists occasionally would ask Jerry Brown what he was doing about California’s highest-in-the-nation poverty rate.

Brown would tick off several actions, his centerpiece being the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which provides school districts with billions of extra dollars to upgrade the schooling of “at-risk” students, those from impoverished homes and/or English-learners.

He was right to do so — on paper. Closing the “achievement gap” that separates those students, mostly Black and Latino, from more privileged kids would be the single most effective way of also closing the income gap by equipping them with skills for well-paying employment and/or higher education.

July 2 | EdSource

By Diana Lambert

California’s smallest school districts face big hurdles in planning for next school year. Some small districts don’t have enough computers or reliable internet service in their communities to provide distance learning to all their students and many don’t have enough money to reopen campuses without difficulty, according to a survey of 185 superintendents.

The Small School Districts’ Association surveyed superintendents of school districts with fewer than 2,500 students to learn how successful they were at implementing distance learning after schools closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. They also wanted to determine the problems each would have in reopening schools.

July 1 | CalMatters

By Ricardo Cano

California’s new budget provides enough funding for schools to pivot to hybrid learning when they reopen this fall. But school officials fear Sacramento’s decision to delay cuts could throw districts into the fiscal abyss later.

The $202 billion budget Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Monday largely keeps intact funding for California’s public schools, capping a turbulent couple months of budget negotiations.

July 1 | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

Prevailing in negotiations with Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Legislature passed a state budget that will let K-12 schools spend at the same level in 2020-21 as this year — avoiding the billions in cuts that Newsom had proposed.

But there’s a catch. Spending won’t equate to funding. School and community college districts will have to front $11 billion they would normally get from the state in exchange for IOUs. Districts won’t be paid back until 2021-22.

Deferrals, as the late payments are called, may sound familiar. They also were the Legislature’s go-to strategy during the Great Recession.

June 30 | NPR

By Nina Totenberg and Brian Naylor

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Montana's exclusion of religious schools from a state scholarship program funded by tax credits violates the Constitution.

The 5-4 decision, in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's other conservatives, is a victory for parents who wanted to use the state tax credit to help send children to religious schools.

The decision is also a victory for conservative religious groups and advocates of school choice who challenged Montana's "no-aid" provision in the state constitution.

June 25 | EdSource

By Howard Blume and Paloma Esquival  

When it comes to education, the new state budget goes beyond providing $70.5 billion in funding for K-12 schools — it sets fundamental accountability rules for a new era of distance learning in California by requiring teachers to take online attendance and document student learning.

The budget bill, which Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign, anticipates that schools will continue to rely heavily on online instruction when campuses reopen in the fall. It also implicitly acknowledges the deep learning losses of the last semester, especially among students from low-income families, when school systems struggled to get all students online.

The new directives establish minimum teaching parameters for distance learning while protecting teachers against immediate layoffs.

June 25 | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

Advocates and lobbyists for California’s K-12 school districts are expressing both relief and apprehension on the eve of the Legislature’s expected approval Friday of a 2020-21 state budget.

To a person, they say they appreciate the compromise that Gov. Gavin Newsom reached with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood; and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. The deal will raise spending to the current year’s level by restoring billions of dollars in cuts Newsom had proposed and will add more federal aid dollars to cope with the coronavirus epidemic.

June 25 | EdSource

By Sydney Johnson 

California schools will need to offer daily live instruction and regular communication with parents, among other requirements, in order to receive state funding for the upcoming school year.

In March, schools across California closed their campuses to prevent the spread of Covid-19, causing districts to rush to put together distance learning plans, ranging from online group projects to virtual lectures to paper-pencil packets. With little warning, many teachers struggled to reach all of their students, raising concerns about how low-income students, English learners and other students with high needs are falling behind their peers with more resources at home to continue learning.

June 24 | San Diego Union-Tribune

By Lyndsay Winkley

The Sweetwater Union High School District School Board Wednesday night voted in a closed virtual meeting to place Superintendent Karen Janney on paid administrative leave.

The decision comes a day after a county financial audit found evidence of possible fraud, misstatements in financial records and other actions that auditors say obscured the depth of the district’s financial troubles in recent years.

The action also followed a public board meeting in which a divided Sweetwater board voted to lay off 223 employees and to make other cuts to its budget, despite much public debate and resistance.

June 18 | KALW

By Lee Romney

Geraldine Robinson stepped proudly onto the stage and stated her name. What she said next was an understatement: “I am a fightin’ grandmother.” 

Robinson, 65, is a devout and joyful Christian who’s now raising three of her grandchildren. She’s been a relentless advocate for two of them in particular. And, she told the audience, the stakes are high: “I am fighting for their life.” 

On this fall evening in 2019, the crowd gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a disability rights nonprofit -- and honor this Oakland matriarch. Her grandson and his younger sister showed early signs of dyslexia. 

June 14 | LA Times

By Editorial Board


With COVID-19 cases at very low levels within its borders, Israel fully reopened its schools in mid-May. By the end of the month, 130 students at a Jerusalem high school had tested positive for the virus, setting off a flurry of quarantines for people who’d had physical contact with the students and the closure of dozens of schools.

This is the kind of outcome American parents dread as they contemplate sending their children back to school sometime this summer or fall.

It’s a troubling scenario, but so is the remote-learning experience of the past three months. The reality is, more kids will do better if schools reopen than if they continue online-only classes. But regardless of how we proceed, we must do better.

June 1 | CalMatters

By Dan Walters

Fair warning. What you are about to read is the briefest possible summary of one of the most arcane features of government finance in California, albeit one that involves hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and illustrates how financial decisions over four decades interact to create quagmires that defy rationality.

To begin at the beginning, in 1978 California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13, which limits property taxes on homes and other real estate. It reduced property taxes that had supported local agencies and shifted the primary burden of financing schools and community colleges to the state government.

June 1 | EdSource

By Diana Lambert


Most California school districts were just plunging into their annual teacher recruitment season in March when schools began to close in response to the coronavirus pandemic. One by one districts canceled job fairs, pulled recruiters off the road and shifted to a virtual hiring process.

School districts have spent more staff time and effort recruiting teachers in recent years because of an ongoing state teacher shortage that often leaves schools without enough fully credentialed teachers. The shortage has been especially acute in hard-to-fill areas like special education, world languages, math and science, as well as English language development.

May 30 | EdSource

By Diana Lambert

Gov. Gavin Newsom has suspended state testing requirements for teacher candidates impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in an executive order issued Saturday morning.

The order allows eligible teacher candidates to earn preliminary credentials without taking either the California Teaching Performance Assessment or the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment. It also allows students to enter teacher preparation programs without passing the California Basic Education Skills Test and teacher candidates to enter internship programs without passing required tests in the California Subject Examinations for Teachers because testing centers were closed. 

May 29 | EdSource

By Theresa Harrington

As education leaders mull how to bring students back to schools safely, they are also wrestling with how to better educate children who were falling behind before the pandemic.

Access to computers and the internet, especially in so-called “digital deserts,” is key to the long-term success of students, said the leaders of five of the largest districts in the country. Mike McGee, CEO of the Chiefs for Change, a network of 40 superintendents from diverse backgrounds, political perspectives and regions throughout the nation, said expanding access to devices and the internet to all students is a top priority for his organization.

May 27 | New York Times

By Aaron Carroll

The pandemic has provided us with a unique opportunity to run an experiment in letting teenagers sleep in. It’s happening in my own house. My kids are 18, 16 and almost 14. Their school is being taught mostly asynchronously, through reading or videos. They do have some scheduled meetings and tests, but none begin before 10 a.m., and many are in the afternoon.

My wife and I have removed all restrictions and let them regulate their sleep themselves. The kids seem to be going to bed between midnight and 3 a.m. If they’re not required to be in a morning session, I might see them by lunch.

May 21 | University of California Press Room

The University of California Board of Regents today (May 21) unanimously approved the suspension of the standardized test requirement (ACT/SAT) for all California freshman applicants until fall 2024. The suspension will allow the University to create a new test that better aligns with the content the University expects students to have mastered for college readiness. However, if a new test does not meet specified criteria in time for fall 2025 admission, UC will eliminate the standardized testing requirement for California students.


“Today’s decision by the Board marks a significant change for the University’s undergraduate admissions,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “We are removing the ACT/SAT requirement for California students and developing a new test that more closely aligns with what we expect incoming students to know to demonstrate their preparedness for UC.”

May 14 | EdVoice

EdVoice President Bill Lucia today released the following statement in response to the Governor's May Revision to the January 2020-21 State Budget proposal:

"The May Revision sets forth a detailed plan for the Legislature to follow a path to a balanced budget recognizing the grim fiscal consequences of the COVID-19 Recession. California is experiencing an unprecedented decline in employment, personal income and revenues to the state General Fund. Moving forward will clearly require shared sacrifice as the state and communities work to put people safely back to work and students back in school. We understand no state or local budget will escape serious downward adjustment and belt tightening in the near-term.

May 14 | EdSource

By Diana Lambert

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s biggest education priority in his proposed state budget — $915 million to recruit and train teachers — was eliminated in his May budget revision released Thursday.

The proposed funds are more than the amount spent for teacher development in the five previous years combined, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

May 13 | CalMatters

By Dan Walters

Early in his second governorship, Jerry Brown championed a major overhaul of school finance that, he pledged, would close the stubborn “achievement gap” that separated poor and English-learner students from children of more privileged circumstances.

Restrictions were lifted on some forms of state school aid, dubbed “categoricals,” thus giving local school districts more flexibility in spending, and they also were given extra money specifically to help underachieving children catch up.

However, the Local Control Funding Formula, as it was officially called, had some odd provisions, particularly what Brown called “subsidiarity,” which he derived from an obscure snippet of theological dogma.

May 13 | Press Enterprise

By Kathleen Hermsmeyer

The pandemic has catapulted California schools kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Public schools will likely never return to the one-size-fits-all rigid “seat minutes” structure of just a few months ago.  And it’s about time.

For 25 years many charter school leaders including me have been working to redesign schools to more flexibly serve students in the modern world.  Nevertheless, our movement has been denounced, criticized and minimized by the educational old-guard.  The traditional public school system is slow to change and unwilling or unable to recognize the benefits of a more flexible school environment for many of their students and families. Now that parents, students and teachers have experienced distance learning – with both its pros and cons – they will be reluctant to go back to an uncompromising system of education.

April 29 | CORE

Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) in Watsonville, CA wasted no time. In early January as concerns about COVID-19 were just beginning to surface in the United States, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Rodriguez moved quickly to implement a distance learning plan for the district in order to minimize the learning loss that would be unavoidable once California’s Shelter in Place order went into effect.

First, Dr. Rodriguez wanted to ensure all students had access to online distance learning. By getting Chromebooks and hotspots into the hands of her students, this goal was readily achieved. But given the diverse population of the district — 66% English learners, 81% in poverty, 14% special education, 16% without permanent housing, and 10% migrant — having the right hardware and software was not enough. Dr. Rodriguez created a robust tech support network for parents and teachers to turn to for help getting online, using applications, and accessing the other remote learning tools being offered by the district.

April 29 | CalMatters

By Dan Walters

The semi-shutdown of California’s social, economic and institutional life, that was ordered to arrest the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, seems to be working — albeit at immense cost.

Nowhere is that cost more evident than in the abrupt closure of public schools, sending their 6 million students home to continue their educations, as best they can, under the tutelage of teachers on computer screens and bewildered parents.

Under the best of such awkward circumstances, learning is difficult, and for many students, particularly those in poor families, it will be another setback that widens the state’s already embarrassing “achievement gap.”

April 28 | San Francisco Chronicle

By Jill Tucker

The San Francisco school board abandoned a plan to give students automatic A’s on their transcripts this semester, instead adopting a credit/no credit grading policy on Tuesday evening.

The policy applies to middle and high school students. Elementary school students will only see teacher feedback on report cards.

April 7 | Right to Read Project

This month’s school closures have forced families to become homeschool teachers overnight. 

What We Know about Beginning Readers:

Children progress as readers at different rates, but they pass through predictable stages of development. For typically-developing readers, the stages of reading can be mapped onto grade levels, but as a homeschool teacher you have the advantage of being able to provide the instruction your children need, regardless of their grade.

For each stage of reading development, we’ve selected materials so that caregivers can support their children’s progress. Each stage of reading has an instructional plan with easy suggestions for targeting the two main components of reading:

April 6 | Wall Street Journal

By Editorial Board

The coronavirus has shut down schools across America, and desperate parents are scrambling to ensure their children’s education doesn’t suffer. The U.S. Department of Education could help with some guidance about how schools can move forward on remote teaching. If the feds don’t take the lead, the teachers unions will—to the detriment of students.

Not every student has a laptop and Wi-Fi to study online during the shutdowns. In some districts, this inevitably has an adverse effect on poor students or children who don’t speak English as their first language. Schools fear that if they produce online lessons that not all students can access, they could lose federal funding or face litigation under the Civil Rights Act or the Equal Educational Opportunities Act.

The teachers unions loathe assessments in the best of times, and now they’re claiming that the only fair recourse is to stop tracking the progress of all students until schools reopen. 

April 6 | Wall Street Journal

By Editorial Board

The coronavirus has shut down schools across America, and desperate parents are scrambling to ensure their children’s education doesn’t suffer. The U.S. Department of Education could help with some guidance about how schools can move forward on remote teaching. If the feds don’t take the lead, the teachers unions will—to the detriment of students.

Not every student has a laptop and Wi-Fi to study online during the shutdowns. In some districts, this inevitably has an adverse effect on poor students or children who don’t speak English as their first language. Schools fear that if they produce online lessons that not all students can access, they could lose federal funding or face litigation under the Civil Rights Act or the Equal Educational Opportunities Act.

The teachers unions loathe assessments in the best of times, and now they’re claiming that the only fair recourse is to stop tracking the progress of all students until schools reopen. 

April 6 | Wall Street Journal

By Editorial Board

The coronavirus has shut down schools across America, and desperate parents are scrambling to ensure their children’s education doesn’t suffer. The U.S. Department of Education could help with some guidance about how schools can move forward on remote teaching. If the feds don’t take the lead, the teachers unions will—to the detriment of students.

Not every student has a laptop and Wi-Fi to study online during the shutdowns. In some districts, this inevitably has an adverse effect on poor students or children who don’t speak English as their first language. Schools fear that if they produce online lessons that not all students can access, they could lose federal funding or face litigation under the Civil Rights Act or the Equal Educational Opportunities Act.

The teachers unions loathe assessments in the best of times, and now they’re claiming that the only fair recourse is to stop tracking the progress of all students until schools reopen. 

April 2 | EdSource

By Louis Freedberg

California’s political and education leaders have embarked on a bold messaging initiative to convince millions of children stuck at home, probably for the rest of the school year, that schools aren’t really closed but are actually in session — just in a different location.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is making the distinction that school campuses are closed, but school itself is not out.

Gov. Gavin Newsom offered a slight variation on that message on Wednesday: “Schools are closed, but classes are in.” And, he implied, students might actually make more progress holding those classes remotely if they are done well. “Just because schools are closed doesn’t mean we can’t accelerate learning in California.”

April 1 | Santa Ynez Valley News

By Susan Salcido 

As we all grapple with the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to thank those who are serving to support others during this unprecedented time. For doing essential work every day, from farmers to grocers, from mail deliverers to meal deliverers, we thank you.

To our friends and neighbors whose essential work supports critical, life-saving needs, words can hardly express the depth of our gratitude for your courageous support of those in your care.

We quickly learned and adapted to a new phrase — social distancing. It started with greeting one another with a hand wave rather than a handshake, removing chairs in rooms to allow for more space, and now, we stay at home as much as possible. Social distancing is our new normal for now.

April 1 | Education Post

By Debbie Meyer

For me, helping my son go from a bright but illiterate fourth-grader to a high school student who can read and write was an incredible full-time job. It was really hard to understand that a regular public school–even our wonderful, progressive elementary school that taught him so many things—couldn’t teach my son to read. 

Because I was an early reader, I didn’t get it. Even my husband, who also has dyslexia, didn’t really get it. But I learned. I learned how to interview neuropsychs to find one to match my kid. I learned how to get the appointments, how to ask the right questions. Another barrier to get over was understanding that most neuropsychs know as little about how the education system works as most teachers know about the cognitive science behind how we read.

March 31 | Christina Laster and Kareem Jabbar Weaver

March 25 | Sacramento Bee

By Sawsan Morrar

With the strong possibility that schools will not open for the remainder of the school year, Sacramento-area districts are adjusting their plans and setting up distance learning programs.

Some school districts are ahead of others, having prepared packets and beginning online instruction almost immediately after Sacramento officials closed schools to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Thousands of students began meeting with teachers and classmates via video-based conferencing platforms like Zoom as they await instruction.

But many parents across the region are feeling angst over how late their schools are distributing work to students.

March 24 | San Diego Union Tribune

By Kristen Taketa 

San Diego Unified will officially start conducting school online beginning on April 27.

It is one of the first large area districts to announce a plan to return to grading and formal instruction.

“San Diego Unified will return to instruction next month to guarantee students an opportunity to successfully complete the current academic year, even as physical school facilities will remain closed until public health officials determine it is safe for students to return to classrooms,” the district said in a statement Tuesday.

March 22 | CalMatters

By Dan Walters

The abrupt and apparently prolonged closure of California’s public schools due to coronavirus fears is — or should be — a reminder of their vital societal role.

Six million kids will miss at least a few months of schooling. While many are receiving some education at home, from parents and/or via the internet, the lack of classroom instruction will be felt most keenly by the 60% who come from poor families and/or are English-learners, thus widening the state’s already yawning “achievement gap.”

The state has devoted tens of billions of dollars in recent years to narrowing the gap through the Local Control Funding Formula, but a university team’s very detailed study of the immense Los Angeles Unified School District found that its extra money, about $5 billion, has not bought measurable progress.

One factor, the researchers found, is that while the extra money allowed the district to hire more teachers, schools with the highest proportions of at-risk kids tended to get the least experienced and capable teachers.

March 6 | Los Angeles Times

By Vera Castaneda

State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) wants students who have dyslexia to be diagnosed at an early age and introduced a bill in February to achieve that goal.

Senate Bill 1174 would require the State Board of Education to select an assessment to screen students for the learning disorder between kindergarten and the second grade.

Only 5% of people with dyslexia are aware they have it due to inadequate screening, according to a news release from Portantino’s office, and the learning disorder is higher among those who are incarcerated.

February 27 | National Council on Teacher Quality

By Kate Walsh

California is a state that takes a lot of pride in its contrarian, go-it-alone approach—bucking national trends with a degree of confidence that I argue leaves proud Texans in the dust. Over the last couple of decades while the rest of the nation embraced the need to reform K-12 education, the Golden State basically thumbed its nose. I think in all the years NCTQ was grading states on the quality of their teacher policies, it never got a grade higher than D+ —nor did it seem to care a whit that it didn't.


Not that California is always wrong and the rest of us right. To California's great credit, in 1998 it was the first state to adopt a really good licensing test, the RICA, requiring new elementary teachers to show they knew something about how to teach kids to read. It is with some considerable irony that twenty some years later, at a moment when the rest of the nation is gripped by our preventable reading crisis, education leaders in California along with the state's formidable teachers union have decided that the RICA is an anachronism and needs to go. The chances of the California State Assembly agreeing with this assessment some time this spring, shall we say, are not small.

February 23 | The 74

By Andrew Rotherham

Policymakers are focusing on the craft of teaching reading. They must also focus on the politics. 

Last year’s NAEP scores continued a lackluster streak and set off a predictable bout of handwringing. This time, it was reading instruction — or, more precisely, our national pandemic of ineffective reading instruction — catching the flak. In response, the Council of Chief State School Officers held a summit on reading last month, and the media is starting to pay attention. It’s certainly better than nothing. Yet when a National Council on Teacher Quality study found that about half of the nation’s teacher preparation programs are teaching reading instruction based on science, it was received as great news. Indeed, it was progress — only about a third did in 2013. Still, some analysts, at least the cranky ones, wondered how half was in any way really good news. Half? It’s a disaster for millions of kids.

February 20 | The LAist

By Kyle Stokes 

As a second grader, "Ella T." had the literacy level of a preschooler. She couldn't spell basic words — paper, dear, need, help — and could "barely write a complete sentence," according to a court filing.

At La Salle Elementary in South Los Angeles, staff knew the child wasn't making progress. But Ella T. only received a handful of short tutoring sessions, her attorneys said: The school "does not have the resources to deliver meaningful literacy interventions."

Ella T.'s attorneys didn't blame the school; they blamed the state of California. In 2017, they sued, arguing that state education officials knew of a "crisis" of reading and writing in California public schools, yet failed to muster the money or a plan to address it.

February 19 | Education Week

By Sarah Schwartz

As schools apply more scrutiny to the methods and materials they use to teach early reading, educators and parents in some states have started to launch new advocacy efforts—trying to pressure states and districts to adopt research-backed approaches to teacher training and evaluating materials.  

Some states have started to propose sweeping changes to how reading is taught. In general, these mandates have required that teachers know how to deliver explicit, systematic instruction in phonics, and that curriculum is aligned to evidence-based approaches to teaching young children how to decipher print. 

Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas, for example, have all required teacher training or curriculum vetting. And earlier this month, the Tennessee department of education proposed new legislation that would dictate K-2 reading curricula and diagnostic assessments, as well as require all current and future K-3 teachers to get trained in evidence-based early reading instruction. 

February 15 | New York Times

By Dana Goldstein

“Bit!” Ayana Smith called out as she paced the alphabet rug in front of her kindergarten students at Garrison Elementary School.

“Buh! Ih! Tuh!” the class responded in unison, making karate chop motions as they enunciated the sound of each letter. In a 10-minute lesson, the students chopped up and correctly spelled a string of words:

Top. “Tuh! Ah! Puh!”

Wig. “Wuh! Ih! Guh!”

Ship. “Shuh! Ih! Puh!”

Ms. Smith’s sounding-out exercises might seem like a common-sense way to teach reading. But for decades, many teachers have embraced a different approach, convinced that exposing students to the likes of Dr. Seuss and Maya Angelou is more important than drilling them on phonics.

February 12 | LA School Report

By Esmeralda Fabián Romero

How has California’s third-largest school district, serving mostly low-income Latinos and blacks, been propelling its students to college by raising their SAT scores and boosting their state test scores?

Chris Steinhauser, superintendent of Long Beach Unified School District for the last 18 years, will tell you that forging the first formal partnership with Khan Academy — a leading provider of free online instructional videos — has been key.

In 2016, Long Beach USD first offered Khan’s SAT preparation to over 300 seniors with low scores — students whose families couldn’t afford the expensive college-test preparation offered by private tutoring companies. After using Khan’s interactive online tool, nearly 40 percent of them — mostly students of color — reached the minimum score that made them eligible to apply for state colleges and four-year universities. 

February 10 | USA Today

By Mike Elsen-Rooney

Isaac Rosenthal was a fast talker with a big vocabulary. But when it came time to read, he couldn’t keep up with his classmates. He didn’t pick up on the rhyme scheme in Dr. Seuss books, and often mispronounced words whose meaning he knew (like “Pacific,” for which he’d substitute “the other ocean”).

Landon Rodriguez, four years younger than Isaac, was energetic and talkative at home but quiet and withdrawn at school. When he brought home reading assignments, Landon often confused Bs and Ds, and he labored through even short passages.

By the end of that seminal school year, both of their parents knew that something was wrong. In second grade, each boy was diagnosed with an unspecified learning disability and started receiving special education services at their public schools. “The teachers had no clue how to teach him,” said Debbie Meyer, Isaac’s mother.

February 9 | San Diego Union-Tribune

By Kristen Taketa 

All but one of the 42 school districts in San Diego County are expecting to spend more than they take in, either this year or in the next two school years.

Most are projecting to do so for all three years.

That’s according to recent letters from the San Diego County Office of Education analyzing the districts’ “first interim” financial reports, which all California districts must submit every December. The letters, provided to the San Diego Union-Tribune last week, offer one overarching picture of the financial state of all the county’s school districts.

February 3 | Education Week

By Catherine Gewertz

In a move that already has the governor's support, the Tennessee department of education is proposing major legislation that will require all current and new K-3 teachers—and those who train them—to know about evidence-based reading instruction. 

The bill was filed just as Gov. Bill Lee was getting ready to deliver his State of the State address this evening. In the governor's prepared remarks, he said he was setting aside about $70 million in his fiscal 2021 budget to support the suite of early literacy requirements. 

More states are getting interested in—and instituting—requirements that their teachers have mastered reading instruction that's solidly grounded in research. Among other things, decades of cognitive science research have shown that young students need explicit, systematic instruction in phonics to learn to decode words. And they need strong vocabulary and background knowledge to comprehend what they read. But even on a landscape of rising interest and action, the changes Tennessee is proposing are among the most comprehensive and far-reaching. 

January 29 | Los Angeles Times

By Sonali Kohli

Students won’t be required to take a fourth high school math class to be admitted to a Cal State University — for now.

Faced with intense opposition, the Cal State Board of Trustees decided Wednesday to wait two years before voting on whether to require a fourth class in math, science or quantitative reasoning for acceptance into any of the 23 campuses in the nation’s largest public university system. The proposed requirement would affect students entering the university in fall 2027.

Many community advocate groups and school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, have fought the plan, saying it would hurt black and Latino students and those from low-income families because of disparities in access to math and quantitative reasoning classes and the lack of qualified teachers.

January 29 | CalMatters

By Dan Walters

The Legislative Analyst’s Office, which advises state lawmakers on budgetary matters, prides itself on taking an independent, nonpartisan and even nonpolitical approach to important policy issues.

That well-established tradition continues in a new LAO report on a pilot program that allows a few community college districts to offer four-year degrees in a few obscure subjects.

However, by divorcing itself from the program’s political aspects in this case, it’s also separating itself from reality.

January 27 | The 74 Million

By Beth Hawkins 

For a moment, the issues seemed insurmountable. Some 150 parent activists, all strong-willed veterans of battles with their respective education establishments, were gathered in a New Orleans hotel ballroom trying to hammer out statements of joint belief.

It was important to arrive at precise wording, the organizers running the meeting told them, because the statement would serve, essentially, as a constitution for a National Parents Union, a network intended to exert political influence in the labor union model, which the advocates had come together to found. A foundational document, as it were, to go back to when agreement seemed elusive.

January 27 | APM Reports

By Emily Hanford 

Most Americans have likely never heard of Lucy Calkins, but their children's teachers probably have. Calkins, a professor of education at Columbia University, has created one of the nation's most widely used reading instruction programs, and, according to a groundbreaking new report, the program is deeply flawed.

Calkins' Units of Study series, which thousands of American teachers are using to teach children to read, "would be unlikely to lead to literacy success for all of America's public schoolchildren," the report concluded. "Children who arrive at school already reading or primed to read ... may integrate seamlessly into the routines of the Units of Study model and maintain a successful reading trajectory. However, children who need additional practice opportunities in a specific area of reading or language development likely would not."

January 23 | Forbes

By Jim Cowen 

America’s record on reading? “Abysmal.” That’s according to Mark Schneider, director of the Institute for Education Sciences (IES), the statistics, education and research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. In fact, it’s the issue that keeps him up at night.

Schneider’s not alone in expressing such concern. Echoing the worries of the business community, Truist Financial CEO, Kelly S. King noted during an economic forum in North Carolina earlier this month that two thirds of children in third and fourth grade lack basic literacy and math skills, calling the situation “a crisis of mega proportions” that could create a giant divide in equality of opportunity for school children.

Such sentiments about reading in America are concerning and revealing. But I’m cautiously hopeful we’ve reached a turning point in the discussion that could see real results—if education policy makers and advocates stay laser focused on the issue of improving reading instruction while emphasizing evidence-based strategies.

January 8 | CalMatters

By Bill Lucia

The number of California students who cannot read is shocking. 

Results from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress show that only 32% of fourth graders are reading proficiently. These results put California below the national average and behind 25 other states. 

While the ranking is cause for concern, the difference in absolute performance exposes a reading crisis in California. Our students are over a year and half behind Massachusetts, the top-ranking state.

Reading is obviously vital to subjects such as English, history and social science. But now with the new math standards, which focus on word problems and answering problems with written explanations, reading, vocabulary and comprehension are even more important to math.

December 5 | New York Times

By Emily Hanford 

“Thank God for Mississippi.”

That’s a phrase people would use when national education rankings came out because no matter how poorly your state performed, you could be sure things were worse in Mississippi.

Not anymore. New results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a standardized test given every two years to measure fourth- and eighth-grade achievement in reading and math, show that Mississippi made more progress than any other state.

The state’s performance in reading was especially notable. Mississippi was the only state in the nation to post significant gains on the fourth-grade reading test. Fourth graders in Mississippi are now on par with the national average, reading as well or better than pupils in California, Texas, Michigan and 18 other states.

December 3 | Washington Post 

By Moriah Balingit and Andrew Van Dam

Teenagers in the United States continue to lag behind their peers in East Asia and Europe in reading, math and science, according to results of an international exam that suggest U.S. schools are not doing enough to prepare young people for the competitive global economy.

The results of the Program for International Student Assessment — widely known as PISA — were released Tuesday and show widening disparities between high- and low-performing students in the United States, adding to a growing body of evidence showing worsening inequity in public schools.

December 3 | Education Week

By Sarah Schwartz

There's a settled body of research on how best to teach early reading. But when it comes to the multitude of curriculum choices that schools have, it's often hard to parse whether well-marketed programs abide by the evidence.

And making matters more complicated, there's no good way to peek into every elementary reading classroom to see what materials teachers are using.

"It's kind of an understudied issue," said Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can't, and What Can Be Done About It. "[These programs] are put out by large publishers that aren't very forthcoming. It's very hard for researchers to get a hold of very basic data about how widely they're used."

December 3 | Education Week

By Madeline Will

Mary Sacchetti spent six years and tens of thousands of dollars preparing to become a special education teacher and then a reading specialist.

But even after she earned her master's degree from a highly ranked university, she still felt like she didn't have the necessary knowledge and skills to teach all students how to read. It wasn't until her Philadelphia charter school paid for Sacchetti to earn certification through an explicit, systematic phonics program that she finally understood the evidence-based strategies for teaching early reading.

"That's when I was like, 'Oh my God, I did not know any of this,' " said Sacchetti, who has since left education to stay at home with her children. "The fact that it's systematic, the fact that there are rules—I just felt so empowered.

December 3 | Education Week

By Stephen Sawchuk

Already troubled by her 4th grade students' low reading levels, San Antonio-area teacher Melody Fernandez entered "survival mode" when she was moved down to 1st grade—and discovered the full scope of what she and many of her elementary colleagues were not prepared to teach.

She had learned a lot in her preparation about reading theories, but no specific protocols for teaching the subject. So she did what many teachers new to a grade do. She used the methods more seasoned colleagues told her to use, and the curriculum on hand, which relied on leveled picture books with easily memorized, repetitive sentence structures.

"You would just do different strategies, different little activities to get this rote memorization of sight words," she said. "I did everything I was supposed to do. Kids were supposed to need kinesthetic movement, and so we did 'reach up high for the tall letters and hang down low for the low letters.' We had our weekly spelling test and our sound of the week, and that was supposed to translate to reading," she said.

December 3 | Education Week

By Sarah Schwartz and Sarah D. Sparks 

How do children learn to read?


For almost a century, researchers have argued over the question. Most of the disagreement has centered on the very beginning stages of the reading process, when young children are first starting to figure out how to decipher words on a page.

One theory is that reading is a natural process, like learning to speak. If teachers and parents surround children with good books, this theory goes, kids will pick up reading on their own. Another idea suggests that reading is a series of strategic guesses based on context, and that kids should be taught these guessing strategies.

But research has shown that reading is not a natural process, and it’s not a guessing game. Written language is a code. And for the last few decades, the research has been clear: Teaching young kids how to crack the code—teaching systematic phonics—is the most reliable way to make sure that they learn how to read words.

December 1 | Seattle Times

By Katherine Long 

Four years ago, when the staff at Danville Primary School found out they were going to learn a new way to teach reading, Mary Levitski thought: Here we go again.

Levitski, who had taught at the central Pennsylvania school district for 25 years, was a good teacher, but she was disappointed that she couldn’t get through to all kids. Every time Danville switched curricula, a new publisher promised that materials would help the outliers, with research-based methods that would unlock the key to literacy.

The 2015 training was different. Inspired by a tutoring center for kids with dyslexia in nearby Bloomsburg, Danville adopted a new approach that involved training every teacher using a somewhat old-fashioned method. Instead of buying glossy texts, it made its own workbooks.

November 22 | EdSource

By John Fensterwald 

The most inexperienced and least qualified teachers continue to teach in schools with the highest-needs students in California ­— even though those students require the most expert teachers, and research has shown that the effectiveness of classroom teachers is the biggest in-school factor contributing to students’ achievement.

The state lacks comprehensive data, but the most recent report from the California Department of Education found that districts with the most low-income students had 25 percent more inexperienced and underqualified teachers and teachers with a temporary intern credential than districts with the lowest numbers of low-income children.

“In the decade since the recession, we haven’t made a serious effort to invest in schools with novice teachers, when the research has been clear that their inexperience creates an opportunity gap for kids,” said Bill Lucia, CEO of the Sacramento-based, nonprofit, advocacy organization EdVoice.

November 18 | CALmatters

By Dan Walters 

Two years ago, with teachers in Sacramento’s school district on the verge of striking, the city’s mayor stepped in to mediate a compromise contract.

“Forty-three thousand students, parents, teachers and our entire community can breathe easy this afternoon,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg declared after the Sacramento City Unified School District and the Sacramento City Teachers Association agreed to a new contract giving teachers an 11% raise over three years.

“Let this be the beginning of a new day of partnership that puts old wounds behind,” Steinberg added, referring to long-running acrimony between the union and the district’s administration.

However, the ink was scarcely dry on the agreement before the district’s politics and finances began to go south again.

November 12 | U.S. News & World Report

By Lauren Camera

Students in the U.S. are getting worse at reading, and a dozen education and civil rights organizations sounded the alarm over what they say is a national crisis.

The clarion call comes after the reading scores dropped among fourth-graders in 17 states and eighth-graders in 31 states at the same time that the achievement gap between the highest-performers and the lowest-performers grew.

The National Assessment of Education Progress, also known at NAEP or the Nation's Report Card, tests more than 600,000 fourth- and eighth-graders in public and Catholic schools in math and reading every two years and is considered the most accurate barometer for how students across the country are improving – or, in this case, regressing.

November 12 | Education Week

By Sarah Schwartz 

In the wake of falling reading scores on the test known as the Nation's Report Card, 12 major education groups are calling on schools to adopt evidence-based reading instruction.

On Tuesday, the collective—consisting of Achieve, Alliance for Excellent Education, Collaborative for Student Success, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Learning Heroes, Literacy How, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Council on Teacher Quality, the National Urban Alliance, the National Urban League, the Military Child Education Coalition, and the Education Trust—released a call to action, urging policymakers and education officials to prioritize evidence-based instruction, content-rich curriculum, and teacher training.

November 7 | Los Angeles Times

By Times Editorial Board

A state audit released Monday has now made official what many education advocates have been arguing for years: Not all the extra funding intended by Sacramento for disadvantaged students is going to those kids.

Furthermore, the audit noted, the state neither requires that all the money allocated for those students under the Local Control Funding Formula be used as intended nor tracks how it has been spent. In many cases, school districts cannot fully account for how they’re spending all the money. And it’s hard for parents or the public to understand the expenditures because the spending plan each district is required to draw up every three years under the law is difficult for anyone with less than an accounting degree to understand.

November 7 | CalMatters

By Dean Drescher

There has been radio silence from California’s public education leadership after the recent release of the National Assessment for Educational Progress scores, otherwise known as the Nation’s Report Card.

The National Assessment for Educational Progress, considered the gold standard in educational testing, is a low-stakes test that has been administered in the United States since the late 1960s. 

It’s the largest and most continuous nationally representative assessment of what American kids know. It’s also how the public can draw apples-to-apples comparisons about how kids are doing across different states. 

November 7 | CalMatters

By Dan Walters

A half-decade ago, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature overhauled California’s school finance system with the avowed goal of closing the “achievement gap” separating poor and English learner students from their more privileged classmates.

School districts with large numbers of “at-risk” students would be given billions of extra dollars to improve their educations. From the onset, however, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) drew criticism from education reform and civil rights groups.

While they applauded the concept, they complained that LCFF would shovel more money into local school coffers without tracking how it was being spent or whether it was closing the gap.

Brown, backed by the state’s education establishment, rejected the complaints. He cited the religious principle of “subsidiarity” in contending that local school officials could be trusted to spend the money wisely.

November 6 | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

In its first detailed examination of former Gov. Jerry Brown’s landmark school funding law, the California State Auditor sharply criticized the Legislature and State Board of Education for failing to ensure that billions of dollars have been spent on low-income children and other students targeted for additional state money.

“In general, we determined that the State’s approach” to the Local Control Funding Formula “has not ensured that funding is benefiting students as intended,” State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote in a letter with the audit, released on Tuesday.

Howle issued her findings after examining spending by three districts since the funding formula went into effect six years ago: Oakland, San Diego and Clovis. Her report’s recommendations call for tightening rules for spending money explicitly allocated for low-income children, foster youths and English learners — the students targeted under the formula — and for making it easier for the state and the public to track spending within and across districts.

November 3 | CalMatters

By Dan Walters

Former state legislator Ted Lempert is personally and professionally committed to improving the wellbeing of California’s children.

Lempert, the president of Children Now, has tirelessly advocated to improve children’s futures and last week released a lengthy report comparing California to other states and concluding that we are woefully underspending on education.

“Since the 1960s, and accelerated by the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, California has experienced a decline in adequate funding for the public education system that has created a jarring reality for its 6.2 million students,” the Children Now report asserted.

“California is at the bottom of the country in terms of the amount of supports it provides to its students,” Lempert said in a statement. “If, as a state, we’re serious about providing an equitable, high-quality education for all kids, state leaders must invest more in education, starting early on in order to prepare them for success in high school and beyond.”

October 31 | Washington Post

By Arne Duncan

All these districts have been serious about building capacity to support teachers. They have ambitious strategies around talent development, as well as high standards and high-quality curriculum. They share a deep commitment to transparency by keeping parents, principals and teachers fully informed about where they succeed and where they struggle.

They have had the courage to do things that are politically difficult and unpopular, such as evaluating teachers and implementing robust accountability systems. They didn’t succumb to anti-testing fever but instead worked to improve assessments so they required less testing time and more timely feedback for students, parents and educators.

They invested smartly in the things that students need: quality early learning, more learning time, high-quality curriculum, community schools, wraparound services and well-trained, well-supported teachers.

October 30 | EdSource

By John Fensterwald and Daniel J. Willis

In 2017, California education leaders heralded the significant increase in the state’s 8th-grade reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress as a sign that the state’s investment in education and its adoption of the Common Core standards had taken hold.

Curb that enthusiasm. In 2019, California’s 8th-graders gave back the gain, as did much of the nation, underscoring that progress on state and national standardized tests is best measured over a decade, not in single years.

The latest scores of NAEP, the closely watched national assessment taken by a sample of 4th- and 8th-graders in every state, showed that California largely followed the national pattern this year with little to no change in math but a significant decline in 8th-grade reading on a scale of 500 points.

October 21 | EdSource

By Paige Kowalski and Seth Litt

Imagine you’re trying to choose a Los Angeles school for your child. The Los Angeles Unified School District has data that signal which schools help students learn more. In fact, the school board already agreed to share this information with families like yours.

But on Oct. 8, the Los Angeles Unified school board changed its mind, moving toward a practical lockdown that would shield this crucial insight into how well students do at school.

Now you may never see the material. A school board resolution that would block growth data from being shared with Los Angeles Unified families advanced through committee last week and is headed toward a full vote in November.

October 13 | Los Angeles Times

By Taryn Luna

California will become the first state in the nation to mandate later start times at most middle schools and high schools under legislation signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday, a proposal designed to improve educational outcomes by giving students more sleep.

The new law, however, is not without controversy. It was opposed by some school officials and rejected twice before by lawmakers and Newsom’s predecessor.

“The science shows that teenage students who start their day later increase their academic performance, attendance, and overall health,” Newsom said in a statement. “Importantly, the law allows three years for schools and school districts to plan and implement these changes.”

September 20 | Los Angeles Times

By Howard Blume

Senior Montebello school officials misled investors about serious financial and management problems in the district when they marketed $100 million in school construction bonds, federal investigators said in charges announced Thursday.

The actions could have led to more favorable interest rates, and lower costs, than the Montebello Unified School District would have otherwise received for its construction projects, said an official with knowledge of the investigation.

Montebello schools Supt. Anthony J. Martinez agreed to pay a $10,000 fine as a result of the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. In addition, the district’s former chief business officer, Ruben James Rojas, has been charged in federal court with falsifying a number of bond documents supplied to investors, the SEC said.

September 14 | Sacramento Bee

By Hannah Wiley

Don’t hit the snooze button yet, kids.

A proposal to roll back school start times still needs Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature to become law.

The California Legislature approved – while working into the early hours of Saturday morning – a measure that would prohibit high schools and middle schools from starting before 8:30 and 8:00 a.m., respectively.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, described an “epidemic” of sleep deprivation among teenagers exacerbated by early school start times. About 80 percent of the state’s secondary schools start before 8:30 a.m., he said.

September 13 | Sacramento Bee

By Sawsan Morrar

The Sacramento City Unified School District announced on Friday that their budget was rejected by county school officials again. 

In a letter to the district, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David Gordon said that while the district will meet its minimum reserve requirements in the next two years, it will fall short by $27 million in the 2021-2022 budget year.

The district will be in a negative fund balance of $14.8 million by June 30, 2022, according to the county’s letter to the district.

August 27 | KQED

By Julia McEvoy

The Oakland Unified School District's radical plan to downsize by closing and merging schools includes a key component to making sure displaced students end up in better schools. It's a policy change that could result in diversifying some of the city's most in-demand schools. But details of the so-called opportunity ticket have yet to be hammered out.

The opportunity ticket is the brainchild of The Oakland REACH, a parent group committed to getting underserved communities into high-quality schools, and was approved by the OUSD Board of Education last March.

District enrollment currently gives priority to siblings entering a school and then to children of families that live in the school's neighborhood. The opportunity ticket would change that, allowing displaced students from schools that are geographically relocated to get priority enrollment.

June 30 | CALmatters

By Dan Walters 

For decades – close to a century, in fact – America’s educators and politicians have argued furiously over how best to teach children to read, pitting advocates of “phonics” against those of “whole language,” a conflict dubbed “reading wars.”

Phonics stresses fundamental instruction in the letters and letter combinations that make up sounds, thus allowing children to “sound out” words and later whole sentences and passages. Its advocates contend that scientific research supports their view.

The whole language approach assumes that reading is a naturally learned skill, much like speaking, and that exposing children to appropriate and interesting reading material will allow it to emerge.

June 9 | Santa Clarita Signal

By Editorial Board

Charter schools aren’t for everyone. But then, neither are mainstream public schools.

California’s 1992 Charter School Act cleared the way for a new breed of schools, a new kind of choice for parents seeking the best scenario for their kids. And the result has been both a blessing and a curse for California education. 

It’s been a blessing because many charter schools offer unique programs and learning opportunities that meet kids in that space where they learn best, in particular kids who don’t necessarily thrive in the standardized test-oriented culture of public schools.  The success stories are not difficult to find, particularly at well-run charter schools that emphasize STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning, and project-based learning, in which kids learn not just by reading about how something is done, but by actually DOING it.

May 27 | The Washington Post

By Editorial Board

The most enduring — and unforgivable — civil rights offense in our country today is the consigning of so many poor, often minority children to failing schools. Among the more promising efforts to deal with this urgent issue have been public charter schools, which give poor families the choice in their children’s education that more prosperous parents take for granted. That makes all the more distressing the bid by some Democrats to blame charter schools for all the ills of public education.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a candidate to become the Democratic presidential nominee, launched a broadside against charter schools, calling for a moratorium on federal funding for all charter schools and a ban on for-profit charters (which account for a small proportion of charters). “The proliferation of charter schools has disproportionately affected communities of color,” wrote Mr. Sanders as part of his 10-point education plan this month.

May 23 | Capitol Weekly

By Jessica Hice

California is experiencing a lack of qualified teachers even as enrollment rates in preparation programs rise.

“Teacher shortages have been worsening in California since 2015. Growth in teacher demand as the economy has improved has collided with steep declines in the supply of new teachers, leading to significant increases in the hiring of underprepared teachers, especially in districts serving high-need students,” the Learning Policy Institute reported last year.

Between 2002 and 2016, the supply of new teacher candidates “declined by more than half.” The number of new teaching credentials issued annually to fully prepared candidates remains “near historic lows at roughly 12,000, and not all these recipients enter the profession in California,” the LPI reported. In the same publication, high turnover rates in math, science and English departments than in other fields, are noted.

May 20 | Voices of San Diego

By Will Huntsberry

Porter Elementary School – a place where the majority of people are undoubtedly trying their very hardest – persistently struggles to do right by its students. It is on the state’s list of lowest-performing schools, because of its high absenteeism, high suspension rate and abysmal test scores. Eight other traditional public schools in San Diego Unified School District are also on the list.

We’ve been exploring the problems at Porter through the eyes of several families and a school counselor, who all agreed the school is unsafe and denying special education services to children who should receive them.

After an hour-long discussion at this week’s San Diego Unified school board meeting, which involved community members, district staffers and the local NAACP – which has for months been trying to get answers on the situation at the school – Porter seems to be quickly becoming a symbol for the district’s inability to provide safety and alleviate the achievement gap at a handful of schools.


May 15 | EdSource

By Robin Lake and Ashley Jochim

In a recent presentation to a task force convened at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request to recommend reforms of California’s charter school laws, officials from Oakland Unified, led by board president Aimee Eng, allege that rising charter enrollment has caused layoffs and reductions in essential services for district students.

However, the district’s own data and independent financial audits tell a different story. This is a critical question to get right, and the stakes are high for students most in need of strong public schools.

Here are some inconvenient truths from Oakland Unified’s own history and data:

Oakland’s financial troubles are rooted in practices in place before charter schools existed. Oakland’s financial crisis surged to prominence in 2003, when district officials requested the largest public school bailout in California history.


May 15 | EdSource

By Robin Lake and Ashley Jochim

In a recent presentation to a task force convened at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s request to recommend reforms of California’s charter school laws, officials from Oakland Unified, led by board president Aimee Eng, allege that rising charter enrollment has caused layoffs and reductions in essential services for district students.

However, the district’s own data and independent financial audits tell a different story. This is a critical question to get right, and the stakes are high for students most in need of strong public schools.

Here are some inconvenient truths from Oakland Unified’s own history and data:

Oakland’s financial troubles are rooted in practices in place before charter schools existed. Oakland’s financial crisis surged to prominence in 2003, when district officials requested the largest public school bailout in California history.

May 13 | K-12 Daily

By Marcos Breton

I am a parent in the Sacramento City Unified School District and I love my teachers. They are my partners in raising my children. 

The level of dedication, love and caring we’ve experienced at SCUSD from principals, teachers, assistant principals, counselors and many other district employees has been inspiring.

But I wasn’t supportive of the one-day teachers strike on April 11 and I’m even less supportive of the scheduled one-day strike on May 22.

Why? Because the district is facing a $35-million budget deficit and insolvency. The clock is ticking on a statewide takeover of the district that would be a disaster for everyone.

And all a threatened strike does is distract from closing the budget hole and avoiding insolvency. It also hurts kids by creating chaotic situations that breed instability on school campuses.. This is particularly harmful in high poverty schools.