Education Funding

California Data System Threatened by State Budget Squeeze

By Katie Ash — June 14, 2011 3 min read
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If California Gov. Jerry Brown has his way, the development and implementation of the state’s new longitudinal-data system for education, nine years in the making, soon will come to a screeching halt.

In his revision to the state budget, released last month, the governor proposed suspending funding for both CALPADS, the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, and CALTIDES, the California Teacher Information Data Education System, which would save the state a total of about $3.5 million in fiscal 2012.

The proposal is the latest in a string of setbacks, both technical and financial, for CALPADS, which is being built and implemented by a contractor, IBM, through the California Department of Education. (“Veto Stirs Concerns Over California Data System,” Oct. 27, 2010.)

“We believe very strongly in both CALTIDES and CALPADS and that the implementation of both is essential to not only supporting our school districts with the data, but to making basic policy decisions based on good data and a whole host of other impacts that would benefit our communities,” said Arun Ramanathan, the executive director of the Education Trust-West, an Oakland, Calif.-based advocacy group that works to close student-achievement gaps.

“It’s a system that’s been in development and implementation for quite some time, but the suspension actually comes pretty much in the ninth inning versus the third or fourth” said Mr. Ramanathan. “This is a decade’s worth of work.”

However, state budget concerns have prompted Gov. Brown, a Democrat, to put both programs on the chopping block.

While CALPADS is already being used by almost all school districts in the state, CALTIDES—which would be used to collect data about groups of teachers, though not individual teachers—is still in its conceptual phase.

The Education Trust-West, along with other education groups such as the California State PTA, the California School Boards Association, and the California Education Technology Professionals Association, wrote a letter June 2 urging the governor to continue funding CALPADS and CALTIDES.

“The state’s put a lot of work into this,” said Erika Hoffman, the principal legislative advocate for the school boards’ association. “It’s not perfect by any means, but to stop the development when we’re actually somewhat close to having finished—I don’t think it serves any of us any good.”

Many educators also worry about the implications of eliminating CALPADS, which was largely funded through federal money, as well as how it could affect the state’s chances of winning part of the new round of $200 million in federal Race to the Top money set aside for the runners-up in last year’s U.S. Department of Education competition.

Line-Item Veto

In budget hearings at the beginning of June, both chambers of the state legislature, the Assembly and the Senate, voted to continue funding both CALPADS and CALTIDES, but once the final bill is presented to the governor, he will have the option of using his line-item veto to suspend that funding.

“A number of problems have been identified with California’s state testing, data collecting, and accountability regime,” Gov. Brown wrote in his May 16 revised budget. “The administration proposes to deal with these issues by carefully reforming testing and accountability requirements to achieve genuine accountability and maximum local autonomy.” Pending review of those issues, funding for calpads will be suspended in fiscal 2012, the document said.

In lieu of CALPADS, the governor proposed that districts collect and report student data through the California Basic Educational Data System, or CBEDS, the system in which information was stored before the development of CALPADS.

“More than 98 percent of schools fulfill [federal reporting] requirements through CALPADS,” said Andrea Bennett, the executive director of the California Educational Technology Professionals Association. “To revert back to CBEDS would mean that schools would have to spend time and money to determine how to collect and report the data required for funding.”

In addition, there is no way for educators in one district to access information about students in another district through CBEDS, which means that students who transfer between districts will have to wait for their records to be sent before they can be properly placed in classes.

If records are delayed or never arrive, “we cannot adequately assess the child’s needs,” said Ms. Bennett.

Aimee Guidera, the executive director of the Data Quality Campaign, a national nonprofit group based in Washington that promotes and tracks states’ progress in the collection and use of education data, said, “California is potentially taking a step backwards,” with this proposal.

A version of this article appeared in the June 15, 2011 edition of Education Week as California Data System Threatened by State Budget Squeeze

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