In 2007, researchers associated with Stanford University released “Getting Down to Facts,” a massive compendium of studies of California public education. Here was arguably the key takeaway: Public schools have many needs that would benefit from additional funding, but no such funding was a good idea until profound reforms were in place that ensured schools would actually improve.

Now “Getting Down to Facts II” has been released. Its executive summary makes some interesting new points — starting with a dire warning about the growing cost of pensions, special education and facilities — and again cites the need for higher funding. But its most compelling passage has to do with how backwards California is in refusing to use basic information about student and teacher performance to figure out what works and doesn’t work. This data has been key to crafting reforms in states like Massachusetts and Florida.

Why isn’t it being evaluated? “The limitations of California’s data system are not the result of technological difficulties,” the summary dryly notes. Instead, data about teachers is not collected because the education establishment doesn’t want to know which teachers are effective and which teachers struggle. In recent years the State Board of Education actually has made it more difficult to judge school quality, adopting the confusing “Dashboard” model that rates schools on a variety of factors — some of which don’t involve academics. This is daft.

What was true in 2007 remains true in 2018: Before taxpayers are asked to spend more on schools, this aversion to basic accountability and to crucial, common-sense reforms must end.

Editorial by The San Diego Union-Tribune

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