the Williams case settlement and methods of evaluating the cost of adequacy level of education
The Williams case settlement has several important provisions that should be mentioned before we assess the settlement and evaluate the future consequences and its impact.
The most important of them are:
Provision of $138 million for textbooks and instructional materials
million for "assessment of facility needs" at critical condition schools
Investments of close to $1 billion in repairs of school deficient facilities
These figures will directly and positively affect 2400 "low- performing schools." Obviously, the most important thing that comes to mind when evaluating this final settlement is the fact that pupils from low-performing schools have a better and improved chance because they will benefit from more books and higher attention, including better prepared educators. It is, if you like, a moral decision and a moral settlement because the idea of equality of chances, mentioned both in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, is more abided by.
Additionally, the settlement contains additional clauses and issues besides the monetary implications. For example, students, parents and teachers can further report complaints in an established process, with the conscience that their complaints will finally arrive to the competent authorities that will take measures.
County education superintendents" will also monitor the low- performing schools, so as to be able to swiftly act and correct the disfunctionalities that may appear here.
Even more so, the settlement comprises a reference to the so-called Concept 6 schools in California. According to the clause, these schools should be completely phased out by 2012.
According to Concept 6, "a school's population is broken down into four tracks or schedules. No more than three tracks are ever in school at the same time and students attend throughout the year.." The problem with this Concept 6 is that there are only 163 days of instruction if this concept is applied, instead of 180 days that will be offered if the concept is given up on.
However, the settlement may have possible future negative reverberations. First of all, it is to be determined how fast the promised amounts of money will get to the beneficiaries, schools, parents and students in the form of textbooks and educators. Indeed, many of those directly concerned have expressed doubts regarding the fluency of the bureaucratic system in California.
For example, Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, said that the case and the settlement "relied heavily on bureaucratic solutions." The fact that this conclusion comes from a state official may give an outlook towards what may happen in the future.
Additionally, some educators have expressed their doubts as to whether the amounts mentioned would actually be enough to make a significant difference or rather whether they would be enough to reach every one of the students in the 2,400 schools implicated in the settlement. This may be so, however, in my opinion, it is hard to evaluate what the actual cost would be, even if we may use several methods to determine the cost of minimum education level (presented here below). In this sense, it is much better to start somewhere and work on the way to achieve what the final scope may be.
In my opinion, the settlement provides the very basis of a serious change and improvement of public education in California. The fact that the state has decided to stop the legal and judicial bickering and actually act upon its mission, that of providing equal opportunities for everyone, shows a great step forward.
Adequacy and methods of evaluating adequacy cost
In order to determine what the spending for an adequacy level of education should be, we first need to refer to the term adequacy and define what this minimum level of education actually refers to.
According to one of the numerous article on the subject, a definition of the term adequacy was first attempted somewhere in the late 70s, in the judicial matter of Pauley vs. Kelley. In the ruling provided in the respective case, an adequate education was perceived as being that education that "teaches students literacy; the ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide numbers; knowledge of government to the extent that each child will be equipped as a citizen to make informed choices; self-knowledge and knowledge of the total environment so as to allow each child to choose life work intelligently; work training and advanced academic training if a child chooses; recreational pursuits; all creative arts, such as music, theater, literature, and the visual arts; and social ethics, both behavioral and abstract, to facilitate compatibility with others."
This rather long and cumbersome definition relates the concept of an adequate level of education as being an enumeration of things that a child should be taught in school, both academically and social or behavioral skills.
An adequate level of spending generally refers to the amount of money required to give "all, but the most severely disabled" a minimum level of education. The ways and different methodologies to determine what that amount may be is still subject to controversy even today. In Texas, for example, this minimum level of spending has been set in a decision by the Texas Supreme Court, in an Edgewood Independent School District v. Meno decision, to $3,500. However, we never know how that sum was actually determined, even if in Texas it has staid valid to this day.
There have been used, however, at least three methods to determine the cost of an adequate education program and these approaches may be successfully be used by the California Quality Education Commission as well. These are the cost function model, the observational model and the professional judgment model, to which one may also add the statistical model.
The cost function model has lately gained momentum with the economists. It applies a strict mathematical model for the mix of input variables needed for the outcome of certain student results, hence outputs. The mathematical and complex econometric models that may be used in this case make the model quite reliable and theoretically sound, as some of its advantages.
However, there are several negative aspects here. First of all, because it is quite technical, it is more difficult to explain to policymakers and may be also harder to implement, given the fact that you need exact input variables to obtain a result. Additionally, practice has shown that the results obtained with the use of the cost function model are usually "to three times higher than current funding levels -- and higher than funding levels identified for other school districts in the state." Overall, it is hard to implement and its results even harder to use and properly and efficiently apply.
The observational method is more empirical than the former method. The idea is that the cost is evaluated by direct calculation within the schools that have already met the "previously identified outcome levels."
The positive aspect of this method is the fact that it is easier to explain to policymakers, as it is much less technical and more accessible than the previous one. On the other hand, the outcome levels that are used still need to be determined and agreed on, which makes it rather cumbersome. Additionally, observation and empirics always have the disadvantage that you never know exactly whether the results that you have arrived to are correct, as there is no mathematics behind them.
Finally, the professional judgment model, which is often referred to as the resource cost model, "relies on professional judgment to create an instructional model for which the costs can then be estimated."
This method has several advantages compared to the previous ones. Indeed, this method is completely unsophisticated and easy to use, because it does not rely on difficult statistical evaluations or on student assessment systems. Additionally,…