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January 2010
What's Happening

Career Technical Education Literature Review – IHELP is completing a literature review as part of the project funded by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation to identify policies and practices that could increase student success in certain career pathways through the California community colleges. This literature review analyzes evidence on the effectiveness of career-oriented education in high schools and community colleges and discusses the factors that promote successful educational outcomes for students enrolled in career-technical programs. It finds the literature scarce on CTE student success and suggests that further research would help us  better understand and strengthen CTE student and program outcomes to better meet the needs of the workforce.

“Strengthening Transfer” Roundtable – IHELP Executive Director Nancy Shulock and Research Specialist Colleen Moore discussed findings and recommendations from their recent report “Crafting a Student-Centered Transfer Process in California: Lessons from Other States” at a transfer roundtable hosted by the Campaign for College Opportunity. The roundtable, held at the State Capitol on January 14, included about twenty legislative staff members who serve legislators with an interest in improving transfer policy in California. The roundtable was a follow-up to a briefing sponsored by the Campaign last month on transfer. Also presenting at the roundtable were Mary Gill, author of a policy brief on transfer called “California Community College Transfer: Cutting the Gordian Knot,” and Craig Hayward, co-author of a forthcoming report on transfer from the RP Group of the California Community Colleges.

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Feature This Month

States, Schools, and Colleges

The recent report titled "States, Schools and Colleges - Policies to Improve Student Readiness for College and Strengthen Coordination Between Schools and Colleges" by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, draws attention to the need for better coordination and cooperation within states between K-12 and postsecondary education in order to improve college readiness and college completion. Part I of the report provides a historical and national overview of the P-16 alignment challenge and of efforts to increase college readiness and offers suggestions for state policy initiatives to improve college readiness. Part II, written by IHELP director Nancy Shulock, presents three state case studies evaluating the effectiveness of P-16/P-20 councils as mechanisms to bridge the divide between high schools and colleges in order to increase college readiness and success.

Spotlight On

Our point of view - Even a casual observer of California politics is aware of the growing concern about the state’s commitment to higher education and specifically to the principles of the California Master Plan for Higher Education. Since its inception, the Master Plan has come under formal legislative review five times, with the last review occurring in 2002. With the Master Plan now nearing its 50th anniversary, the California Legislature has created a joint committee to conduct another review. The committee, co-chaired by Assemblymember Ira Ruskin and Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, conducted the first of five public hearings on Monday, December 7 at the State Capitol to begin to assess if and how the plan should change to meet California’s current educational needs. In the very first review in 1973, the Legislature was told that a new approach was needed for the “changing times.” At each subsequent legislative review, more attention was drawn to the need for change.

To coincide with the last review in 2002, Sacramento State University’s Center for California Studies held a conference titled “Envisioning a State of Learning: Moving California’s Master Plan for Higher Education into the 21st Century.” The conference, which comprised 15 sessions featuring 66 experts from California and elsewhere, dealt with a variety of issues including accountability, admissions, governance, planning, and academic and vocational training. Though competing interests and opinions were expressed at the conference, one theme seemed to unite all panelists: the state’s educational and workforce needs could not best be met by adhering strictly to a Master Plan that was crafted in a very different world than the one in which we live today.

Eight years have elapsed and little has changed. We suggest that, in order for this current effort to be successful, the approach needs to be less about “revising” or “renewing” or even “reaffirming” the Master Plan and more about developing a public agenda for higher education that sets statewide goals and targets and identifies the policies and investments needed to accomplish these goals. The latter approach is far more dynamic and action-oriented while the Master Plan is a declaration of enduring values and principles. A strategic plan (increasingly called a "public agenda" in the higher education community) begins with values and principles but must also set a course for accomplishing needed change. Several states have adopted this approach to favorable reactions – both within the states and by national experts. Moreover, the states that have developed public agendas, or strategic plans, have positioned themselves well to compete for foundation and federal funds that are increasingly targeted to postsecondary education.  Californians have been slow to recognize that our higher education system – and our Master Plan – are no longer the envy of the world or nation. The price of inaction is growing.

For a look back at the 2002 conference, please view the published proceedings and IHELP director Nancy Shulock’s observations immediately after the conference about why the Master Plan lives on despite all the calls for change.


Sacramento State Institute For Higher Education Leadership & Policy

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