At odds over CALPADS funding

Gov. Jerry Brown has said he would oppose attempts of legislators to put back money for programs he wants cut from the state budget. Funding for two statewide educational databases could become a test of his resolve.

Last week, education finance subcommittees of both the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees restored money for both CALPADS and CALTIDES. Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is an outspoken advocate for the data systems, which have had support in the Assembly as well, so there’s a good chance the appropriation will be in the  budget the Legislature sends to the governor.

At issue is not a lot of money – about $3.5 million, all of it federal dollars and a fraction of the $10 billion shortfall in the state budget. But it’s become a point of contention with a governor who wants to pare back standardized testing and who questions the value of data in general. Brown proposed cutting funding for both systems in his May revised budget.

CALTIDES, the California Longitudinal Teacher Integrated Data Education System, which would provide insights into teacher preparation programs and effectiveness, is in the conceptual stage. But CALPADS, the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, is about a year from completion, which is why Brown’s move surprised even those who have criticized technical and management problems that have delayed the system.

“We acknowledge that CALPADS implementation has been difficult, and the scope too narrow. Delays, technical challenges, and the massive undertaking at the local level needed to collect, maintain, and report data in new ways has been a constant source of frustration, but now is not the time to eliminate CALPADS and CALTIDES,” said the Information Alliance for Education, representing 13 education advocacy groups in a June 2 letter to Brown. The Legislative Analyst’s Office also recommended approval of the funding.

CALPADS, which collects transcript information, attendance numbers, dropout data, and standardized test results of every student in the state for research and federal reporting purposes, was not designed to provide districts and teachers with readily useful information to guide instruction. But, through individual student identification numbers, it will track students as they progress through school and keep their records intact if they change districts. It should be able to identify at-risk students and offer the Legislature insights into which academic programs and supports are working and why.

Author: John Fensterwald - Educated Guess

John Fensterwald, a journalist at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, edits and co-writes "Thoughts on Public Education in California" (, one of the leading sources of California education policy reporting and opinion, which he founded in 2009. For 11 years before that, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire for two decades before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997 and heading West shortly thereafter. His wife is an elementary school teacher and his daughter attends the University California at Davis.

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