California’s Education Systems: A Sum of the Moving Parts

California’s Education Systems: A Sum of the Moving Parts


When we started the California Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) in 2016, in partnership with the Center for California Studies, we knew that we needed a resource that laid out the major K-12 and postsecondary education issues in California all in one place. The California public education landscape, with its four independent systems can be difficult to wrap one’s mind around in any circumstance, and particularly opaque to someone who is not engaged in cross-system work.

Our goal with California EPFP is to create a leadership table for a diverse cohort of early- to mid-career professionals in K-12, postsecondary, policy, and practice where they can come together to explore critical topics related to the program’s three pillars: policy, leadership, and networking. The program is tailored to address California’s needs with its focus on 1) connecting K-12 and postsecondary education, and 2) connecting state policy development and local implementation needs through the lens of equitable opportunities and outcomes.

We could not find one document that provided all the background information we think systems thinkers–people who are attuned to how changes in one part of the system affect the system as a whole–need to have in public education in California. So we commissioned this primer, California’s Education Systems: A Sum of the Moving Parts, from EdInsights Senior Fellow Thad Nodine. We think that understanding the education ecosystem as a whole greater than the sum of the parts is perhaps more important now with K-12, the community colleges, and the CSU each undergoing largescale reform efforts–many of which have cross-system implications–and with the new Administration’s focus on integrating services into a Cradle-to-Career framework. The first three cohorts of Fellows provided feedback each year and we’re now ready to share the primer with a wider audience.

As we wrote in the preface of the primer, we hope this paper will spark discussion and action in pursuit of California’s vision for its public education systems and equitable opportunities and outcomes for students.


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Interested in the participating in the Education Policy Fellowship Program? Email us to be notified when the next application is available.