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Great Public Schools Criteria for California

Great Public Schools Criteria refers to the seven elements needed for closing the achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students. The seven elements are: (1) readiness to learn, (2) high expectations, (3) quality conditions, (4) qualified staff, (5) accountability, (6) parental involvement, and (7) funding.

Read more below about the Great Public Schools Criteria in California.

Readiness to Learn

Full-day Kindergarten:

In 1998 California voters passed Proposition 10, The California Children and Families Act, a tobacco initiative for early education programs. These programs are administered by the California Children and Family's Commission, also known as First 5 California, Each county in California has its own children and family's commission which uses outcome-based accountability to determine future expenditures.

In Los Angeles County, First 5 LA  is dedicated to enhancing the early development of all children in Los Angeles County through a variety of programs addressing preschool, health insurance, safety and parent education. First 5 LA programs grant large and small monies to non-profit, for-profit organizations, community organizations, faith based organizations and private childcare who committed to improving the quality and access of early childhood programs. One such grant, Enhancing Child Care & Early Learning Opportunities (Child Care II) released a report in April, 2002 that showed that grantees were able to provide services to young children in the following categories: Provider Training/Education; Childcare Quality (including information on becoming licensed or accredited); Safety, Health, Mental Health; Literacy and Special Needs.

The report also stated that "the 53 programs funded by Prop 10 provided a variety of services to diverse communities characterized by poverty, limited English skills, low levels of educational achievement, high unemployment, as well as other challenging circumstances. The community paraprofessionals (1) teach early learning skills, especially literacy, to their peers; (2) bring knowledge about age-appropriate developmental practices and information about access to health services to parents/caregivers in their homes; and (3) increase parental awareness around the importance of early childhood learning. These paraprofessionals have access to books, learning materials, and toys for use during their home visits with families. The overwhelmingly positive response from the community and schools has led to a waiting list of 42 families. The program also has resulted in skill development and better job opportunities for the community paraprofessionals. The experience has led the community paraprofessionals to volunteer in local schools, providing yet another level of support to young children in Los Angeles County. This is an excellent example of an innovative comprehensive program that is simultaneously building community capacity, strengthening families, and helping young children get ready to succeed in school when they reach kindergarten.

In Calaveras County, the Preschool to Kindergarten Bridge Program provides a two- to three-week pre-kindergarten experience for at-risk children at five schools. Eligibility is determined on the basis of scores on pre-kindergarten screening instruments, lack of previous preschool experience, or other factors indicating that a child would benefit from this kindergarten transition experience. Results suggested that participation strengthened the set of skills necessary for at-risk kindergartners to perform at a level comparable to their peers.
First 5 LA Web site

Parental Involvement

Parents and guardians in California have the right, and should have the opportunity, to participate in the education of their children. Parental rights include the ability, within a reasonable period of time following a request, to observe the classroom in which their child is enrolled or meet with their child’s teachers and principal. Parents also are to be notified in a timely manner regarding unexcused absences by their child and standardized test results. Additionally, parents are to have the opportunity to work together in a mutually supportive and respectful partnership with schools. Each school district must develop and adopt jointly with parents, a policy that outlines the manner in which parents, school staff and pupils may share the responsibility for continuing the intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development and well-being of students (Cal. Educ. Code § 51101). Enacted 1998. Amended 2004

The state declares that parental involvement and support in education is an integral part of improving academic achievement. Hence, the state directs school districts to establish a parent involvement program for each school that receives funds under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act and to adopt a policy on parental involvement for all schools not receiving such funds. Programs must include at least the following: (1) Procedures to ensure that parents are consulted and participate in the planning, design, implementation and evaluation of the program. (2) Regular and periodic programs throughout the school year that provide for training, instruction and information. (3) An annual statement identifying specific objectives of the program. (4) An annual review and assessment of the program's progress in meeting those objectives. Parents must be informed of the assessment and be given a copy upon request (Cal. Educ. Code § 11500 — 11506). Enacted 1990.

In order to be approved, charter school petitions must detail the governance structure of the school, including, but not limited to, the process to be followed by the school to ensure parental involvement (Cal. Educ. Code § 47605). Enacted 1992. Amended 2002.

The state prohibits employers with at least 25 employees from firing or in any way discriminating against an employee for taking off up to 40 hours each year to participate in school-related activities, subject to a limitation of eight hours in any calendar month. Employees must give reasonable notice to their employers and may be required to provide proof of attendance. Employees must utilize existing vacation, personal leave or compensatory time off, unless otherwise provided for by a collective bargaining agreement. An employee also may utilize time off without pay for this purpose. Employees discharged, threatened with discharge, demoted, suspended or in any other manner discriminated against for taking time off to participate in school activities is entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits (Cal. Lab. Code § 230.8).
Enacted 1990.

Schools are prohibited from administering tests, questionnaires, surveys or examinations which contain questions about the student’s or parents' beliefs or practices in sex, family life, morality and religion to students between 1st and 12th grade, unless the parent is notified of the test in writing and gives written permission (Cal. Educ. Code § 51513). Prohibition also applies to exams given as part of the statewide assessment program. Parents may request in writing that their child be excused from statewide assessments (Cal. Educ. Code § 60614 — Cal. Educ. Code § 60615). Enacted 1995.

The state establishes the Nell Soto Parent/Teacher Involvement program, which awards grants to schools in which a majority of teachers and parents agree to strengthen communication between schools and parents as a means of improving student achievement (Cal. Educ. Code § 51124). Enacted 1999.

The Stockton Parent Resource Center prepares parents for decision-making roles through special training on topics such as creating, implementing, and evaluating a Title I school plan, understanding school budgets, and conducting successful meetings. Several parent participants have become members, board members, and officers of two organizations that advocate parental involvement: The California Association of Compensatory Education and the National Coalition of Title I/Chapter I Parents. Mentor parents at the center provide professional development to school staff on parent involvement and home-school communication. Among other activities, mentor parents conducted workshops on obstacles to parent involvement in schools, including parents’ negative prior experiences with school that may discourage them from participating, and teacher bias that may result from a parent’s different socio-economic status, race, gender, physical appearance, or language ability.

The Turnbull Learning Academy in the San Mateo-Foster City School in California implemented weekly take-home folders that include a parent participation sheet, information on upcoming events, and recent curriculum activities and graded tests. Parents sign and return the folders each week. The teachers and parents report that the folders provide important academic information for parents, teachers, and students, and help increase parent-school communication.

Parent volunteer coordinators in South Bay Union Elementary School District in Imperial Beach also make home visits and inform families about social services offered throughout the community.


School funding systems must provide adequate, equitable, and sustainable funding. Making taxes fair and eliminating inefficient and ineffective business subsidies are essential prerequisites to achieving adequacy, equity, and stability in school funding. ESEA programs should be fully funded at their authorized levels. California's school funding tax structure is hurt by tax giveaways to corporations.
Protecting Public Education From Tax Giveaways to Corporations ( PDF, 62 pp) (NEA, 2003)

Recruitment and Retention

California  has state policies that support financial incentives for teacher candidates. There are also policies supporting hard-to-staff schools or subject areas, minority teachers, alternative routes to certification, teacher workload policies, maximum class size, and classroom discipline.  In addition, there are policies that support use of time in school day, requirements for tenure, teacher recognition programs or policies, teacher exchange opportunities, and certification/Licensure of Educators from outside the state.

Financial Incentives Offered: California offers scholarship programs, loan and loan forgiveness programs, signing bonuses, and housing support for prospective teachers.

For Hard-to-Staff Schools or Subject Areas: Any teacher who has attained certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is eligible to receive an award of up to $20,000 if he or she agrees to teach at a high-priority school for at least four years. These funds are disbursed in annual payments of $5,000 over a four-year period. The annual payment is made upon completion of the school year. The Assumption Program of Loans for Education (APLE) is a competitive teacher incentive program designed to encourage outstanding students, district interns, and out-of-state teachers to become California teachers in subject areas where a critical teacher shortage has been identified or in designated schools meeting specific criteria established by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Ann. Cal. Educ. Code §44395-44399
DOE Program Information for NBPTS

For Minority Teachers: The intent and purpose of the New Careers Program is to recruit and train persons who have completed at least 60 units of college work in a community college or a four-year institution of higher education for teaching in low-income elementary schools. It is also intended to provide a means by which capable persons of low-income background may enter the teaching profession. The New Careers Program is designed to provide practical teaching experience in schools with high concentrations of low-income families. Any person who has lived or worked extensively in areas of high concentrations of low-income families or is a member of a minority racial or ethnic group who has lived or worked extensively in low-income areas is eligible to be selected for the program.
Ann. Cal. Educ. Code §44520 thru 44534

For Paraprofessional/Teaching Assistants to Become Certified Teachers: The California School Paraprofessional Teacher Training Program was established to recruit paraprofessionals to participate in a program designed to encourage them to enroll in teacher training programs and to provide instructional service as teachers in the public schools.
Ann. Cal. Educ. Code §44393

Alternative Routes to Certification: Alternative certification programs are operated by a school district, county office of education, college or university, or other public education entity, individually or in collaboration with other public education entities in the region to be served, and designed to provide a concentrated program leading to a permanent teaching credential. Alternative certification programs address geographic and subject matter shortage areas, and target people with work experience and others who already have a bachelor's degree in the field in which they plan to teach. 
Ann. Cal. Educ. Code §44380 thru 44386

Teacher Workload Policies: Notwithstanding any other provision, the governing board of a school district or a county superintendent of schools may establish regulations which allow their certificated employees to reduce their workload from full-time to part-time duties.
Ann. Cal. Educ. Code §44922

Maximum Class Size Policies: The Morgan-Hart Class Size Reduction Act provides funds to school districts for participating schools that reduce class size in Grade 9 English and one other Grade 9 course required for graduation, either Mathematics, Science or Social Studies. The majority of pupils in participating classes must be identified as Grade 9 students. Average class size for the school year at each participating school can be no more than 20:1 per certificated teacher and no more than 22 pupils enrolled in any participating class.
Ann. Cal. Educ. Code §52080-52090

Classroom Discipline Policies: All pupils shall comply with the regulations, pursue the required course of study and submit to the authority of the teachers of the schools. A teacher may suspend any pupil from class, for any of the acts enumerated in Section 48900, for the day of the suspension and the day following. The teacher shall immediately report the suspension to the principal of the school and send the pupil to the principal or the designee of the principal for appropriate action.  A pupil suspended from a class shall not be placed in another regular class during the period of suspension.  A teacher may also refer a pupil, for any of the acts enumerated in Section 48900, to the principal or the designee of the principal for consideration of a suspension from the school. 
Ann. Cal. Educ. Code §48900, 48908 and 48910

Use of Time in School Day: The governing board of every school district must allow each teacher employed full time in any regular day school in one duty-free lunch period each day in the manner and at the time prescribed by regulation of the state board of education.
Ann. Cal. Educ. Code §44813 and 44814

Requirements for Tenure: If the average daily attendance of the schools and classes maintained by a county superintendent of schools is 250 or more, each person who, after teaching for two complete consecutive school years, is reelected for the next succeeding school year to such a position in those schools or classes, shall be classified as and become a permanent employee of the county superintendent of schools. This subdivision shall apply only to probationary employees whose probationary period commenced during the 1983-84 fiscal year or any fiscal year thereafter.
Ann. Cal. Educ. Code §1296

Teacher Recognition Programs or Policies: The state offers the following awards honoring exemplary teachers for furthering excellence in education: Teacher of the Year, The Certificated Staff Performance Incentive, Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award, Presidential Awards for Mathematics & Science Teaching, and National Board Certification Incentive Program.
DOE School/Teacher Recognition

Teacher Exchange Opportunities: The temporary exchange of teachers between school districts in California and schools in foreign countries is encouraged and promoted and in order that the schools of the state of California comply with the requirement of state law that foreign language instruction be given to pupils in grades six, seven and eight.  California school districts may exchange positions with teachers in schools in other countries for a period of one year or less. The arrangements for such exchanges shall be made through the department of education and in cooperation with the teacher exchange programs administered by agencies of the federal government. 
 Ann. Cal. Educ. Code §44610-44617

Certification/Licensure of Educators from Outside the State: The commission shall grant an appropriate credential to any applicant from another state who completes teacher preparation that is at least comparable and equivalent to preparation that meets teacher preparation standards in California. If the commission determines that the teacher licensing body of another state requires an applicant to demonstrate a level of basic skills proficiency that is at least comparable to passage of the state basic skills proficiency test, applicants from that state are not required to meet the requirements of California for the basic skills proficiency test. A reciprocity agreement shall not exempt an out-of-state applicant from submitting an identification card and obtaining a certificate of clearance, credential, permit, or certificate of eligibility from the commission.  The commission shall issue credentials to out-of-state prepared teachers based on all of the following: Equivalent preparation received outside of this state, equivalent reading instruction, and equivalent subject matter programs or credential emphasis programs. 
Ann. Cal. Educ. Code §44274 thru 44275.5