Policy Briefs

Fixing the Academic Performance Index

Morgan S. Polikoff, Andrew McEachin . January 2013.

The Academic Performance Index (API) is the centerpiece of California’s state assessment and accountability system. With the recent passage of SB1458 and the pending reauthorization of both state and federal accountability legislation, there is now an unprecedented opportunity to improve the API for next generation accountability in California. In this policy brief Morgan S.

How Next-Generation Standards and Assessments Can Foster Success for California’s English Learners

Robert Linquanti, Kenji Hakuta. August 2012.

California cannot afford to ignore or postpone questions of how to support the academic success of English Learners (ELs) in the state’s K-12 education system. Language-minority students already represent more than 40 percent of the state’s K-12 public education students, and their share of enrollment is growing. How well California serves these students will help determine the vitality of the state’s economy and society in the years ahead.

New Schools, Overcrowding Relief, and Achievement Gains in Los Angeles – Strong Returns from a $19.5 Billion Investment

William Welsh, Erin Coghlan, Bruce Fuller, Luke Dauter. August 2012.

Aiming to relieve overcrowded schools operating on multiple tracks, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has invested more than $19 billion to build 130 new facilities over the past decade. In a new PACE policy brief, William Welsh, Erin Coghlan, Bruce Fuller, and Luke Dauter from the University of California – Berkeley analyze the effects on student achievement of this massive initiative. Tracking thousands of students who moved from overcrowded to new facilities over the 2002-2008 period, the authors discovered robust achievement gains for many students.

State Standards, the SAT, and Admission to the University of California

Michal Kurlaender, Eric Grodsky, Samuel J. Agronow, Catherine L. Horn. December 2011.

Like most other universities in the country, the University of California (UC) requires that students submit scores from either the SAT or ACT exams as part of their application package. These tests have their origins in the efforts of a handful of elite colleges and universities to expand the socioeconomic diversity and enhance the academic promise of their admissions pools; to reduce the number of tests students must take to apply to college and the burden this places on both prospective students and postsecondary institutions; and to provide a means of comparing students who attend different schools with potentially different grading standards. Despite the appeal of a nationally standardized college entrance exam, critics have asserted that standardized college entrance exams (and the SAT in particular) suffer from several important flaws.

State Standards, the SAT, and Admission to the University of California

Michal Kurlaender, Eric Grodsky, Samuel J. Agronow, Catherine L. Horn. December 2011.

Like most other universities in the country, the University of California (UC) requires that students submit scores from either the SAT or ACT exams as part of their application package. These tests have their origins in the efforts of a handful of elite colleges and universities to expand the socioeconomic diversity and enhance the academic promise of their admissions pools; to reduce the number of tests students must take to apply to college and the burden this places on both prospective students and postsecondary institutions; and to provide a means of comparing students who attend different schools with potentially different grading standards.

Teacher Employment and Collective Bargaining Laws in California: Structuring School District Discretion over Teacher Employment

William S. Koski, Aaron Tang. February 2011.

There is broad agreement that teacher quality is related to student achievement, but there is far less agreement about the degree to which school districts and administrators are constrained in making policies to improve teacher quality that might also affect teacher employment and working conditions. Conventional wisdom holds that state law and the collective bargaining agreements governed by state law often hamper districts’ discretion over teacher hiring, firing, evaluation, compensation, and assignment. Although California collective bargaining agreements have received some attention from researchers we know far less about whether, and to what extent, California law constrains or facilitates district-level discretion over teacher employment policies and practices. This policy brief examines that issue.

Effective Basic Skills Instruction: The Case for Contextualized Developmental Math

W. Charles Wiseley. February 2011.

Recent research on students entering California community colleges found that less than one in ten students who enter at the basic arithmetic or pre-algebra math level successfully complete college-level math. Students entering at the next higher level of math (elementary algebra) are only slightly more likely to succeed in college-level math. Yet, college-level math skills are required for success in nearly all college programs including most occupationally-focused certificate programs.

Value-Added Measures of Education Performance: Clearing Away the Smoke and Mirrors

Douglas N. Harris. October 2010.

A new PACE policy brief by Douglas N. Harris of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, explores the use of value-added measures and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of value-added assessment, both as a means to assess teachers and as a means to assess schools. Current federal policies do not account for the fact that student outcomes are produced by more than just schools. As a result, they fail to follow what Douglas Harris calls the “Cardinal Rule of Accountability”: hold people accountable for what they can control.

Do Financial Incentives Draw Promising Teachers to Low-Performing Schools? Assessing the Impact of the California Governor’s Teaching Fellowship

Jennifer Steele, Richard J. Murnane, John B. Willett. May 2010.

In a new PACE policy brief, Jennifer Steele, Richard J. Murnane and John B. Willett assess the impact of California’s Governor’s Teaching Fellowship. During a two-year period from 2000-2002, California awarded a $20,000 Governor’s Teaching Fellowship (GTF) to 1,169 people enrolled in traditional, post-baccalaureate teacher licensure programs who agreed to teach in low-performing public schools for four years after earning their licenses. Schools designated as low-performing were those that ranked in the bottom half of the state’s Academic Performance Index (API).

California’s Impending College Graduate Crisis and What Needs To Be Done About It

Martin Carnoy. April 2010.

In 2005-06 almost half of the pupils in California’s public schools were Latinos, but Latinos only received about 15 percent of the BA degrees awarded by public and private colleges in the state. Texas has a comparable Latino population, but does significantly better than California in getting Latino students through college. The implication of this disparity is that California stands to produce too few graduates to fuel its cutting-edge high tech and high-end service economy.

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