Measuring Daily Attendance and Participation During COVID-19

An Invaluable Tool for Reducing Educational Inequity
Commentary authors
Cecelia Leong
Summary

Monitoring attendance, especially during COVID-19, holds immense importance, reflecting educational disparities. Chronic absence predicts future academic challenges. Student absences signal inadequate learning conditions and require systemic solutions. Senate Bill 98 mandates daily attendance tracking and participation documentation in distance learning, ensuring early interventions for absent students. Measuring attendance in remote settings is complex, but vital. Attendance Works suggests a multi-metric approach, identifying at-risk students and barriers to participation. Different responses address various challenges—connectivity, relationships, or instructional engagement. Tracking absence rates per learning opportunity helps pinpoint support needs. Recommendations include publishing chronic absence data, collecting connectivity statistics, and providing guidance for asynchronous learning data collection. Detailed attendance tracking aids targeted interventions and ensures equitable learning experiences.

To Keep Students Safe and Learning, California Needs Strong State Leadership

Summary

In preparing for the next school year, California state policymakers must set clear statewide expectations for teaching, learning, and student support, regardless of whether instruction is online or in person. This spring, local school districts scrambled to adapt to COVID-19 with a wide range of responses largely focused on securing delivery of online resources. Now is the time to shift the conversation back to the core purpose of school: learning. The state should establish a minimum amount of instructional time; create an instrument of diagnostic assessment and require its use; adopt instructional continuity plans; and advocate for and secure additional funding.

Voices of Educators

Supporting Student Learning Amid the Pandemic Requires Prioritizing Social-Emotional Care
Commentary authors
Krista Fairley
Rebecca Norwood
Janice Phan
Cynthia Sanchez
Summary

The pandemic has shifted the role of educators, urging them to go beyond traditional boundaries, ensuring student well-being through new challenges in remote learning. Teachers have adapted to online tools, engaged with trauma-exposed students, and provided one-to-one tutoring and emotional support. Administrators have coordinated food distribution, coached teachers, communicated policy changes, checked student well-being, and supported families. Essential lessons learned emphasize prioritizing social-emotional care for students and staff. To address this, maintaining connections through weekly office hours, redesigning learning strategies, allowing flexible guidelines, and investing in professional learning and collaboration are crucial. The shift demands bold transformations in educational practices, requiring inclusive policy decisions that value educators' insights and experiences to serve communities equitably amidst the crisis.

COVID-19’s Impact on English Learner Students

Possible Policy Responses
Commentary author
Summary

English learners (ELs) face diverse challenges during the pandemic, with varied educational needs and health concerns. The forthcoming academic year will likely amplify the academic gap between EL and non-EL students due to limited access to distance learning. To address this, several policy recommendations are proposed. Universal basic income, health care, and tech access are vital for EL families, especially for those in low-income or undocumented situations. Distance learning must cater to ELs by providing devices, multilingual content, and non-tech learning options. Improved communication with EL families and leveraging their cultural assets are crucial. Extending learning time for ELs, promoting collaboration among teachers, and hiring bilingual family members as aides or tutors are recommended. Assessing returning students' academic status and monitoring funds allocated for ELs' needs are vital. These policy suggestions aim to address EL education challenges amidst the pandemic, stressing equity, resources, and inclusivity in education.

Quality Matters More Than Ever in Times of Crisis

Does the California Quality Rating and Improvement System Predict Child Outcomes?
Commentary author
Summary

Governor Newsom's commitment to enhancing early childhood education (ECE) was overshadowed by economic challenges caused by COVID-19. The state's limited resources for ECE demand a focus on identifying and delivering the most crucial quality aspects for children, especially considering increased poverty and stress due to the pandemic. This involves re-evaluating Quality Counts California (QRIS), currently used to rate program quality. A PACE report highlights weak connections between child outcomes and QRIS elements like teacher qualifications and program environments. To improve QRIS's accuracy in gauging child development, strategies include refining observation measures, employing comprehensive assessments for literacy and math skills, and considering factors like staff pay and curriculum implementation. Ensuring ratings suit various age groups and settings, exploring diverse rating rubrics, and aligning points with child outcome predictors are vital. Amid challenging resource allocations ahead, policymakers must use robust data to enhance critical program dimensions for children effectively.

What Comes Next for Professional Learning in the Time of COVID-19

Addressing the Social and Emotional Work of Improvement
Commentary author
Carrie Wilson
Summary

Amid the pandemic, California schools are undergoing extraordinary efforts to support students and families during the pandemic, but the forthcoming academic year poses unprecedented challenges. Without conventional metrics like grades and attendance data, educators face a monumental task amid reduced budgets, varied learning opportunities, and unequal access to resources among students. To aid teachers in this complex scenario, system leaders must shift their focus from traditional professional learning structures to include cognitive science and emotional learning. Creating safe, collaborative environments where teachers can self-reflect and learn collectively is crucial. As schools grapple with the crisis and opportunity gaps, a successful response necessitates prioritizing the learning experiences and insights of frontline educators, fostering conditions for meaningful collaborative learning, and focusing on the student experience. This approach centers on listening to both students and teachers, ensuring a sense of belonging, and promoting adult learning in collaborative spaces.

Navigating the Education Budget Crisis Following COVID-19

How the State and Districts Can Make Smart Cuts
Commentary author
Michael Fine
Summary

California's schools are facing a staggering $19 billion deficit over two years, a sum that might climb higher as new tax filings arrive. As schools grapple with the complexities of reopening amidst the pandemic, districts find themselves burdened with escalating costs amid dwindling resources. Drawing from lessons learned during the 2008 crisis, a multitude of strategies, while not a singular remedy, could offer relief. However, with 1100 districts and 1200 charter schools, each with distinct challenges, proposed cuts range from 10% to LCFF and potentially exceeding 50% in other programs, excluding special education. The state's reserves, comprising $12 billion, around 17% of the budget, provide some respite, but relying solely on these reserves isn't a viable long-term option. Districts are contemplating various approaches, including staffing reductions, truncated school years, payment deferrals, and federal aid, among other measures, although each poses its own set of challenges. These options, though not a complete solution, can be strategically employed by individual districts with state support to mitigate the impending financial crisis, requiring thoughtful, adaptable solutions as schools aim to revert to pre-crisis financial commitments post-recovery.

Understanding, Measuring, and Addressing Student Learning Needs During COVID-19 Recovery

Commentary author
Summary

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, PACE Executive Director Heather Hough offers an approach involving multiple phases, transitioning from immediate action to re-entry and eventual recovery. The closure of schools due to the pandemic is expected to result in substantial learning loss, especially among disadvantaged students, necessitating a comprehensive assessment of their academic and emotional needs upon their return to school. This crisis has highlighted disparities in distance learning and accentuated existing inequalities, making it imperative to address diverse impacts and support students effectively. To address these challenges, proposing a state-level diagnostic assessment using existing resources like SBAC emerges as a unified and cost-effective means to identify learning gaps and guide resource allocation. The upcoming school term brings uncertainty, demanding clear guidelines, adaptability, and adequate resources for schools to embrace novel learning models. Immediate measures include safeguarding education funding, urging federal support, and targeting assistance for vulnerable students. Additionally, there is an opportunity to overhaul California's funding system to better reflect the critical importance of public education. This commentary is modified from testimony delivered to the California Assembly Budget Committee on April 28, 2020.

Moving Forward from COVID-19

Voters’ Opinions on Educational Equity Initiatives in California
Commentary author
Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing school closures are significantly impacting students, particularly in terms of educational equity. Economic challenges are disproportionately affecting lower-income families, impacting students' access to learning resources. Research suggests that funding levels correlate with academic outcomes, signaling potential setbacks due to anticipated budget constraints. Californians have expressed a strong priority to address racial inequality in education, as highlighted in the 2020 PACE/USC Rossier voter poll. This poll demonstrates widespread support for initiatives like increasing teachers of color and implementing ethnic studies in schools, especially when substantiated by research on their positive impact. However, responses vary among different racial and political groups. As we navigate post-pandemic recovery, it's crucial to focus on addressing these disparities using a diverse range of policy approaches outlined in the brief. This will ensure broader support and sustained efforts toward educational equity.

Why Funding California Schools Is Crucial to the State's COVID-19 Recovery

Transcript of CASBO Podcast
Commentary author
Summary

In this podcast (transcribed) for the California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO), Heather Hough highlights research and perspectives related to the fundamental importance of public education, school funding levels and policies, and proactive approaches that should be on the table as California plans its recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

As Funding for Schools Plummets, California Leaders Face a Fiscal Reckoning

Commentary author
Summary

As California grapples with an impending economic downturn due to the pandemic, schools face a triple challenge: severe budget cuts, heightened student needs, and escalating expenses. The closures have disrupted learning, support systems, and daily routines, impacting all students and disproportionately affecting those facing housing or food insecurities. The state's fiscal future remains uncertain, with the budget expected to reflect only a fraction of the economic distress. California's education funding, tied to income tax, mirrors economic fluctuations, experiencing substantial surges or declines based on economic conditions. Though federal relief provides temporary aid, it falls short of covering rising costs and doesn’t shield high-poverty districts reliant on state funds. Planning for the immediate future demands increased education funding, federal aid advocacy, and targeted assistance for vulnerable students. Furthermore, the need for flexibility in spending and staffing, reduced employee benefit spending, and long-term rethinking of the education funding system are imperative. Diversifying funding sources and revising Proposition 98, which determines education spending minimums, are vital steps toward a more stable and equitable education funding structure. Emphasizing political courage, this crisis serves as a catalyst to not only navigate the immediate challenges but to reshape and adequately fund California's education system for the future.

UC Regents Should Consider All Evidence and Options in Decision on Admissions Policy

Summary

As the UC Board of Regents approaches a crucial decision on the use of SAT and ACT in admissions, a faculty task force report has drawn criticism for distorting key issues and offering recommendations lacking substantial evidence or potential for improving admissions fairness or diversity across campuses. The report acknowledges problems with these tests but suggests a ten-year continuation without viable replacements, viewed as a waste of time and public funds. Three comprehensive analyses accompany this commentary, urging a reevaluation of the report's stance. They highlight concerns regarding heavy reliance on SAT scores affecting underrepresented groups, propose restructuring the Eligibility in the Local Context program for improved diversity, and advocate for considering Smarter Balanced assessments alongside GPA for fairer admissions. Criticizing the report's swift dismissal of valid options, the analyses emphasize aligning high school and university expectations while urging evidence-based decisions. This commentary seeks to steer the Regents' attention beyond the task force report, advocating for a more inclusive and thorough assessment of the available perspectives.

In Pandemic’s Wake, California Needs to Rethink System of Support for Schools

Commentary author
Summary

The aftermath of COVID-19 poses a serious threat to California's education, expecting a drastic decline in tax revenue. School closures will harm all students academically and emotionally, highlighting educational inequalities. Policymakers must reimagine the system as Governor Newsom's proposed budget investments face uncertainty amidst growing needs post-pandemic. The education funding system shifted in 2013 with the Local Control Funding Formula, providing additional funds for districts with high-need students. However, the pandemic has rendered the new support system, reliant on the California School Dashboard, irrelevant. Issues such as inadequate timing and inconsistent district identification for assistance surfaced in a pre-pandemic report. A revised support system should engage diverse expertise, span multiple years, involve stakeholders, and address emerging post-pandemic needs. Simply patching the existing system won't surpass pre-pandemic outcomes; policymakers must seize this disruption to overhaul California's education structures.

Our Children’s Education Should be a Priority as California Recovers from Coronavirus

Commentary author
Summary

PACE Executive Director Heather Hough cautions that COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted California's education system, highlighting the state's low funding and the substantial financial shortfall necessary to meet educational objectives. Recent research indicates a need for an additional $26.5 billion annually in K–12 education to reach state achievement goals. Decades of underinvestment have left districts financially vulnerable, compounded by the economic challenges triggered by the crisis. The dependence on personal earnings for school funding could result in severe cuts, impacting critical student services and potentially leading to layoffs. School closures have underscored their role beyond education, serving as community hubs crucial for student well-being, safety, and essential services. The pandemic exacerbates existing inequalities in learning opportunities among California students. The urgent call is to recognize schools as central to communities and the state's well-being, emphasizing the necessity for significant post-crisis investments in public education as a priority for California's recovery.

Supporting Online Learning in a Time of Pandemic

Commentary author
Karen Symms Gallagher
Summary

The COVID-19 crisis abruptly shifted education online, prompting a swift transition often labeled as "emergency instructional triage." USC Rossier School of Education, drawing from their extensive online teaching experience, released a report addressing crucial aspects of this new teaching landscape. Tailored for teachers, administrators, and educators, it tackles pressing questions across six key areas, providing practical recommendations for engagement strategies, teaching students without reliable internet access, rethinking grading practices, accommodating special needs students, guiding student teachers, and preparing for potential future online teaching. The resource delves into engaging high school seniors, efficient feedback methods, and offers appendices with supplementary resources, Zoom instruction strategies, and guidelines for creating secure online classrooms. This comprehensive guide, crafted by seasoned faculty with expertise in virtual teaching and educational psychology, aims to support educators facing the challenges of remote instruction during this unprecedented time, emphasizing the need for accessible and engaging learning environments for all students.

Distance Learning Playbook for California School Districts

Commentary author
Sam Olivieri
Summary

The current school closures and potential future remote learning challenges have prompted the creation of the "Learning Apart, Staying Connected: A Distance Learning Playbook" aimed at aiding California school districts in developing effective distance learning plans. Recognizing the absence of a clear roadmap for this unprecedented situation, the playbook emerged as a practical resource at the request of educational leaders seeking actionable guidance amidst a myriad of options. Tailored for small- and medium-sized district administrators, it prioritizes integrating the needs of English Learners into distance learning strategies. Organized around five key questions, it offers diverse sample approaches accommodating different accessibility contexts—digital, print-based, or hybrid. The playbook also provides specific advice on supporting various student groups, including English Learners and students with disabilities, aiding teachers, and engaging with families. Collaboratively crafted by Entangled Solutions, informed by expertise in online learning and insights from California and China's educational landscapes during closures, the resource continually evolves with input from educators and leaders in the field. It aims to serve as a foundation for future preparedness in unforeseen circumstances, aiming to address local needs effectively through adaptable strategies and learnings from ongoing feedback.

Current Circumstances Accentuate the Need to Educate the Whole Child

Commentary author
Roman Stearns
Summary

Educators, researchers, and leaders consistently emphasize the need to educate the whole child, acknowledging that intellectual growth intertwines with social, emotional, and physical development. The current pandemic further stresses the urgency of cultivating adaptable, resilient, and empathetic individuals equipped with diverse skills like digital literacy, critical thinking, and civic responsibility. Many districts have responded by creating Graduate Profiles—a concise outline defining essential skills for success beyond academics. Several districts, united under a partnership named Scaling Student Success, have formed a Community of Practice to implement these profiles effectively. This collaborative network aims to translate Graduate Profiles into actionable practices, sharing experiences, tools, and resources to foster continuous improvement. Expert support providers assist in various steps, from assessing student progress to crafting career pathways. The pandemic amplifies the significance of these efforts, prompting a deeper commitment to whole-child education among districts, acknowledging its vital role in shaping resilient individuals for the future.

Evidence to Inform Recovery

PACE’s Response to COVID-19
Summary

COVID-19's closure of California's educational institutions has profoundly impacted learning, equity, and access. Efforts now concentrate on remote learning support, essential non-instructional services, and aiding students with special needs. PACE seeks to bolster these initiatives, gather best practices, and provide real-time research for informed decision-making. Anticipating challenges upon students' return, especially those facing trauma, PACE plans to focus on data collection, student support, system capacity, and resource allocation. This includes addressing learning loss, supporting vulnerable populations, fostering engagement, integrating services across agencies, and seeking adequate funding amid economic strains. PACE intends to employ diverse approaches—reviewing existing research, collecting new data, testing innovations, and analyzing policy options—to aid educators, policymakers, and the public in navigating this crisis and leveraging education for recovery

Summary of the 2020 PACE/USC Rossier Poll Results Presentation

Commentary author
Dan Silver
Summary

The 2020 PACE Annual Conference unveiled the latest PACE/USC Rossier Poll results, showcasing California voters' views on key education-related issues. Presenters emphasized the poll's value in understanding voter concerns. Key findings revealed growing pessimism about school quality, a preference for across-the-board teacher salary increases, and concerns about college affordability and fairness in admissions. Voters also stressed addressing gun violence in schools. The panel discussed the state budget, highlighting the need for enhanced higher education accessibility, increased teacher salaries, and a more nuanced approach to education funding. They debated the governor's budget's alignment with voter priorities, noting the need for more support in higher education and teacher salaries and a more effective approach to recruiting teachers.

Data and Evaluation

Spotlight on Chronic Absenteeism Toolkit
Commentary author
Summary

PACE research is prominently featured in the repository on chronic absenteeism established by the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE). The collaborative serves as a valuable resource hub, offering toolkits, materials, and various other assets related to chronic absenteeism in educational settings. PACE's contribution to this repository includes two research briefs focusing on chronic absenteeism. The first brief involves PACE's in-depth analysis of student chronic absenteeism data from the CORE Districts, exploring the utilization of chronic absence metrics within a multi-metric accountability system. The second brief delves into the chronic absence performance levels of California's districts, schools, and student groups, utilizing recently released data from California's School Dashboard. This brief also investigates the pivotal role played by chronic absence in determining differentiated assistance, providing insights into the impact on school performance. Together, these research briefs offer valuable perspectives and data-driven insights into addressing and understanding chronic absenteeism in the context of California's educational landscape.

Early Childhood Education in California Takes a Step Forward

Commentary author
Summary

After an extensive and inclusive process involving eight hearings, numerous meetings, collaboration with stakeholders, a survey of over thirty organizations, and two years of deliberation by a diverse Commission that included community members and elected officials, the California Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education (BRC) has unveiled its draft recommendations. The draft report, which references PACE's Getting Down to Facts II (GDTFII) report titled "Early Childhood Education in California," provides detailed recommendations across nine key areas. These proposals are informed by input from various sources, a thorough examination of current and past proposals, insights from other states, and existing models within California. The report outlines a comprehensive framework advocating for substantial reforms centered on equity, two-generation policies, and a targeted focus on children, families, and the early care and education workforce. The culmination of this rigorous process underscores the Commission's commitment to shaping meaningful and impactful policies in the realm of early childhood education.

Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) Takes Research and Policy Expertise Forward with New Leadership Team

Commentary author
Summary

The leading consortium in education policy reform and performance improvement in California bolstered its forward-looking position with the appointment of a new leadership team, Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) announced today. PACE’s team brings a depth of experience and expertise in research and policy analysis that enable the organization to stay at the cutting edge of issues critical to the state’s education system, from early childhood to postsecondary education and training. PACE’s work is instrumental to informing policy developers and decision makers who directly impact education in California. In the months and years ahead, PACE will continue its longstanding tradition of working with researchers, policymakers, and school and district leaders to improve outcomes for California’s students.

California State Legislature Resolution Recognizing Dr. Susanna Loeb

Commentary author
Summary

Congratulations to Dr. Susanna Loeb! A joint resolution of the California State Legislature is passed recognizing Dr. Loeb for 20 years of contributing to California Education. The resolution is signed by Senator Ben Allen, of the 26th Senatorial District, and Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, of the 70th Assembly District.

To Close the Bachelor’s Degree Gap Among Hispanic Youth, Policymakers Must Consider How Parent Networks Matter

Commentary authors
Sarah Ryan
Summary

Improving bachelor’s degree attainment among Hispanic individuals in California is critical, given their significant representation in the state and the substantial disparity in degree attainment compared to other racial groups. Currently, only 12% of California's Hispanic population holds a bachelor’s degree, notably lower than the 42% among the White population. This disparity, coupled with challenges like lower transition rates from community colleges, projects a shortage of 1.1 million bachelor’s degrees by 2030. Addressing this gap necessitates tailored policies considering the diverse needs and assets within the Hispanic community, particularly across different immigrant generations. Research on parental influences reveals the impact of social networks and engagement in college-aligned actions, significantly boosting the likelihood of Hispanic students attending a four-year institution. Policies need to engage Hispanic parents as essential partners and consider their diverse needs to bridge the degree gap and meet the demands of California’s workforce, especially within the context of the state’s educational funding formula.

Can Social-Emotional Skills Drive Continuous Improvement?

Commentary author
Summary

California has embraced Social Emotional Learning (SEL) as a crucial aspect of education, integrating emotional management, positive goal setting, empathy, and relationship skills into academic success. This commitment is evident in the state's adoption of SEL components in its educational standards and accountability systems. However, while the state is implementing surveys to gauge school climate, it's yet to fully understand how these relate to academic progress or link social-emotional learning to overall school improvement. The CORE districts have taken strides by measuring specific competencies like self-management and growth mindset, finding that these skills predict student performance at different academic levels. Yet, educators need guidance on using this data for improvement. PACE is studying the CORE districts' innovative accountability system to pinpoint successful policies and practices regarding SEL, aiming to reduce disparities among student sub-groups. Understanding how learning environments foster SEL can inform efforts to improve education across California and potentially nationally. Moving forward, California needs to focus on developing educators' capacity to utilize SEL data effectively and invest in integrating SEL in both school-day and expanded learning environments for continuous improvement.