Strong, Collaborative Labor–Management Relations Can Move Postpandemic Education Forward

Commentary author
Summary

As we move into fall and the beginning of a new school year, districts are facing myriad decisions, the consequences of which will determine how quickly and effectively they are able to recover from the effects of the pandemic and move education into a new era. This PACE commentary focuses on the kinds of decisions districts and unions are confronting together as well as on the ways in which collaborative labor–management relations can contribute to a stronger education system designed to meet all students’ needs.

Improving Services for Students with Disabilities

The Opportunity and the Risk of Inaction
Commentary author
Elizabeth Kozleski
Summary

Students with disabilities have been especially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They and their parents have reported higher levels of anxiety and depression, the loss of specialized services and supports, and poor results from distance learning. Compared to the general student population, families with students with disabilities are more likely to express concern for their mental health and their children are more likely to experience little to no remote learning.

Unprecedented Times Provide Unprecedented Opportunity

Suburban Superintendents Reflect and Reimagine
Commentary authors
Sara Noguchi
Summary

The unprecedented closure of schools as a result of the global pandemic has had a dramatic—devastating, even—effect on our communities. In its wake, COVID-19 has exposed persistent inequities in our public school systems and has magnified concerns about providing for students’ basic needs, their emotional well-being, and their academic progress. Yet, as is often the case, hard times lead to opportunities to reimagine and rebuild.

Utilizing COVID-19 Recovery Funds to Serve English Learners in California

Commentary author
Oscar Jiménez-Castellanos
Summary

This commentary provides California’s K–12 education leaders 10 recommendations for utilizing COVID-19 recovery funds to serve English learner students. It is important for leaders to act boldly and innovatively to begin to reimagine K–12 education, in particular for English learners, whose learning has been yet more negatively affected by the pandemic than that of their English-speaking peers.

Cost-Effectiveness Analysis Can Help Districts Plot Their Financial Course

Summary

The coming much-needed influx of federal and state money to California public schools is an unforeseen and unprecedented windfall that will certainly help mitigate the many extra expenses the pandemic has created. It would be easy, and perhaps understandable, for local officials to become cavalier about how they use the extra funds they receive. The catch is that it is a one-time infusion of funds, not a permanent increase for California’s perennially underfunded K–12 system. How can local school districts best use this one-time bump in funding?

Serving Students Experiencing Homelessness During the Pandemic

Commentary authors
Margaret Olmos
Ali Bloomgarden
Summary

The aim of this commentary—released as part of a series on expanding learning partnerships and learning in the context of the pandemic—is to provide actionable guidance for districts, schools, and expanded learning providers interested in best serving students experiencing homelessness. We seek to answer the question: How can expanded learning be leveraged to support pandemic recovery, specifically for students and families experiencing homelessness, who face compounding challenges of not having the tools and supports to participate in distance learning as well as the emotional and logistical consequences of economic and housing insecurity?

Reenvisioning Learning for Students with Learning Differences

Opportunities for Expanded Learning Partnerships
Commentary authors
Amy Andersen
Tamara Clay
Heather DiFede
Summary

The aim of this commentary—released as part of a series on expanded learning partnerships and learning hubs in the context of the pandemic—is to provide actionable guidance for districts, schools, and expanded learning providers interested in best serving students in special education. We seek to answer the question: How can expanded learning be leveraged to support pandemic recovery, specifically for students with learning differences?

Expanded Learning Partnerships to Help Reinvent School for Upper Grade Students

Commentary authors
Robert Canosa-Carr
Brad Lupien
Summary

The aim of this commentary—released as part of a series on expanding learning partnerships and learning hubs in the context of the pandemic—is to provide actionable guidance for districts, schools, and expanded learning providers interested in best serving older youth. We seek to answer the question: How can expanded learning be leveraged to support pandemic recovery, specifically for older youth who risk becoming disengaged from school and are at higher risk of developing anxiety and depression?

Compassionate Partnerships for Youth in Foster Care

The Role of Expanded Learning
Commentary authors
Michelle Francois
Margaret Olmos
Summary

The aim of this commentary—released as part of a series on expanded learning partnerships and learning hubs in the context of the pandemic—is to provide actionable guidance for districts, schools, and expanded learning providers interested in best serving youth in the foster care system. We seek to answer the question: How can expanded learning be leveraged to support pandemic recovery, specifically as we look to serve the state’s nearly 60,000 youth in foster care?

COVID-19 and the Educational Equity Crisis

Evidence on Learning Loss From the CORE Data Collaborative
Commentary authors
Summary

From the day California schools closed in March, researchers, policymakers, and educators alike have been concerned about the impact that the pandemic would have on student learning, and worried that our most vulnerable students will experience this so-called “learning loss” more than others. Given the critical importance of evidence to inform decision-making on school reopening, we are sharing early findings on student learning in Grades 4–10 in 18 school districts that are part of the CORE Data Collaborative. Our preliminary analysis shows that there has been significant learning loss in both English Language Arts and Math, with earlier grades, low-income students, and English learners most impacted.

Environmental Education and Nature-Rich Experiences

Essential for Youth and Community Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond
Commentary authors
Nicole M. Ardoin
Alison W. Bowers
Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic, which presents critical threats to education overall, also presents specific, potentially irreversible, and long-term threats to environmental education—an essential field that provides numerous cognitive, affective, and health-related benefits.

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.

COVID-19’s Impact on English Learner Students

Possible Policy Responses
Commentary author
Summary

As an immensely diverse group of students, English learners (ELs) will have widely varying experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and thus a broad range of educational, physical, and mental health-related needs. This commentary offers recommendations for how policy can support ELs whether education is online, in person, or both.

Moving Forward from COVID-19

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

COVID-19 and its concomitant school closures are affecting students in many ways; there is good reason to expect the pandemic will adversely impact educational equity. New PACE research uses data from the 2020 PACE/USC Rossier annual voter poll to report on CA voter attitudes towards educational equity policy initiatives. A majority of voters supported a focus on ending racial inequality in educational outcomes and specific initiatives to do so, suggesting that voters may also support a targeted approach to mitigating the pandemic’s adverse effects on CA students who have been hardest hit.

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

Commentary author
Summary

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed California and the nation into uncharted waters, especially with the impact on our schools. With the economy in decline and unemployment on the rise, school funding is likely to dip, triggering cuts across the system. This financial impact will come when our schools need more money, not less, to serve our state’s children. As we look toward recovery, Californians should make the kind of significant investments in our public schools that reflect their true importance to our students, families and future.

Distance Learning Playbook for California School Districts

Commentary author
Sam Olivieri
Summary

At this time of unprecedented challenge, districts have to both manage a rapid response to the current school closures and also prepare for the possibility of supporting students remotely for longer periods ahead, a process for which there is no roadmap. Learning Apart, Staying Connected: A Distance Learning Playbook was created for California school districts to support the development and roll-out of distance learning plans across the state.

Evidence to Inform Recovery

PACE’s Response to COVID-19
Summary

The closing of California’s physical learning spaces has significant implications for educational equity and access. In the coming weeks and months, PACE’s efforts will be focused on supporting real-time crisis response and helping the state build toward recovery. This commentary, the first in a new series designed to raise up evidence quickly to inform crisis response and recovery, details our approach.

California’s Dashboard Data Will Guide Improvement

Commentary authors
Summary

After more than a decade of strict federal mandates and measures of school success, a new education law is inviting policymakers across the country to rethink “accountability.” The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) takes a more comprehensive approach to assessing school quality than the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), moving beyond NCLB’s focus on annual test performance to also consider factors like student academic growth, graduation rates, and rates of proficiency for English language learners.

The PACE Perspective on 'The California Way'

Commentary author
Summary

This is one of the most exciting, daunting and critically important moments in California's education policy history. We are all in uncharted territory.Policymakers and educators at all levels of the system are wrestling with the virtually simultaneous implementation of four radically new and promising policy initiatives.

A Bargain Half Fulfilled

Teacher Autonomy and Accountability in Charter and Public Schools
Commentary author
Zachary Oberfield
Summary

Public charter schools are theorized to succeed more than traditional public schools because of a bargain struck between schools and charter-granting entities: charter schools are given greater autonomy from the standard rules and regulations and, in return, are held more accountable. Early theorists expected that this dynamic would operate in two ways. At the system-level, charter schools would have the latitude to experiment with new approaches to education. If they performed well, they could maintain their charters; if they did not, they could lose them.

Do Charter Schools Spend Revenue Differently than Traditional Public Schools?

Commentary authors
Summary

Using nine years of finance data from California, we describe charter school spending for various purposes (e.g., instruction, administration, pupil support, and operations) and compare spending patterns for charter schools and traditional public schools. We also explore how school characteristics (e.g., total enrollment, percent of students eligible for free and reduced lunch and geographic location) explain differences in spending patterns.

Monetary vs. Non-Monetary Incentives for Program Participation

An Experiment with Free Middle School Tutoring
Commentary authors
Matthew G. Springer
Brooks Rosenquist
Walker A. Swain
Summary

One of the less prominent provisions of No Child Left Behind was one that set aside funds to allow low-income students in low-performing schools free access to tutoring, termed Supplemental Education Services (SEdS).  While estimates of SEdS benefits for students have varied by location and provider one finding has been consistent—low attendance. In a recent randomized experiment, researchers at the National Center for Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development set out to test whether eligible students would attend more regularly for money or praise.

Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance?

Evidence from the Four-Day School Week
Commentary author
Mary Beth Walker
Summary

School districts across the United States have employed a variety of policies and programs to help close budget gaps.  In particular, the four-day school week has been used to reduce overhead and transportation costs.  The four-day week requires substantial schedule changes as schools must increase the length of their school day to meet minimum instructional hour requirements.  This policy has been in place for many years in rural school districts in western states such as Colorado and Wyoming, and it appears to be gaining popularity nationwide.

Using Cost-effectiveness Analysis to Make Policy Decisions

Commentary author
Fiona Hollands
Summary

Education policy and program evaluation has largely focused on estimating the effectiveness of educational alternatives to inform policymakers about reforms that produce student gains in learning. Despite the fact that almost one trillion dollars of public funding is spent each year on education in the United States, little attention has been focused on evaluating the costs of interventions. Cost studies are needed in conjunction with effectiveness studies to allow policymakers to examine effectiveness relative to costs.