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.

Implementing a Restorative Restart by Planning for the Four Ts

Time, Talent, Training, and Technology/Materials
Commentary authors
Summary

This fall, schools and districts will likely return to full in-person instruction amid a lingering pandemic while being faced with the challenge of addressing heightened student academic and wellness needs associated with lost learning opportunities, extended periods of isolation and physical distancing, and other challenges students encountered during the pandemic. Though the demands on schools will be high, the resources available to schools will also be considerable, with state and federal dollars filling many district coffers to a level previously unmatched.

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.

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.

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 global pandemic and resulting economic devastation, not seen since the Great Depression, have underscored how schools are essential to the well-being of their communities. During this time of high stress, students are reporting anxiety, depression, and thoughts about hurting themselves, as well as increasing abuse. Moving from crisis triage to action guided by core principles that center student well-being is necessary but, to do so, social-emotional care is paramount, both for children and adults. For these reasons, our recommendations include reaching out to families, adjusting expectations, developing flexible guidelines, and investing in teachers’ professional development.

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.

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

Students will begin next school year with highly diverse needs, which means educators will face huge demands for differentiation on shoestring budgets. A focus on cognitive science and adult learning, particularly on social and emotional capabilities, can help educators be self-aware and creative in developing strategies to better support students across the full range of their educational and psychological needs. To help students and educators succeed in this new and unpredictable environment, a clear focus on conditions for learning will be key.

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.

Supporting Online Learning in a Time of Pandemic

Commentary author
Karen Symms Gallagher
Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed almost all school systems in the U.S. online with little or no preparation. To be responsive in this time, USC Rossier faculty members have worked rapidly to prepare a report with immediately useful resources and concrete advice. Bringing together the expertise of faculty who have decades of experience teaching in virtual learning environments, as well as deep knowledge of teacher education pedagogy and educational psychology, this report provides recommendations that can serve as a practical guide for all educators during this difficult and complex time.

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.

Strategic Student Teaching Placement

Commentary authors
John Krieg
Roddy Theobald
Summary

A considerable body of evidence suggests that the market for educators is “local” in the sense that teachers are more likely than other professionals to be hired into schools near their original hometowns.  Evidence from New York State shows teachers are likely to begin their teaching careers near their homes a phenomenon referred to as the “draw of home.”  This draw of home appears to be a combination of preferences of prospective teacher candidates to apply to and accept jobs from districts near their homes as well as a negative preference that districts show towards hiring applicants originating from far away.

How Learning About Commonalities Can Improve Student-Teacher Relationships and Boost Achievement at School

Commentary author
Summary

Relationships to teachers are fundamental to the educational success of middle and high school students. Compared to those with more strained social connections, adolescents who have positive relationships with their instructors feel better about school, behave better in class, and achieve more in their studies. But improving teacher-student relationships poses a substantial challenge. Teens often lack the motivation to develop close personal ties with their teachers – and teachers often find themselves preoccupied with conveying the Common Core curriculum, prepping their charges for standardized tests, and administrative duties at school.

Two Types of Principals Who Exit Their Schools

Commentary authors
Alex J. Bowers
Jared Boyce
Summary

Principal turnover is an important national issue with as many as 18% of principals in the United States exiting their schools in a single year, and there is evidence that this rate has been recently increasing. Principal turnover is associated with lower student achievement, higher teacher turnover, various direct and indirect financial costs and decreased morale among teachers, staff, students, and parents. Researchers and policymakers in general have studied principal turnover using a predictive approach: can we identify the factors that are likely to predict whether or not principals are likely to leave their schools? Many studies have produced meaningful results toward answering this question; however, most of them are predicated on the assumption that there is only one type of principal who is exiting their schools.

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.

Highly Effective Teacher Retention Bonuses

Commentary authors
Matthew G. Springer
Walker A. Swain
Luis A. Rodriguez
Summary

Proponents of teacher evaluation and tenure reform often argue that if we could identify the least effective teachers in the profession and somehow replace them with teachers of average effectiveness, the improvements in student outcomes would be substantial. However in many of the lowest performing, highest poverty schools, where rates of teacher turnover are high across the board, the larger challenge may be identifying and retaining their most effective teachers, who are typically replaced by teachers whose measured effectiveness is well below average..

Becoming Unionized in a Charter School

Teacher Experiences and the Promise of Choice
Commentary author
Elizabeth Montaño
Summary

In over 20 years since the first charter law was signed in Minnesota, states and districts, particularly in large urban centers, have restructured public schools. School choice proponents argue that parents deserve to have a choice in their children’s education. Several studies have documented that out of the different restructured spaces, charter schools have been the least supportive in providing teachers with sustainable working conditions and employee rights.  Even though charter schools were founded as places where autonomy and innovation would flourish, the flexibility granted to charter school operators has not automatically been extended to its teaching force.

The Training Needs and Interests of School Counseling Intern Site Supervisors

Commentary authors
Gail E. Uellendahl
Maya N. Tenenbaum
Summary

School counseling site supervisors play a critical role in the clinical training of school counselor interns and are an important link between counselor education and professional practice. While it is a state requirement in California that school counselor site supervisors must be qualified, credentialed school counselors, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) along with both state and national school counselor organizations have not yet created specific standards or guidelines for the preparation and practice of this supervisor role.

Can Rigorous, Observation-based Teacher Evaluations Move the Needle on Student Achievement?

Commentary author
Matthew Steinberg
Summary

In the wake of the federal government’s 2010 Race to the Top initiative, states and local school districts have dramatically revised their teacher evaluation systems. These new systems incorporate more rigorous performance evaluation through the use of multiple measures of teacher performance and multiple ratings categories aimed at differentiating teacher effectiveness. By the start of the 2014-15 school year, 78% of states and 85% of the largest 25 districts and DC revised and implemented new systems. California is among the few states that have not instituted statewide teacher evaluation reforms.

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.

At Risk for School Failure

Students with Special Health Care Needs
Commentary authors
Dian Baker
Samantha Blackburn
Kathleen Hebbeler
Summary

Schools’ primary mission is the education of children. However, for over one million children in California with special health care needs (e.g., asthma, diabetes, food allergies), schools also must provide health services to ensure their safety and access to the curriculum. Students with special health care needs (SHCN) are at higher risk than their peers for missing school, repeating a grade, and dropping out. Yet in many cases, schools are not aware of students’ health conditions and do not monitor them as a group at risk for school failure.

Time to Pay Up

Analyzing the Motivational Potential of Financial Awards in a TIF Program
Commentary authors
Kathleen Mulvaney Hoyer
Cara Jackson
Betty Malen
Jennifer King Rice
Summary

Fueled in part by the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), a federal grant program that promotes the implementation of incentive pay in local contexts, compensation reforms have become prominent strategies for improving human capital in schools. The theory of action undergirding these programs assumes that financial incentives will motivate individuals to behave in certain ways (e.g. make certain career decisions, expend greater effort, engage in capacity-building professional development) that will increase human capital and, ultimately, improve performance.

How Do Principals Use Teacher Value-Added and Classroom Observation Data to Make Human Capital Decisions?

Commentary author
Ellen Goldring
Summary

Across the country, states and districts are adopting new policies to evaluate teachers based in part on objective measures of student performance and on teacher classroom observations. LAUSD’s recent overhaul of its teacher evaluation system, including the implementation of an observational framework for teaching and the use of student growth trajectories, exemplifies these changes to teacher evaluation.

High School Math and Science Faculty and Growing the Roots of Female STEM Majors

Commentary author
Martha Bottia
Summary

The increasing demand for a STEM workforce and the insufficient supply produced by American educational institutions has led many researchers and policy analysts to focus on the shortage of women in these important fields.  Although women are the majority of college students they represent a distinct minority of STEM degree holders. Too few female students appear interested in pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, and even if they have a strong interest, too few remain in STEM majors once they arrive in college.  

An Educational Response for Students Learning Standard English

Commentary author
Summary

Raising the academic achievement of minority students represents an important educational goal for state policymakers, particularly in majority-minority states like California or Texas. In recent years, there has been increasing attention towards language variety as a potential explanation for lagging achievement observed among minority students and students of low socioeconomic status (SES). [Note: Language variety is often referred to as differences in dialect. In the study discussed here, the authors use the more neutral term language variety]. However, there is very little published literature to guide policymakers and administrators in formulating an appropriate educational response to language variety in schools.

The Effects of No Child Left Behind on Teachers

Commentary author
Summary

As a new Congress attempts to sustain momentum towards reauthorizing No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the question of just what impacts NCLB has had on schools is an important part of current policy debates. Researchers have documented a number of effects of the law, including increases in school spending, a focusing of instructional time towards core subjects, and an uptick in student achievement in math and reading, particularly in lower grades and among students from traditionally disadvantaged demographic groups. Missing from this research, however, has been a close look at how NCLB has impacted teachers or, more specifically, how it has affected teachers’ perceptions of and attitudes towards their jobs.