• Strengthening the Road to College: California’s College Readiness Standards and Lessons from District Leaders

    Sherrie Reed, Michal Kurlaender, Scott Carrell. November 2019

    During the past decade, education leaders and policymakers have made significant investments to better align California’s K-12 and postsecondary education systems and to address persistent disparities in educational attainment by race and socioeconomic status. This report distills important lessons emerging from these efforts, integrating the analysis of statewide quantitative data used by policymakers, education leaders, and higher education systems to evaluate students’ postsecondary readiness and interviews of district leaders about their specific efforts to improve students’ college readiness, access, and success.

  • The Implications of Sacramento City Unified's Ongoing Budgetary Challenges for Local and State Policy

    Carrie Hahnel, Hannah Melnicoe. November 2019

    Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) faces a looming deficit and must make significant budget adjustments to avoid state intervention. This case study explores how SCUSD got to this point, how its finances compare with other districts in Sacramento County, and what the implications are for students, particularly those with the greatest needs. It finds that while SCUSD experiences many of the same fiscal pressures as other California districts, it is also unique. As compared with neighboring districts, SCUSD spends far more on health care and a smaller share of its budget on salaries for pupil support personnel, teachers, classified instructional staff, and office staff. This study of SCUSD offers considerations for policymakers and lessons that may apply to other districts facing a similarly troubling combination of statewide cost pressures, tense labor-management relations, and high health care costs.

  • The Canary in the Gold Mine: The Implications of Marin’s Rising Pension Costs and Tax Revolt for Increasing Education Funding

    Hannah Melnicoe, Cory Koedel, Arun Ramanathan. November 2019

    Marin County school districts have been facing unprecedented pushback when trying to pass parcel taxes. This case study uses district financial and demographic data as well as interviews and focus groups with advocates and district and county leaders to investigate this change. It finds that (1) the current statewide financial situation is not sustainable for districts, (2) districts report feeling a tension between teacher compensation in high-cost Marin and spending in other areas, (3) there is high overall awareness of this issue but limited public awareness of the nuances of district flexibility to respond to the impacts of rising pension costs, and (4) that parcel taxes have faced increasing opposition in Marin County due to concerns that funds are not directly reaching students. The report ends with suggestions for districts who are facing rising costs and voter resistance to raising local taxes.

  • Can We Measure Classroom Supports for Social-Emotional Learning?

    Robert H. Meyer, Libby Pier, Jordan Mader, Michal Christian, Andrew B. Rice, Susanna Loeb, Hans Fricke, Heather Hough. October 2019

    This brief applies value-added models to student surveys in the CORE Districts to explore whether social-emotional learning (SEL) surveys can be used to measure effective classroom-level supports for SEL. The authors find that classrooms differ in their effect on students’ growth in self-reported SEL—even after accounting for school-level effects. Results suggest that classroom-level effects within schools may be larger than school-level effects. However, the low explanatory power of the SEL models means it is unclear that these are causal effects that have appropriately controlled for student-level characteristics. Finally, there are generally low correlations between classroom-level growth in SEL and classroom-level growth in English language arts (ELA) or math, suggesting the SEL measures may capture growth not measured by academic test scores. Although results are preliminary, they indicate there might be measurable student growth in SEL impacted by the environment of classrooms within schools.

  • Assessing Survey Satisficing: The Impact of Unmotivated Questionnaire Respondents on Data Quality

    Christine Calderon Vriesema, Hunter Gehlbach. October 2019

    Education researchers use surveys widely. Yet, critics question respondents’ ability to provide high-quality responses. As schools increasingly use student surveys to drive policymaking, respondents’ (lack of) motivation to provide quality responses may threaten the wisdom of using surveys for data-based decision-making. To better understand student satisficing (sub- optimal responding on surveys) and its impact on data quality, we examined the pervasiveness and impact of this practice on a large-scale social-emotional learning survey administered to 409,721 students in grades 2-12. Findings indicated that despite the prevalence of satisficing in our sample, its impact on data quality appeared more modest than anticipated. We conclude by providing an accessible approach for defining and calculating satisficing for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers working with large-scale datasets.

  • A Middle School Drop: Consistent Gender Differences in Students’ Self-Efficacy

    Erin M. Fahle, Monica G. Lee, Susanna Loeb. October 2019

    Academic self-efficacy is a student’s belief in their ability to perform within a school environment. Prior research shows that students experience a drop in academic self-efficacy during middle school that is particularly steep for female students and results in lower self-efficacy for girls than boys throughout middle and high school. In this brief, we probe whether this pattern is consistent across student groups defined by demographics, achievement level, and school of attendance. We find unusual consistency: while non-white, low-achieving, and poor students show somewhat lower self-efficacy than other students, the differential drop in middle school is essentially universal across student groups. Similarly, while schools vary meaningfully in their students’ level of self-efficacy, they also do not differ much in this trend.

  • An IRT Mixture Model for Rating Scale Confusion Associated with Negatively Worded Items in Measures of Social-Emotional Learning

    Daniel M. Bolt, Yang Caroline Wang, Robert H. Meyer, Libby Pier. October 2019

    We illustrate the application of mixture IRT models to evaluate the possibility of respondent confusion due to the negative wording of certain items on a social-emotional learning (SEL) assessment. Using actual student self-report ratings on four social-emotional learning scales collected from students in grades 3-12 from CORE districts in the state of California, we also evaluate the consequences of the potential confusion in biasing student- and school-level scores as well as correlational relationships between SEL and student-level variables. Models of both full and partial confusion are examined. Our results suggest that (1) rating scale confusion due to negatively-worded items does appear to be present; (2) the confusion is most prevalent at lower grade levels (3rd-5th); and (3) the occurrence of confusion is positively related to reading proficiency and ELL status, as anticipated, and bias estimates of SEL correlations with these student-level variables. For these reasons, we suggest future iterations of the SEL measures use only positively oriented items. To maintain measurement continuity, we suggest bias corrections based on the studied mixture model may be useful, although the precision of such corrections is sensitive to the nature of confusion (e.g., full versus partial).

  • Students with Growth Mindset Learn More in School: Evidence from California’s CORE School Districts

    Susana Claro, Susanna Loeb. October 2019

    While the importance of social-emotional learning for student success is well established, educators and researchers have less knowledge and agreement about which social-emotional skills are most important for students and how these skills distribute across student subgroups. Using a rich longitudinal dataset of 221,840 fourth through seventh grade students in California districts, this paper describes growth mindset gaps across student groups, and confirms, at a large scale, the predictive power of growth mindset for achievement gains, even with unusually rich controls for students’ background, previous achievement, and measures of other social-emotional skills. Average annual growth in English language arts and math corresponding to differences between students with fixed and growth mindset in a same school and grade level is 0.07 and 0.05 standard deviations respectively, after adjusting for students’ characteristics and previous achievement. This estimate is equivalent to 48 and 35 additional days of learning.

  • Learning and Practicing Continuous Improvement: Lessons from the CORE Districts

    H. Alix Gallagher, Benjamin W. Cottingham. October 2019

    Continuous improvement has become a leading method of changing the way schools and districts foster better student learning and success. As part of the CORE-PACE Research Partnership, PACE spent a year studying the CORE Districts’ approach to implementing continuous improvement with a focus on two key questions: 1) What do we know about how to support educators in learning continuous improvement? 2) What conditions support continuous improvement in districts and schools? The findings are presented in a report that provides an overview of lessons learned in building a successful continuous improvement culture, and three detailed case studies exploring key factors to that success, including leadership, systems of support, and structures and processes.

  • Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap for Continuous Improvement: The Case of Long Beach Unified School District

    Vicki Park. Policy Analysis for California Education. October 2019

    Successful continuous improvement requires educators to have a shared clarity of purpose, integrated systems of support, and a clear vision for instruction across the system with the central goal of improving classroom instruction. This case study examines how Long Beach Unified School District, one of the CORE districts involved in the CORE-PACE research project on continuous improvement, fosters these efforts. It is a portrait of a learning system that emphasizes improvement towards high-quality, rigorous instruction for all students through professional learning and capacity-building. Their efforts offer critical insights and reflection for other systems and leaders interested in supporting continuous improvement for both student and adult learning.

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