• PreK-3 Alignment: Challenges and Opportunities in California

    Julia E. Koppich, Deborah J. Stipek. January 2020

    This 2019 PACE study found the depth and strength of California districts’ preK–3 alignment efforts to vary considerably. As preK–3 alignment is not an explicit state priority, districts do not feel obligated to focus on it in the face of many other demands. Divergent beliefs among districts about the role and purpose of preschool can enhance or inhibit alignment efforts, as can the formal roles of district preK directors and elementary principals who have preKs on their campuses. Different licensing requirements for preK and elementary teachers as well as the complicated web of regulations associated with different funding streams influence the strength of alignment efforts. Even within these constraints, however, there are many steps districts can take to improve preK–3 alignment.

  • Leadership for Continuous Improvement: The Vision for County Offices of Education

    Ed Manansala, Benjamin W. Cottingham. December 2019

    County offices of education (COEs) are expected to provide ongoing support to districts and other local education agencies to drive continuous improvement within California’s education system. Fulfilling this role has required COEs to carry out their historical role as compliance monitors while simultaneously developing the necessary mindsets, skills, and structures and process to build the capacity for continuous improvement within their own offices and the districts they serve.

  • The Early Implementation of California’s System of Support: Counties, Differentiated Assistance, and the New School Dashboard

    Daniel C. Humphrey, Jennifer O'Day. December 2019

    This report examines the early implementation of California’s statewide System of Support. The System of Support has received general acclaim from County Offices of Education (COE) and district officials for its emphasis on assistance over compliance, and COEs have taken varying approaches to providing that assistance depending on the local context of the districts eligible for support and the COE’s internal capacity. Interview and survey data suggest significant challenges to realizing a robust support system, including inadequate funding, uneven COE capacity, and problems with the Dashboard data used to identify eligible districts. Overall, the System of Support has yet to become a true system.

  • The Changing Role of County Offices of Education: Survey Results

    David N. Plank, Daniel C. Humphrey, Jennifer O'Day. December 2019

    In this brief we summarize findings from three surveys that sought to learn how county offices of education (COEs) are changing in response to the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Statewide System of Support (SSS). COEs have been assigned critically important responsibilities in the implementation of these initiatives, and our survey results suggest that most county superintendents are strongly supportive of the state’s new policy direction.

  • 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.

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