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

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

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.

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

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 Changing Role of County Offices of Education: Survey Results

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.

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

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.

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

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.

12th Grade Course-taking and the Distribution of Opportunity for College Readiness in Mathematics

In this report we explore the patterns in mathematics course-taking among California public high school seniors. We describe what courses students are enrolled in and how course participation varies by key student characteristics, such as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and performance level on the state’s 11th grade assessments. We also explore course-taking patterns for students eligible for California’s public four-year colleges—California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC), and for applicants and admitted students at the CSU and UC.

Charter Competition and District Finances: Evidence from California

Charter schools enroll a growing share of public school students, leading to concerns about the financial implications of charter schools for traditional public schools. Using detailed expenditure data for school districts in California, this paper exploits variation in charter school enrollment across time and between districts to evaluate how district spending and overall financial health change as nearby charter sectors expand.

The Governor’s Budget Proposal and Getting Down to Facts II: Evidence to Inform Policy

Governor Newsom’s first Budget Proposal increases funding for education in California. There are areas of substantive overlap in the Budget Proposal and research findings from the Getting Down to Facts II (GDTFII) research project, released in September 2018, which built an evidence base on the current status of California education and implications for paths forward. As the Budget moves from proposal to reality, it is critical that the evidence from GDTFII continues to inform the policy process.

Engaging District, School, and Teacher Leaders in Improvement

California’s shift towards continuous improvement in education makes understanding how districts and schools can learn to improve a more pressing question than ever. The CORE Improvement Community (CIC), a network of California school districts engaged in learning about improvement together, is an important testing ground to learn about what this work entails. 

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