Policy Briefs

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

    Ed Manansala, Benjamin W. Cottingham

    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

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

    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.

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

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

    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.

  • 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

    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.

  • 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.

  • On Growth Models, Time for California to Show Some Improvement

    Morgan S. Polikoff. September 2019.

    California is one of just two states (with Kansas) that does not use a student-level growth model to measure school performance. This brief lays out a number of common beliefs about growth models and provides evidence that these beliefs are inaccurate or unsupported. In so doing, the brief makes a positive case that the state should adopt such a model and replace the current "change" metric in the California School Dashboard.

  • How Would Test Opt-out Impact Accountability Measures? Evidence from the CORE Districts and the PACE/USC Rossier Poll

    Edward J. Cremata. September 2019.

    The number of students opting out of standardized tests has grown in recent years. This phenomenon poses a potential threat to our ability to accurately measure student achievement in schools and districts. This brief documents the extent to which opting out is observed in the CORE districts and models how higher opt-out levels could affect various accountability measures. More students opting out could significantly impact some accountability measures in use in California, but the CORE districts’ growth measure is largely unaffected, as it reports the impact of schools on individual students’ achievement. In contrast, accountability metrics that track student achievement by cohort are at risk of becoming biased even with relatively low absolute levels of opting out. This brief suggests that districts should consider explicitly adjusting for the characteristics of the students who actually sit for tests when designing school accountability systems.

  • Improving College Readiness: A Research Summary and Implications for Practice

    Michal Kurlaender, Sherrie Reed, Alexandria Hurtt. August 2019.

    Given the importance of a college degree for both individual and societal economic prosperity, policymakers and educators are focused on strengthening the path to college beyond college entry. In this report, we synthesize the existing literature on four factors key to educational attainment—aspirations and beliefs, academic preparation, knowledge and information, and fortitude and resilience—and the implications of each.

  • Making Early Education a Priority: Evidence from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Voter Poll

    David N. Plank, Deborah J. Stipek. June 2019.

    Governor Gavin Newsom campaigned on a “cradle to career” education strategy that identified childcare and early education as key priorities. The Governor’s 2019 Budget Proposal follows through with the inclusion of several initiatives aimed at increasing support for children five and younger.

  • College Affordability in Every Corner of California: Perspectives from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Poll

    Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, Michal Kurlaender, Austin Lyke, Teresita Martinez. June 2019.

    California voters ranked college affordability as the second most important education policy issue in the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier poll, a concern reflected in Governor Gavin Newsom’s first budget proposal and in a number of bills currently progressing through the state legislature. Though desire for making college affordable is high among the average voter, California’s geographic and socio-economic diversity demand that lawmakers consider local contexts when designing and implementing new reforms.

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