Reports

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

    Sherrie Reed, Michal Kurlaender, Scott Carrell

    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

    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

    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.

  • 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.

  • A Student-Centered Culture of Improvement: The Case of Garden Grove Unified School District

    Benjamin W. Cottingham, Angela Gong, H. Alix Gallagher. Policy Analysis for California Education. October 2019.

    A crucial but challenging requirement of successful continuous improvement involves transforming the system’s culture. This case study explores how Garden Grove Unified School District built a culture that puts kids first; nurtures commitment, drive, and loyalty among teachers and other district personnel; and views both student and adult learning as important. This case examines four structures and processes used by Garden Grove leadership to establish and maintain a culture of improvement that has resulted in rising student achievement. The lessons learned could be implemented in many districts by changing leadership approaches and reallocating existing resources.

  • Leadership that Supports Continuous Improvement: The Case of Ayer Elementary

    Kate E. Kennedy, H. Alix Gallagher. Policy Analysis for California Education. October 2019.

    Ayer Elementary School in Fresno is an exemplar of leadership practice necessary for successfully building and maintaining a culture of continuous improvement. This case study examines the leadership practices that teachers say allowed them to undertake the challenging work of using data for evidence-based changes that are steadily improving student outcomes in this ethnically diverse, high-poverty school. The report offers insights into how leaders can foster a culture of risk-taking, teacher agency, and collective efficacy. It also raises questions about how to support more principals in learning the leadership skills necessary to support the desired spread of continuous improvement in California.

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

    Minahil Asim, Michal Kurlaender, Sherrie Reed. Policy Analysis for California Education. August 2019.

    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.

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

    Michal Kurlaender, Sherrie Reed, Alexandria Hurtt. Policy Analysis for California Education. 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 Sense of Social-Emotional Survey Results Using the CORE Districts' Benchmarking Data

    Katie Buckley, Ed.D.. May 2019.

    The CORE districts have been measuring SEL via self-report student surveys since 2015. Any district, state, or school looking to use these surveys can now build from what we have learned in the CORE districts. In this paper we provide benchmarking data, including means and standard deviations by construct, grade level and subgroup, and examples of how to use these data in practice. The data come from nearly half a million students across the 8 CORE districts, in grades 4 through 12, who took the survey in the 2015-16 school year.

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