October 2019 | Working Paper, External publication

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).
Consistent Gender Differences in Students’ Self-Efficacy

October 2019 | Policy Brief, Working Paper

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.

October 2019 | Policy Brief, Working Paper

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.
The Case of Garden Grove Unified School District

October 2019 | Report

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.
The Case of Long Beach Unified School District

October 2019 | Report

Authors
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.