Leadership, Partnership, and Community
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Public education today faces a troubling set of challenges, including declining enrollment, staffing shortages, and polarized communities, with school boards at the center of broader political debates. How did we arrive at this current state? This study—described here and, in more detail, in a related report—of seven California school districts conducted during the first 14 months of the COVID-19 pandemic explores how districts responded in real time to the unfolding health crisis as well as to the growing national reckoning about structural racism. Our case studies show that districts—often...
Supporting Students During COVID-19
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In the wake of COVID-19, the California legislature mandated that local educational agencies (LEAs) develop detailed Learning Continuity and Attendance Plans (LCPs) to address student learning and progress during the 2020–21 academic year. This brief summarizes results of an analysis of nearly 1,000 LCPs from public school districts across the state to understand how they intended to support students in critical areas like instruction, technology, assessment, attendance, and well-being. Overall, districts planned to provide technology, assess student learning, employ tiered levels of support...
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The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting changes in schooling have been particularly difficult for students learning the English language. Recent research indicates that nearly 40 percent of English learners (ELs) nationwide were not receiving the services and support they needed to successfully engage with academic content during distance learning and that ELs experienced greater lags in learning than their peers. As the types and quality of instructional supports provided to ELs at school are vital to their educational outcomes, it is critical to understand how these students were supported...
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At a time when students of families living in poverty have experienced the worst of the economic trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, community schools have reemerged as a promising intervention for addressing lack of access to quality education and economic prosperity. Policymakers are making investments in scaling up community schools; effective use of data will be key to the success of the expansion. This brief details findings from a 2021 research project that involved collaboration between the Los Angeles County Office of Education and the University of Southern California Center on...
Lessons from Kern County
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Counties, districts, and schools have had to respond to ever-shifting issues related to COVID-19. This brief describes the complex challenges that district superintendents faced, which often required expertise in areas beyond traditional expectations for the role, particularly in public health. The brief gives examples of crisis management structures from one county office of education (COE)—Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS)—that helped to mitigate these challenges for local education agencies (LEAs) in its county. The strategies detailed in this brief provide a replicable model...
Evidence from the 2021 PACE/USC Rossier Annual Poll
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The 2021 PACE/USC Rossier poll provides key insights into Californians’ perceptions of higher education issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically equity and affordability. A large percentage of Californians acknowledge that college affordability is an important educational issue, and they generally express support for increased access to courses through remote options, increased funding for community colleges, loan forgiveness, and equitable admissions practices. However, public opinion on these issues is more nuanced; for example, Californians are concerned that increased access to...
Critical Actions for Recovery and the Role of Research in the Years Ahead
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The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recently issued a report providing guidance on the future of education research at the National Center for Education Research and the National Center for Special Education Research, two centers directed by IES. The report identifies critical problems and issues; details new methods and approaches; and specifies the kinds of research investments needed in the future. In addition to hearing from outside experts and soliciting public input, the committee commissioned Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) to produce a paper to help synthesize...

A Key Investment for COVID-19 Recovery
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A healing-centered community school implements a whole child approach to teaching and learning to address the fundamental physiological and safety needs of students as central to their cognitive development and growth. Strengthening and sustaining such strategies require intentional, complementary investments in policy, funding, and resources across general education, early learning, special education, health, and community development. This publication set provides guidance for educators, policymakers, and advocates who wish to deploy state and federal recovery resources to address immediate...
Views from the 2021 PACE/USC Rossier Poll
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Growing inequities and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic together with billions of dollars in new funding present an opportunity to make substantial changes to K–12 education to better serve all students in California. In May 2021, PACE and USC Rossier School of Education fielded our annual poll of California voters, which sought to gain clarity about voters’ priorities on public education issues during this period in which Californians are beginning to look towards a postpandemic future. The following are 10 key findings from the poll.
Evidence From Interim Assessments in California
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At the first anniversary of school closures due to COVID-19, nearly half of the K–12 students in the U.S. were attending schools that were either fully remote or offering hybrid instruction, with more than 70 percent of California students attending schools remotely. For this reason, continued efforts to unpack the effects of COVID-19 on student outcomes are especially important for California students, who may be experiencing larger-than-average effects of continued school closures relative to the nation overall. In this report, we used data from multiple interim assessments to examine how...
Evidence from the CORE Districts
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Since spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has been abruptly interrupting regular instruction in almost all schools in the U.S. One year later, policymakers, district administrators, and educators are still balancing the benefits and risks of returning K–12 students to fully in-person school. Many are concerned about the pandemic’s disruption to students’ academic progress. In California, educators have been focused equally on students’ mental and emotional health, social relationships, and learning environment, given that many students have been learning remotely since the onset of the pandemic...
The Path Towards Reimagining and Rebuilding Schools
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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all students; however, its impact has been particularly devastating for students of color, students from low-income families, English learners, and other marginalized children and youth. As transmission rates decline and vaccination rates increase in California, many are eager to return to normalcy, but we must all recognize that even the prepandemic normal was not working for all students. The 2021–22 school year, therefore, constitutes a critical opportunity for schools to offer students, families, and educators a restorative restart. This is a moment for...

Restarting School with Equity at the Center
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This brief was developed by California-based family and student engagement organizations, associations representing educators and system leaders, research institutes, and civil rights and equity groups. The recommendations arise from the evidence that has collectively emerged from focus groups with educators, parents, and students; polls and surveys of stakeholders; a deep review of the literature; and original research conducted on COVID-19’s impact on schools and students. At the time of release, Reimagine and Rebuild: Restarting School with Equity at the Center was endorsed by the following...

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We use data from oral reading fluency (ORF) assessments to examine COVID-19’s effects on children’s ORF in over 100 U.S. school districts. Students’ development of ORF largely stopped in spring 2020 following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fall 2020, students’ gains in reading were stronger and similar to prepandemic rates. However, fall gains were insufficient to recoup spring losses; overall, students’ ORF in second and third grade is approximately 30 percent behind expectations. We also observe inequitable impact: students at lower achieving schools are falling farther behind and 10...

Identifying the Structural and Instructional Changes in K–12
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In March 2020, school districts across California closed their doors, rapidly adapting operations and instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts to understand the immediate impact of the unprecedented closure of schools prompted grave concerns about meeting students’ needs, particularly for the most vulnerable. In fact, recent research indicates that learning loss related to school closures in the spring and fall of 2020 was disproportionately experienced by younger students, low-income students, and English learners. However, little is known about the specific changes made to...
In-Person Learning for the Whole Child
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Communities in California and around the country are implementing learning hubs to provide in-person education supports to students who are distance learning. In this brief, we explore a prevalent learning hub model and raise considerations for local policymakers, schools, and expanded learning partners. We include guidance for the design and operations of learning hubs, and identify the policy levers that support the model. This brief is part of a series that explores how expanded learning programs and staff can play an instrumental role in supporting students now and throughout pandemic...
A Foundation for Rebuilding to Support the Whole Child
Publication authors
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Strong partnerships between schools and expanded learning programs lay the foundation for building stronger, more equitable support systems for children and their families. Building on prior investments in the expanded learning system, California’s school reopening guidance encouraged intentional coordination across schools and expanded learning providers to best meet the needs of students during this unprecedented time. This brief provides key principles for school and expanded learning partnerships—informed by insights from leaders and practitioners from across California—that policymakers...
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This brief is one in a series aimed at providing K-12 education decision makers and advocates with an evidence base to ground discussions about how to best serve students during and following the novel coronavirus pandemic. Learn more about the EdResearch for Recovery Project and view the set of COVID-19 response-and-recovery topic areas and practitioner-generated questions here. The central question of this brief is: How can schools and districts monitor students’ social and emotional well-being across the year?
Publication author
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As California’s elementary schools reopen after prolonged physical closure due to COVID-19, attention to healing the school community will be essential. Although there is wide variation in the timing and formats with which schools plan to reopen, it is clear that when students reenter school buildings they will be eager to reconnect with friends and teachers. Because elementary school-aged children learn and grow through play, recess is an ideal time to support healing and to prepare students to return to the classroom ready to learn. When students are allowed to reenter school buildings...
Publication author
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California districts were forced to shift to distance learning models in the spring of 2020 and the transition to distance learning for students in the early grades—transitional kindergarten through third grade (TK–3)—has proved difficult for students, parents, and teachers alike. As distance learning persists, administrators and teachers can continue to adapt their practices to meet the needs of students and families. This brief identifies challenges experienced during distance learning and suggests promising practices and potential policy changes that can positively affect the current...
Publication authors
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This brief highlights the need and ways to transform—systematically—how schools address the overlapping learning, behavioral, and emotional problems that can interfere with learning and teaching. The aim is to provide a blueprint to enable the state, Local Education Agencies (LEAs), and schools to play a greater role in providing student and learning supports, and to do so in ways that enhance equity of opportunity.
Lessons for Improving Network Collaboration
Publication authors
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Collaborative networks that use continuous improvement principles and tools can accelerate and spread learning across sites and contexts. Districts face unprecedented challenges in meeting students’ and families’ needs in rapidly changing conditions. Collaborative networks can be powerful drivers of system improvement. Collaborating well is key to maximizing a network’s effectiveness. This brief lays out three important lessons about how network members can work together: (a) Participants must understand the benefits of collaboration to overcome the “costs” inherent in working together; (b)...

A Summary Brief
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California and the rest of the country are enduring a pandemic-induced economic recession, and school and district leaders are bracing for the fallout. Funding for California schools had improved rapidly between 2013 and 2019, with districts spending roughly $13,100 per pupil in 2018–19 as compared with $9,680 only 6 years earlier. However, that level of funding still fell short of what would have been adequate given California’s goals as a state, the student population it serves, and its cost of living. According to Levin et al.’s 2018 Getting Down to Facts II study, California would need to...

Lessons for COVID-19
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In March 2020, most schools in the U.S. transitioned to distance learning. During the transition a significant number of students did not fully engage in learning opportunities. This brief uses administrative panel data from the CORE Districts in California to approximate the impact of the pandemic by analyzing how absenteeism has affected student outcomes in the recent past. We show wide variation in absenteeism impacts on academic and social-emotional outcomes by grade and subgroup, as well as the cumulative effect of different degrees of absence. Student outcomes generally suffer more from...
Pivoting Amid COVID-19
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The educators of Ayer Elementary in Fresno Unified School District began their continuous improvement journey in 2016. The stability of their underlying organizational conditions to engage in improvement work—a shared purpose, mutual trust, structures and resources that foster collaborative work, and preparation and mobilization of improvement capabilities—was put to the test as their focus pivoted in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This practice brief describes ways in which Ayer Elementary continued to invest in short- and long-term improvement practices to strengthen student engagement...