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A new PACE policy brief summarizes the findings from a study investigating the impact of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) on California’s lowest performing students. Utilizing longitudinal data from four large urban school districts, Sean Reardon from Stanford and Michal Kurlaender from UC-Davis compare students scheduled to graduate just before (2005) and after (2006-07) the exit exam became a requirement for graduation from California high schools. They find that the CAHSEE requirement had no positive effects on students’ academic skills, and a large negative impact on...
Research Center Celebrates a Quarter Century as Leader in Legislative Policy Analysis
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When PACE was founded in the early 1980s, California's schools were in turmoil following the passage of Proposition 13, which indirectly limited public education funding. The good news is that PACE has grown significantly in size and stature since then-Graduate School of Education Professor James Guthrie (who taught in the GSE for 27 years), Stanford Professor Michael Kirst; and then-chancellor of the California Community Colleges Gerald Hayward founded PACE (originally called Policy Alternatives for California Education). And the other good news is that the independent policy center has...
School Finance and Governance in California
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Getting Down to Facts is the largest independent investigation ever of how California governs and funds public education. It was commissioned at the request of a bipartisan group of California leaders, including the governor’s Advisory Committee on Educational Excellence, the president protem of the California Senate, the speaker of the California Assembly, the superintendent of public instruction, and the state secretary of education. The purpose of this unprecedented project was to describe California’s school finance and governance systems, identify aspects of those systems that hinder the...
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As the Year of Education draws to a close, PACE is reviving its signature publication, Conditions of Education in California, in order to sustain focus on the long-term comprehensive educational reforms that California needs. In this edition of Conditions of Education in California six of California’s leading policy scholars provide analysis of the urgent educational challenges facing our state. The six authors provide baseline data on the current performance of California’s schools and students, and make specific recommendations for policy changes that will support long-term improvement. PACE...
Understanding California's High School Dropouts
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Six of California’s largest urban school districts have joined together in the Partnership for Urban Education Research (PUER), to address the most pressing issues in urban education. The six PUER districts have agreed to work together to increase data availability, enhance internal research capacity, and promote collaboration and information sharing across district lines for the benefit of their students. PUER seeks to build a partnership in which participating districts can use their collective research capacity to carefully evaluate their own instructional programs and practices. In a new...
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California’s struggle to close the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic achievement gaps among its groups of students mirrors that of every other state. But compared with other states, the challenge in California is by every measure more daunting. Gaps between white students on the one hand and African American and Latino students on the other are among the widest in the nation. Similarly, the state has the largest achievement gaps between students from low income families and those from more affluent homes. Even more alarming is the scope of the imbalance. While in some states relatively small...
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A PACE Policy Brief by Susanna Loeb, Tara Beteille and Maria Perez of Stanford University explains why California must accelerate its efforts to create an effective data system for collecting and using vital school information. Building an Information System to Support Continuous Improvement in California Public Schools highlights the elements of an effective data system, with a particular focus on issues related to data collection. It reveals that despite efforts to improve California’s education data system, the state continues to lag behind other states in data collection and management, in...
Performance Trends in California Schools
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Jennifer Imazeki of San Diego State University analyzes recent performance trends in California’s education system in Meeting the Challenge: Performance Trends in California Schools, a new PACE Policy Brief. Imazeki shows that California students have generally held steady or improved their academic performance across grades and subject areas in recent years, in spite of growing financial and demographic challenges in the state’s schools. Per pupil spending in California is well below the national average, and the ratio of adults to children in the system is lower than in almost any other...
Data Systems and Policy Learning
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In a PACE document prepared for the Convening on California Education Policy on October 19, 2007, Susanna Loeb and David N. Plank present a set of policy recommendations aimed at supporting continuous improvement in California’s education system. Their recommendations address the essential features of a comprehensive education data system, and also the design and implementation of educational policies to support careful evaluation and organizational learning at all levels of the education system, from the classroom to the California Department of Education.
How to Judge No Child Left Behind?
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As Congress reconsiders the federal government’s role in school reform, many policymakers feel pressure to claim that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is boosting student performance. But how should politicians and activists gauge NCLB’s effects? In this article, the authors offer evidence on three barometers of student performance, drawing from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and state data spanning 1992–2006. Focusing on the performance of fourth graders, where gains have been strongest since the early 1970s, the authors find that earlier test score growth has largely faded...
Crafting Standards to Track Quality
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This paper, stemming from a PACE seminar, examines the idea of crafting opportunity to learn (OTL) standards—how the state might collect and analyze indicators of school quality that are predictive of student achievement. The idea is not new. Such standards were put forward by Congress over a decade ago. However, questions remain regarding which quality indicators can be feasibly monitored and which are empirically related to achievement gains. Developing, implementing, and monitoring such a system would be challenging. But, as the PACE seminar participants discussed, a well-designed OTL...
Rekindling Reform
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Crucial Issues in California Education, 2006 provides the education community with an overview of key policy topics grounded in lessons learned from recent research and practice. Authors locate issues within the context of the state’s standards and accountability system and current fiscal realities. Each chapter includes demographic and historic perspective, data and analysis, and proposals for long-term structural remedies. Crucial Issues serves as a dynamic reference volume for anyone interested in today’s education policy landscape.
Issues, Evidence, and Resources
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Proposition 82 would provide at least $23 billion over the coming decade to enroll about 70% of the state’s four year olds in half-day preschool programs at no direct cost to parents. This brief sketches what’s known about California’s existing network of preschool centers, which children benefit, and the key issues prompted by Proposition 82. PACE’s role—as an independent research center—is to clarify relevant evidence which informs education policy options. In 2005, PACE published a review of enrollment patterns and policy options related to equalizing access to, and improving the quality of...
The Reliability of How States Track Achievement
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Debate is well under way regarding the efficacy of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, including whether this bundle of federal rules and resources is prompting gains in student achievement. Spirited conversation will intensify as the Congress discusses how to adjust and reauthorize this ambitious set of school reforms. Both state and federal gauges of student achievement will inform this debate.
Full Report
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As policymakers have struggled to make informed decisions about effective ways of strengthening the state’s teacher workforce, the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning’s Teaching and California’s Future initiative (TCF) has provided California policymakers with objective and timely data. The TCF initiative publishes a report each year that provides detailed data on the teacher workforce and labor market and describes teacher development policies, with a focus on how they impact teacher quality and teacher distribution.
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Californians and their leaders have been distracted for too long by a budget crisis and a special election. Our attention must return to the challenges facing our schools. What we really need now is a meaningful public discussion about quality teaching and the urgent need to expand California’s ranks of excellent teachers. We need to talk about how we attract our best and brightest to teaching, how we prepare them to be most effective, and how we support them and keep them teaching as professionals. We need to talk about making sure that California has the teaching force it needs for its 6.3...
Shaping the Landscape of Equity and Adequacy
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This article examines California’s system of school governance. The article’s overarching concern is how state structures and policies support or constrain the capacity of schools to deliver an adequate and equal education. Specifically, the article addresses the following questions: Who is responsible for ensuring that the state’s schools have adequate resources? What means are available to determine if schools’ curriculum, personnel, facilities, and instructional materials are adequate? What means exist for determining if schools are performing satisfactorily? What means exist for remedying...
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This article provides an abridged version of a report prepared for the lawsuit Williams v. State of California. The report first examines the achievement gap for English learners in California. Second, it reviews evidence in seven areas in which these students receive a substantially inequitable education vis-à-vis their English-speaking peers, even when those peers are similarly economically disadvantaged. Third, it documents the state’s role in creating and perpetuating existing inequities. Finally, it describes a series of remedies that the state could pursue to reduce these inequities...
Promising Benefits, Unequal Access
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Parents and policymakers are turning to preschools to better advance the school readiness and broader development of young children. This brief reports on which California children are more likely to gain access to preschool centers—broadly termed center-based programs—and whether attendance yields gains in early learning and social skills. The brief also details sizeable gaps in the development of different groups of children as they enter kindergarten. These findings stem from a comprehensive new study of 2,314 children, representative of all California children entering kindergarten.
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PACE presents three working papers on the inadequacies and difficulties of successful transition from high school to college. These papers are derived from The Bridge Project, a six-state study of K–16 issues. These three papers do not attempt to cover all aspects of K–16 and transition issues. Consequently, the policy implications at the end are based solely on these studies. While the media has focused a disproportionate amount of its attention on the highly selective University of California system, these studies provide fresh perspectives on the issues of college preparation, transition...
Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities for Improvement
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Accountability for student performance is on the minds of everyone in U.S. education—from policymakers to district administrators to principals. While the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) has claimed center stage in the national accountability debate, California’s own results-based accountability system was set in place several years prior to NCLB. In 1999, California legislators passed the Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA), establishing specific performance targets for schools, a system of rewards and sanctions for meeting those targets, and assistance for low-performing...
California’s Teaching Force, 2004: Key Issues and Trends
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This report, which compiles secondary data from various state agencies and analyzes these data, consists of chapters on Teacher Supply and Demand, Teacher Preparation and Recruitment, and Teacher Induction and Professional Development. Key findings follow: The state’s teaching force is aging, and an impending bulge in teacher retirement is likely to create significant new demand for teachers. Our projections indicate that the gap between teacher supply and demand will peak in 2012-13 at around 52,000 teachers. Even including interns in the supply of teachers, the gap will still be 38,000...
Similar Test Scores, but Different Students, Bring Federal Sanctions
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This brief details how schools serving diverse students in California are less likely to achieve their growth targets and be subjected to stiff federal sanctions. Schools enrolling more demographic subgroups do serve students who tend to score lower on standardized tests. Yet even when students display almost identical average test scores, schools with more subgroups are more likely to miss their growth targets under federal rules set by the No Child Left Behind Act. Schools serving middle-class children, for example, are 28% more likely to be labeled “needs improvement” by the feds when...
Year Two Progress Report, 2002–03: Executive Summary
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Beginning in early 2001, First 5 California Children and Families Commission (First 5 California) provided matching funds to county First 5 Commissions in support of programs aimed at improving retention and increasing training and professional development among early care and education (ECE) staff. First 5 California contracted with PACE to assess these programs, evaluating the differential effectiveness of childcare retention incentive (CRI) models developed throughout the state. This 2002–03 progress report highlights findings from the ten CRI programs chosen for in-depth study. Five of...
Evaluation Findings and Implications
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