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California’s CORE districts—a consortium of eight school districts serving a racially and socioeconomically diverse population of over one million students—since 2014 have led the way in deploying measures of social and emotional learning (SEL) and school climate and culture. Influenced by surging interest and research support over the past decade, these districts have collected data in hopes of continuously improving how their K–12 schools address the social and emotional dimensions of student development. In recent years, many advocates have called for schools to pay greater attention to...
Conditions Shaping Educators’ Use of Social–Emotional Learning Indicators
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Researchers have amassed considerable evidence on the use of student performance data (e.g., benchmark and standardized state tests) to inform educational improvement, but few have examined the use of nonacademic indicators (e.g., indicators of social and emotional well-being) available to educators, and whether the factors shaping academic data use remain true for these newer types of data. While the field continues to advocate for greater attention to the social–emotional development of students, there remains little guidance on conditions supporting the use of data on these important...
Findings From the First Large-Scale Panel Survey of Students
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Measures of school-level growth in student outcomes are common tools for assessing the impacts of schools. The vast majority of these measures use standardized tests as the outcome of interest, even though emerging evidence demonstrates the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL). This article presents results from using the first large-scale panel surveys of students on SEL to produce school-level, value-added measures by grade for growth mind-set, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness. The article finds substantive differences across schools in SEL growth, with...
Describing Chronically Absent Students, the Schools They Attend, and Implications for Accountability
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Student absenteeism has recently entered the national spotlight with its emphasis in the Every Student Succeeds Act, and here in California with its inclusion in the School Dashboard. Yet many questions remain about who chronically absent students are and how they are concentrated within schools. In chapter 1 (of the edited book, Absent from School), the author uses data from the CORE districts—which serve nearly one million students in over 1,000 schools in California–to better understand differences across students and schools, comparing these measures to a broader set of school performance...

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States and school districts across the U.S. are seeking to expand their definition of student success to include social-emotional learning. The CORE Districts, a collaborative of California districts that has developed a system of school accountability and continuous improvement that includes measures of social-emotional skills based on student self-reports, exemplify this trend. In this case study, we provide an overview of CORE's School Quality Improvement System, which was implemented in the 2015–16 school year across six districts serving roughly one million students.
Changing Mindsets and Empowering Stakeholders to Meaningfully Manage Accountability and Improvement
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School accountability and improvement policy are on the precipice of a paradigm shift. While the multiple-measure dashboard accountability approach holds great promise for promoting more meaningful learning opportunities for all students, our research indicates that this can come with substantial challenges in practice. We reflect upon the lessons learned from our recent research on CORE Districts’ use of multiple-measure data dashboards. The research indicated that a shift to greater flexibility and locally determined capacity building efforts brings its own set of challenges. Building on...
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With the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replacing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, states have gained substantial new freedom to reshape their school accountability systems, including criteria for how to measure and communicate school performance to the public. One dominant model is the streamlined letter-grade system first adopted by Florida, which focuses on student achievement on annual statewide tests. By contrast, California is developing a dashboard-style system, which encompasses multiple measures, such as student attendance and school climate. Here are two views on the...
Insights From California’s CORE Waiver Districts
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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) represents a notable shift in K–12 accountability, requiring a more comprehensive approach to assessing school performance and a less prescriptive approach to intervening in low-performing schools. This articles seeks to leverage the experiences of California’s Office to Reform Education (CORE) waiver districts to better understand what it means to implement an ESSA-like system. Specifically, this article examines educators’ attitudes about CORE’s accountability system, how it was implemented, and its intermediate outcomes. This article was originally...
How a Research Center Based at USC Rossier, Stanford and UC Davis Is Helping California Forge Its Own Path in Advancing Its Education System
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In May 2016, on the Monday following USC Rossier’s two commencement ceremonies, more than 50 policymakers, philanthropists, and researchers gathered bright and early across the street from the USC campus for a two-day conference. The goal? Hashing out a research agenda that would inform teacher policy in California and beyond. USC Rossier Professors Julie Marsh and Katharine Strunk hosted the convening under the sponsorship of Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). Founded in 1983, PACE is based at three academic institutions—the USC Rossier School of Education, Stanford University’s...
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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) devolves to states many decisions about how to design the accountability system and the measures to use in these systems in order to meet new goals of college and career readiness. Because few states presently have adequate measures for the new goals, the states will need to develop the measures along with accountability structures. ESSA includes a provision that would allow district waivers to their state’s programs. States can use such waivers to make use of particularly high-capacity districts’ ability to innovate and test new approaches. The CORE...
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Expansion of the use of student test score data to measure teacher performance has fueled recent policy interest in using those data to measure the effects of school administrators as well. However, little research has considered the capacity of student performance data to uncover principal effects. Filling this gap, this article identifies multiple conceptual approaches for capturing the contributions of principals to student test score growth; develops empirical models to reflect these approaches; examines the properties of these models; and compares the results of the models empirically...
The Resurgence of Local Actors in Education Policy
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This article explores trends in intergovernmental relations (\GR) by analyzing recent education policies: No Child Left Behind Act, Common Core State Standards, and local empowerment policies. Identifying a resurgent role for local actors in education policy, the authors argue that recent federal efforts to exert more control have in many ways strengthened the influence of local actors by providing avenues for school districts and other local "non-system" players to challenge traditional governance arrangements. In a similar vein, because the federal government's ability to achieve its goals...
Examining the Effect of the Early Assessment Program at California State University
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This paper investigates how participation in the Early Assessment Program (EAP), which provides California high school juniors with information about their academic readiness for college-level work at California State University campuses, affects their college-going behavior and need for remediation in college.
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...
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...
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...
Constructions of Gender and Sexuality in California’s Single Gender Academies
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This article examines heterosexist assumptions and the role of homophobia in students’ experiences in California’s public “Single Gender Academies,’’ in an effort to include issues of sexuality in current discourses on adolescent gender identity and public school reform. Interviews with students, conducted as part of the most comprehensive research on public single-sex schooling in the U.S. to date, reveal a critical link between students’ notions of sexuality and definitions of masculinity and femininity. Alongside dichotomous, static notions of gender, the ideology and structure of the...
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Student mobility—students making nonpromotional school changes—is widespread in many schools and districts throughout the United States. Mobility not only can harm the students who change schools, it can also harm the classrooms and schools they attend. This article examines the incidence, causes, and consequences of student mobility in the United States. Research reveals that the causes and consequences of mobility are more complicated than many people assume. The final part of the article discusses what parents, schools, districts, and policymakers can do to address this growing educational...
New Education Policy Center's Goal Is to Be Information Resource for Policymakers and Michigan Educators
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For years, the Michigan State University College of Education made outreach to lawmakers and educational leaders a priority. But earlier this year, the college took an important step forward in its outreach efforts when it established the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, a nonpartisan institution that has as its goal to provide those who make decisions about the state’s educational system with accurate and timely research-based information. It marks the college’s most ambitious and formalized effort to date in its long history of playing an important role in improving the...
How Mothers Balance Work Requirements and Parenting
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This paper examines the reasoning and experiences of mothers in selecting childcare while trying to meet welfare-to-work requirements. Three theoretical positions that have been used to look at child care selection—rational choice, structuralist, and cultural—are examined and critiqued in light of a structural developmental psychology perspective. The paper reports on semi-structured, open-ended interviews with seven mothers from three different ethnic groups—African-American, Anglo, and Latina—who range in age from 21 to 42. Interviews covered a 15 month period following the mothers’...
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Although school dropout remains an important policy issue and has generated considerable research, little of this research has examined dropout as a measure of school performance. Even less attention has been paid to student turnover, another related measure of how well schools are keeping students enrolled. This study examined the distributions of both dropout and turnover rates among a large sample of U.S. high schools and tested a series of models to explain these differences, using data from the NELS High School Effectiveness Study and non­linear multilevel modeling. The results revealed...
The Influence of Household Support, Ethnicity, and Parental Practices
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Accumulating evidence shows that young children benefit develop­mentally by participating in quality childcare centers and preschools. But we know little about which family characteristics and home practices influence parents' selection of a center-based program. This article reports on the influence of the family's social-structural attributes, ethnicity, and parental practices on the likelihood of selecting a center-based program, after taking into account economic characteristics. The odds that parents enroll their child in a center-based program are greatest when mothers are more highly...
1993–96
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Questions about the feasibility of and political support for new forms of pupil assessment have become major issues. With the California Learning Assessment System (CLAS), California became a pio­neer in these new forms of assessment. For a variety of reasons however, parents, con­servative religious groups, the California School Boards Association, the Califor­nia Teachers Association, and the governor all raised objections to the as­sessment during its 1993 implementation. As a result of this dissent, CLAS is now discontinued, but many questions re­main. Answers to them can shed light both...