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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...
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A new PACE policy brief presents an overview of the current state of school leadership in California. Susanna Loeb and Jon Valant from Stanford University examine the challenges that California must overcome to recruit, hire, train, and retain strong and talented principals, with a particular focus on the limitations of current state and district policies. Loeb and Valant note that California principals are underpaid relative to their colleagues nationwide, and many report feeling overworked, constrained by state policies, and doubtful that they will remain in the principalship until...
Investing in Education Facilities and Stronger Communities
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California is midway through one of the grandest public infrastructure projects ever attempted. Over the coming decade school officials will complete an $82 billion effort, building new schools and renovating old facilities, supported by taxpayers and private investors. But are state officials and local planners building schools mindfully to advance educational quality and lift local communities?
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...
The Case of California
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Governance is widely believed to be an important determinant of the effectiveness of educational systems. Yet there are few systematic evaluations of the linkages between educational governance and student outcomes, or cogent frameworks for evaluating the effectiveness of governance arrangements in a way that can guide potential policy changes. This article attempts to provide such a framework by identifying indicators of effective educational governance systems drawn from previous research and more than forty interviews with stakeholders at all levels in California, the nation’s biggest...
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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...
Continuous Improvement in California’s Education System
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In a new PACE Policy Brief, Susanna Loeb and David N. Plank argue that to raise student performance and satisfy public expectations California’s education system must be transformed into a continuously improving system that encourages innovation, carefully measures the impact of different policies and practices, and—most importantly—learns from experience. Loeb and Plank identify the essential features of a continuously improving system, which include clear and specific goals, timely and reliable data, strong capacity to support change, decision-making flexibility, and aligned incentives. They...
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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...
The Influence of State Policy and Community
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Recent findings show that students attending charter schools in the United States achieve at comparable or lower levels to those enrolled in regular public schools, perhaps due to uneven quality and disparities in the levels of resources acquired by charter schools. But little is known as to what state and local factors contribute to disparate levels of resources in the charter school sector. This article examines how local context, the charter school’s organizational form, and state policies may influence material and human resources obtained by charter schools and their capacity to innovate...
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...
Acquisition, Deployment, and Barriers
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The principal's leadership is viewed as pivotal under a variety of reform models. Policies that aim to raise efficiency by moving discretion down to principals, limiting labor contracts, or awarding fresh resources to schools and/or districts rest on principals' capacity to deploy fungible dollars and human resources. However, little is known about the range of monetary and human resources that principals acquire and influence, how they allocate these resources, and what barriers they confront in acquiring and deploying resources inside their schools. This study attempts to provide a better...

California Preschool Directors Speak on Policy Options
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PACE’s statewide survey of 439 directors of community preschools, those funded outside of school districts, inquired about basic facts and their perceptions of long-term issues. Preschool access and quality remain unfairly distributed among California’s diverse communities. Persisting questions examined include how to grow more plentiful and higher quality preschools, and how to ensure a robust balance between organizations run by schools or community organizations. Despite rising interest among policy makers, we know little about how preschool directors themselves understand and evaluate...
What Are Their Effects, and What Are Their Implications for School Finance?
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This work was conducted for the California school finance and governance project, Getting Down to Facts: A Research Project to Inform Solutions to California’s Education Problems. California and states across the nation are attempting to meet the challenge of staffing classrooms with high quality teachers. Each state has designed and implemented a web of policies targeted at teachers—from regulations on teacher education programs and certification to salary structures and recruitment and retention incentives. Despite the plethora of teacher policies, little is known about the variation in the...
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.
District Efforts to Raise Achievement across Diverse Communities in California
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In California, policymakers and educators had already turned their attention to addressing inequities in student achievement with the passage of the Public School Accountability Act (PSAA) in 1999. PSAA provided a framework for learning with curriculum standards, and set expectations for improvement through the Academic Performance Index (API). For the first time, schools were responsible for meeting achievement targets not just school-wide, but for racial/ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups of students. As a result, many educators became increasingly aware of gaps in their students’ achievement...
California's High Priority School Grants Program
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Thomas Timur is an Associate Professor of Education at U.C. Davis. He has spent much of his career focusing on education policy and governance, and school finance. He is the author of a new study which examines how schools spent High Priority Schools Grant (HPSG) Program funds.

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...
Spinning Out the Implications of the Improved School Finance
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Surely revenues are central to the quality of schooling—nearly everybody thinks so. Generations of reformers have come along, each needing more money. Advo­cates for equity have rediscovered inequalities in spending nearly every decade, from Ellwood Cubberly's complaints about reliance on local revenues a century ago; to Jonathan's Kozol's attack on "savage inequalities;" to the latest lawsuits such as Williams v. California, with its extensive documentation of disgusting bathrooms, crumbling buildings, dated textbooks, and inadequate teachers. Most school leaders and district administrators...
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...
PACE Research and Policy Options
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Universal Preschool? Wider Access, Stronger Quality PACE researchers are studying the effects of early care and education in California and nationwide, working with the Language Minority Research Institute. We also are illuminating policy alternatives and evidence that advocates might consider. Universal preschool? Ideals, evidence, and policy options (2005) by Fuller, Livas and Bridges. PACE working paper 05-02. Preschool for California’s children: Promising benefits, unequal access (2004) by Bridges, Fuller, Rumberger and Tran. PACE policy brief 04-9 (technical report also available)...
Ideals, Evidence, and Policy Options
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The evidence is quite clear—after a half-century of research—that many children benefit from quality preschooling in terms of cognitive growth. Over 60% of California’s four-year-olds now attend a preschool center at least part-time. Yet enrollment rates lag behind for children from poor and working-class households—especially those from Asian, Latino, and non-English speaking families. Earlier research also reveals uneven quality among preschools, with middle-class families often confronting low-quality programs and high tuition costs. Recent calls for a universal preschool system are...
How Do We Assure an Adequate Education for All?
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Today, California's schools rank 44th in the nation in education spending. Per pupil spending for education in California amounted to $6,659 in fiscal year 2001–02 when adjusted for regional cost differences across the states. This figure represented 86.1 percent of the national average of $7,734 per pupil. Worse, only six-tenths of one percent of school children went to school in districts that spent more than the national average. Looking at these figures another way, California only spent 3.5 percent of total taxable resources on education, ranking 39th out of the 51 states and the District...