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...

Insights from California's Local Control Funding Formula
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This policy brief uses the case of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to provide policy makers and educators guidance on how to involve the public in goal setting and resource distribution decisions. It provides clarity around who is and is not participating, why, and what broader lessons we can draw for implementing federal and state education policies mandating public engagement. The findings indicate tremendous room for improvement. LCFF’s target populations (e.g., low-income, English learners) are not more likely to be aware of or participate in decisions than nontargeted...
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This article examines how district administrators’ conceptions of equity relate to the implementation of finance reform. The authors use sensemaking theory and four views of equity—libertarian, liberal, democratic liberal, and transformative—to guide a case study of two districts, finding evidence of two conceptions of equity: (1) greater resources for students with greater needs, and (2) equal distribution of resources for all students. One district demonstrated an organization-wide belief in the first conception, whereas the other conveyed individual-level understandings of both conceptions...
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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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Subway riders in London are constantly warned to “mind the gap,” the dangerous empty space between the platform and the train. Unwary riders who fail to heed this advice may suffer a variety of unpleasant consequences, ranging from scuffed shoes to broken ankles. In this essay, I warn readers to mind a different and vastly wider gap: the one between researchers and policy makers. Researchers often bemoan the fact that policy makers fail to take research findings into sufficient account when making policy choices. For their part, policy makers complain that research fails to provide answers to...

A Multidistrict Analysis of Statewide Mandated Democratic Engagement
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This article seeks to deepen our understanding of the nature and quality of democratic participation in educational reform by examining the first-year implementation of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which mandates civic engagement in district decision-making. Drawing on democratic theory, empirical literature, and data from 10 districts, it finds that even when district leaders committed to involving stakeholders in decision-making, achieving this vision was often constrained by power imbalances, deeply engrained institutional habits, and limited capacity. The article also...
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...
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In the context of today's standards-based education reforms, where the goal is for students to achieve to high-performance standards, effective professional development is critical. In order for students to learn more, teachers must change what and how they teach. Though typical professional development has had little impact on teacher practice or student performance, effective professional de­velopment is considered by most a critical strategy for accomplish­ing today's ambitious student achievement goals. Research is beginning to link the key features of professional development programs...
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The economic and political importance of education has increased dramatically over the course of the past century. Education is the largest item of public expenditure in countries around the world, and formal schooling consumes an ever-larger quantity of young people’s time. The centrality of education in modern societies is mainly a consequence of state action. The state has built and expanded national education systems; encouraged and sometimes compelled young people to attend school; and fostered rewards systems that make adult success increasingly contingent on academic persistence and...
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...
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...
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...
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When President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law on January 8, 2002, neither the National Education Association (NEA) nor the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) was on record supporting or opposing the new legislation. Rather, both the NEA and AFT remained neutral on the bill. What has transpired since the enactment of the statute is the story of the two organizations’ different approaches to the law. This article begins with an explanation of the organizations’ different responses in their pursuit of reform and explains some of the initial statutory compromises the...
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...
California Policy, the 'Improved School Finance,' and the Williams Case
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This article applies the logic of the ‘‘improved’’ school finance, arguing the need to understand how resources are used at the school and classroom levels. While California policies and most court cases have been seriously inadequate from this perspective, the recent case of Williams v. California provides new opportunities for equity since it follows the logic of the ‘‘improved’’ school finance. This article was originally published in the Teachers College Record by Teachers College, Columbia University and SAGE Publications.
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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...
Early Learning Effects of Type, Quality, and Stability
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Young children in poor communities are spending more hours in nonparental care because of policy reforms and expansion of early childhood programs. Studies show positive effects of high-quality, center-based care on children's cognitive growth. Yet, little is known about the effects of center care typically available in poor communities or the effects of home-based care. Using a sample of children who were between 12 and 42 months when their mothers entered welfare-to-work programs, this paper finds positive cognitive effects for children in center care. Children also display stronger...
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Many policymakers are shedding essential tenets of modern statecraft. Few seek to sustain the monolithic one best system of schooling: herding students through large institutions, regulated by bureaucracy and guided by professionals under monopolistic conditions. Instead, distinctly unmodern forms of policy and institutional reformation are in ascendance: Even when common aims of schooling are advanced, big and impersonal schools are yielding to small and communal ones; networks of alternative schools that offer options to diverse families are preferred over tightly coupled systems; and the...
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This paper examines the relationship between policy formation in the United States and educational policy researchers. The experience of one independent 'think tank', namely PACE, located within universities, illustrates how research might inform policy and how it might not be victim to the problems, well rehearsed in the literature, of poor dissemination. Fruitful links between policy research and policy formation require close attention to the sources, channels, and format of dissemination, to the nature of the message, and to the characteristics of the policymakers. This article was...