California’s College Readiness Standards and Lessons from District Leaders
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During the past decade, education leaders and policymakers have made significant investments to better align California’s K-12 and postsecondary education systems and to address persistent disparities in educational attainment by race and socioeconomic status. This report distills important lessons emerging from these efforts, integrating the analysis of statewide quantitative data used by policymakers, education leaders, and higher education systems to evaluate students’ postsecondary readiness and interviews of district leaders about their specific efforts to improve students’ college...
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In this report we explore the patterns in mathematics course-taking among California public high school seniors. We describe what courses students are enrolled in and how course participation varies by key student characteristics, such as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and performance level on the state’s 11th grade assessments. We also explore course-taking patterns for students eligible for California’s public four-year colleges—California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC), and for applicants and admitted students at the CSU and UC.
A Research Summary and Implications for Practice
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Given the importance of a college degree for both individual and societal economic prosperity, policymakers and educators are focused on strengthening the path to college beyond college entry. In this report, we synthesize the existing literature on four factors key to educational attainment—aspirations and beliefs, academic preparation, knowledge and information, and fortitude and resilience—and the implications of each.
Perspectives from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Poll
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California voters ranked college affordability as the second most important education policy issue in the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier poll, a concern reflected in Governor Gavin Newsom’s first budget proposal and in a number of bills currently progressing through the state legislature. Though desire for making college affordable is high among the average voter, California’s geographic and socio-economic diversity demand that lawmakers consider local contexts when designing and implementing new reforms. We discuss variation in concern over college costs at the county level and by racial/ethnic and...

Opportunities for Research, Policy, and Practice
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Due to fragmented and misaligned segments of public education, many students lack access to educational opportunities that will ensure their success in college and career. This problem is one that may only be solved through better alignment and coordination between high school and college, between systems of higher education, and between education and economic development sectors. Intersegmental collaborations are emerging as a key lever for change, and the sustainability of these intersegmental efforts both depend on and offer opportunities to bridge research, policy, and practice in ways...
How Do Different High School Assessments Measure Up?
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The Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), implemented in California in 2014–15 as part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, is designed to evaluate students’ levels of college and career readiness. Student scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment are currently used for both accountability and school improvement purposes. Aligned with Common Core State Standards for college readiness, student performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessment may also predict students’ success in college in a manner similar to other commonly used assessments for predicting college...
Views from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Poll
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With a new governor, state superintendent and legislators in Sacramento and a diminished federal role in education, there is an opportunity for California’s leaders to take stock of recent educational reforms and make necessary improvements. There are also a host of new and looming issues in K-12 and higher education. As California’s leaders confront these and other issues, where do California voters, including parents, stand on education and education policy? The newest edition of the USC Rossier/PACE Poll shares voter perspectives on a wide range of education issues.
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For as much as we know about the economic benefits of a college degree, California policymakers and educators have little information about the college destinations of high school graduates. To fill this information gap, we assembled a unique data set of three recent cohorts of public high school students matched with college enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse. This report, a product of a partnership with the California Department of Education, details where California public high school students attend college and how college attendance and destinations vary by county...
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Public education in California is a study in contrasts. By many measures, schools are improving and students are doing better. But look deeper and there are significant differences in educational opportunities and, therefore, outcomes based on race, ethnicity, family income, and language. These reports describe the gaps that still exist among schools and among districts in the state. One study provides the first comprehensive comparison of patterns in educational outcomes between California and the rest of the country. These five reports examine both the challenges and the promising efforts to...

Promising Practices From the Field
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Collaboration between K–12 public school districts and higher education, as well as between education institutions, workforce groups, and community organizations, has the potential to improve college and labor market outcomes for individual students and for local communities. However, improvement efforts demand the use of longitudinal data to define the problem, set goals, and monitor progress. California has been behind in building such a longitudinal data system—linked across pre–K through postsecondary sectors—to track individuals’ education and labor market outcomes. In the absence of a...

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Across California, K–12 public school districts, institutions of higher education, economic development groups, and community organizations are collaborating to improve the educational and labor market outcomes of students. These collaborative efforts demand considerable commitment to a shared purpose as well as attention to the critical practices of data sharing, analysis, and interpretation. This Intersegmental Data Partnerships Resource Guide, and the accompanying Intersegmental Partnerships and Data Sharing practice brief, are products of a year-long qualitative research project exploring...
Implementing the Local Control Funding Formula
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This report, the next in a series by the Local Control Funding Formula Research Collaborative (LCFFRC) , presents survey responses from a statewide representative sample of California superintendents. The survey complements the LCFFRC’s four years of in-depth case study work examining the implementation of the LCFF and provides a broad picture of superintendents’ views of and experiences with the law. As with previous LCFF research, this survey is designed to help policymakers and others better understand ways in which the LCFF is affecting resource allocation and governance in California’s K...
How Do Different High School Assessments Measure Up?
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Note: See March 2019 report for updates data and analysis from this March 2018 version. In 2014, the state of California implemented the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) in order to align state assessment and accountability policies with the newly adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS). At the heart of the new performance and accountability system is the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is designed to evaluate a student’s full range of college- and career-readiness as defined by the CCSS. Three years after the implementation of...
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California’s education system is highly fragmented. K-12 schools, community colleges, and the two university systems (CSU and UC) operate under entirely separate governance structures, and rely on distinct sources of funding. As a result these different "segments" of the education system generally operate independently of one another, developing policies and practices to serve their own students with little or no effort to consult with other segments. In fact, however, addressing many of the educational issues that face our state successfully will require action by more than one segment...
Report 3 of a 3-Part Series
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There is growing concern that the remedial math courses taken by most community college students unnecessarily divert some students from earning a degree. Anecdotes of students who thought they had completed their math requirements in high school only to have remedial courses delay their progress through college are common. In addition, research has shown that African American and Latino students are disproportionately affected, frequently facing three or four remedial math classes. Redesigning the placement policies that assign students to these sequences could be as important as redesigning...
Report 2 of a 3-Part Series
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The conventional algebra-intensive math curriculum commonly dictates students’ options for entering and completing college, including their ability to transfer from two-year to four-year institutions. The assumption that higher-level algebra is necessary for college success has led some equity advocates to promote algebra for all students. Nearly half of states require two years of algebra for high school graduation, and the Common Core State Standards being implemented in the majority of states have a similar emphasis. While the intent has been to raise achievement, the hidden underbelly of...
Report 1 of a 3-Part Series
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Since the mid-20th century, the standard U.S. high school and college math curriculum has been based on two years of algebra and a year of geometry, preparing students to take classes in pre-calculus followed by calculus. That pathway became solidified after the 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik motivated reforms in U.S. science and engineering education to boost the nation’s technological prowess. Students’ math pursuits have been differentiated primarily by how far or how rapidly they proceed along a clearly defined trajectory that has changed little since then. But evolutions in...
Using Existing Tools to Increase College-Readiness Now
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The adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced assessments in mathematics are intended to provide all students in California with the knowledge and skills required to transition from high school to college-level coursework. This implementation will take time. Concurrent with these efforts, policymakers and educators can begin to increase college-readiness now, especially for community college-bound students, by using two existing tools – the California High School Exit Exam in mathematics and the Academic Performance Index to identify 10th-graders who...
How High Schools Can Be Held Accountable for Developing Students' Career Readiness
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College and career readiness is the stated goal of the common core standards that have now been adopted by almost all the states. The Obama administration’s proposed budget for 2013 included a new name for Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act: “college and career ready schools.” There is widespread agreement on the goal of preparing every high school graduate both for postsecondary education and for a lifetime of fulfilling work. The days of distinguishing “college-bound” from “non-college-bound” students are over; instead, high schools aim to give all students a range of...
Can It Support California’s College and Career-ready Goal?
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For decades, when California’s state leaders have wanted to see local school districts respond to shifts in policy and expectations they relied on the state-controlled school finance system to leverage local change. Through the use of categorical programs and earmarked funding, they created incentives for districts that complied and penalties for those that did not. The result: a school finance system that has been roundly criticized as irrational, inequitable, excessively complicated, overly centralized, and inefficient at allocating resources. In 2012, Governor Jerry Brown proposed to...
Its Effectiveness and the Obstacles to Successful Program Implementation
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The Early Assessment Program (EAP) has emerged as a national model for states seeking to design policies that increase the number of students who leave high school ready for college and careers. In addition, the two national consortia designing new assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards have recognized the EAP as a model for the design of new high school assessments, which California will implement in 2014-15. The report was written by Hilary McLean of Capitol Impact, LLC.

Chaffey College’s Long Journey to Success
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Chaffey College, a three campus college with approximately 20,000 students located California’s Inland Empire, has become the destination of many community college practitioners from around the country. The reason why? Over the past ten years, the college has become nationally-known as an institution with a “risk tolerant change-oriented culture” and a signature set of student support programs that produce impressive performance outcomes for Chaffey students.
Their Heterogeneity and Readiness
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When one observes many developmental classrooms, the most striking aspect is the heterogeneity of students. Some are “brush-up” students, who simply need to remember skills they have already learned. Some have been misplaced by placement exams, and similarly need very little additional instruction. Many — almost surely the majority — have failed to learn certain academic skills in many years of K-12 education, for reasons that are hotly debated. Others have learning disabilities or mental health issues, and colleges have no way of either diagnosing or treating such conditions. The result is...
Their Possibilities and Limits
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Community colleges provide a substantial array of student support services, designed to help students master basic subjects and to learn “how to be college students.” However, the use of these services by instructors and students varies substantially. Some instructors rarely or never mention the availability of such services; others make the use of some services mandatory. But the largely voluntary nature of student services means that many students do not use these services, for reasons ranging from competing demands for their time to avoidance of stigma or stereotype threat. The result is...
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Like most other universities in the country, the University of California (UC) requires that students submit scores from either the SAT or ACT exams as part of their application package. These tests have their origins in the efforts of a handful of elite colleges and universities to expand the socioeconomic diversity and enhance the academic promise of their admissions pools; to reduce the number of tests students must take to apply to college and the burden this places on both prospective students and postsecondary institutions; and to provide a means of comparing students who attend...