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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...
Lessons Learned
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This policy brief, the author reviews the recent experience of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) with the development and approval of Proposition A. Proposition A (also known as the Quality Teacher and Education Act, or QTEA) included a parcel tax mainly dedicated to increasing teachers’ salaries, along with a variety of measures introducing flexibility to the current salary schedule and strengthening accountability for teacher performance. Based on interviews with key stakeholders in the district, the author describes how the district and union worked together in SFUSD both to...
The Quality Teacher and Education Act in San Francisco
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In June 2008 San Francisco voters approved Proposition A, a parcel tax initiative dedicated to improving teachers’ salaries in the San Francisco Unified School District. Proposition A also provided funding for a number of innovative teacher compensation programs, including extra pay for teachers in difficult-to-staff schools and difficult-to-fill subject areas. In this policy report, the author presents a comprehensive review of Proposition A, including the process of consultation, negotiation and compromise that led to its approval and an assessment of the programs that will be funded with...
A Primer
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A new PACE Working Paper has been released in conjunction with our Learning About New Forms of Teacher Compensation Conference on March 30 and 31, 2009. Written by Julie Koppich and Jessica Rigby, this policy primer is designed to provide baseline information about new forms of teacher pay that are emerging around the country, to support the local conversations and negotiations that will lead to the development of innovative compensation systems. It identifies reasons why teacher compensation is high on local, state, and federal policy agendas, describes some of the new pay programs that have...
Moving Beyond the Stereotype
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In a new PACE Policy Brief, Katharine Strunk from the University of California-Davis analyzes the Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) negotiated between school districts and local teachers’ unions in 464 California school districts. She shows that CBAs vary widely across districts, which suggests that school boards and unions are taking advantage of the flexibility inherent in contract negotiations to develop creative solutions to specific local problems. She also shows that CBAs in school districts educating high-need students are the least likely to include provisions that depart from...
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...
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...
Reforming California School Finance
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California’s school finance system is long overdue for reform. This policy brief proposes a new system that is more rational, more equitable, and politically feasible. At its core, the proposal aims to link district revenue to student needs and regional costs while ensuring that all districts are held harmless at current funding levels. A reformed finance system is not a complete solution to improving student achievement. Changes in governance, incentives, and accountability are also required. But a rational funding mechanism provides an essential backdrop for discussion of broader reform...
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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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In this PACE Policy Brief, Julia E. Koppich puts forward a set of policy recommendations aimed at improving the quality of teaching in California’s schools. She argues that California can help to bring about sustained improvement in teaching and learning by experimenting with new policies in several areas, including professional development, evaluation, compensation, and the structure of teachers’ careers. Her policy brief includes descriptions of innovative programs in each of these areas that are now being implemented in school districts across the U.S. As Koppich notes, many of the changes...
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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...
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...
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.
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In a PACE document prepared for the Convening on California Education Policy on October 19, 2007, Julia E. Koppich and Amy Gerstein present a set of policy recommendations that address issues related to human capital and personnel in California’s education system. They offer nine specific recommendations under three main headings: Differentiated Roles and Compensation, Evaluation and Accountability, and Making Successful Practices Visible.
How the First Semester Matters for Community College Students’ Aspirations and Persistence
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A new PACE Policy Brief by Anne Driscoll of the University of California at Davis explains why California must do more than expand access to community college if our state is to prepare the workforce needed to remain economically competitive in the 21st century. Beyond Access: How the First Semester Matters for Community College Students’ Aspirations and Persistence shows that fewer than half of the young high school graduates who entered California community colleges with the goal of transferring to four-year colleges in 1998 made it through their first semester with their goals intact. One...
Preschool and K–12 Finance Reform in New Jersey and Texas
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In a PACE Working Paper, Co-Director Bruce Fuller and Joseph Wright offer policy and implementation lessons from two states—New Jersey and Texas—that have moved to advance preschool and K–12 finance reform in tandem. These states have assembled the puzzle pieces in differing ways, but both states are determined to widen access for families who can least afford quality preschool. The policy experiences of these states over the past quarter century yield notable lessons for current policy debate on pre-school and education finance reform in California.
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...
Collective Bargaining and Student Achievement
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Despite a statutorily narrow scope of bargaining, the scope of topics of union-management discussions has widened over the last 20 years, resulting in the birth of reform, or professional, unionism. But over the last half decade, professional unionism has waned. School management often refuses to see unions as partners; politicians fail to view unions as legitimately speaking for education change; and unions themselves are reluctant to assume added responsibility. This article advocates a change in labor law, requiring union and management to negotiate student achievement goals as a way of...