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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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
Options for California
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A PACE Policy Brief by W. Norton Grubb and David Stern. Career-technical education (CTE) is back in the policy spotlight, as Governor Schwarzenegger and key legislators seek strategies to strengthen California’s much-criticized high schools. Some forms of CTE that integrate academic with occupational content could usefully be expanded to provide high school students with multiple pathways to college and careers. This strategy, which we call “CTE/multiple pathways,” is more feasible and desirable for California high schools than other approaches to CTE — including the traditional vocational...
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...
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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...
Promising Benefits, Unequal Access
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Parents and policymakers are turning to preschools to better advance the school readiness and broader development of young children. This brief reports on which California children are more likely to gain access to preschool centers—broadly termed center-based programs—and whether attendance yields gains in early learning and social skills. The brief also details sizeable gaps in the development of different groups of children as they enter kindergarten. These findings stem from a comprehensive new study of 2,314 children, representative of all California children entering kindergarten.
Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities for Improvement
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Accountability for student performance is on the minds of everyone in U.S. education—from policymakers to district administrators to principals. While the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) has claimed center stage in the national accountability debate, California’s own results-based accountability system was set in place several years prior to NCLB. In 1999, California legislators passed the Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA), establishing specific performance targets for schools, a system of rewards and sanctions for meeting those targets, and assistance for low-performing...
Implementation of Training and Retention Initiatives in the Bay Area
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Nationwide, public attention has increasingly focused on the need for a variety of early care and education arrangements to meet the changing needs of families. The demand for early care and education has grown for families from all socioeconomic sectors, intensifying as participants in welfare-to-work programs enter the workforce, and as work requirements for these programs become more stringent. In addition, research affirming the importance of children’s initial years for their later social and cognitive development has heightened public awareness of and concern for the quality of care...
Evaluation Findings and Implications
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Bay Area Childcare Retention Incentive Programs Evaluation: Year One Progress Report, 2001–02
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Nationally, more than half of children under the age of five are in nonparental care while their parents work. Research indicates that children benefit from being with well-trained, consistent early care and education (ECE) staff. Sensitive and responsive caregiving—characteristic of staff with a high level of training in child development—is associated with children’s positive cognitive, social, and emotional development. Staff retention is crucial, as frequent turnover impedes the formation of these positive, nurturing relationships and their benefits to children. However, there is evidence...
Year One Progress Report, 2001–2002
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Sensitive and stimulating interactions between children and early care and education (ECE) staff are the basis of high quality care. Furthermore, research suggests that both stability and training within the ECE workforce lead to higher quality interactions between children and their caregivers. Policy initiatives intended to increase the quality of care in centers and family childcare (FCC) homes are based on these assumptions about the importance of a stable and well-trained ECE workforce. In 1999, Alameda and San Francisco counties implemented childcare retention incentive (CRI) programs...
Evaluation Year One Progress: Report 2001–02
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According to accumulating evidence, children benefit when they are served by stable and highly trained center-based staff and caregivers. But we have much to learn about how community colleges and local training organizations can recruit a more diverse early care and education (ECE) staff, provide training in a cost-effective manner, and facilitate job placement. Responding to the unequal distribution of childcare supply across the state and a need for well-trained caregivers, First 5 California approved an initiative to train ECE staff using different project models. The initiative aims to...
Lessons for Early Education
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California previously embarked on a sizable experiment aimed at reducing the steady turnover of preschool teachers and allied childcare staff. The state’s taxpayers are now investing over $21 million annually in these county-run programs, offering salary supplements and incentives for professional development. These local experiments are blossoming largely in isolation from larger efforts in the public schools that also attempt to attract and retain a quality workforce. In just the past decade, nearly half of all states in the U.S. have mounted efforts to retain and boost the quality of...
California Families See Little Growth in Child Care Centers
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In 1950, just one in six mothers, with a young child under age five, worked in the paid labor force. By 2000, this share had climbed to two in every three mothers. This revolution in the economic and social roles of women has spurred rising demand for childcare. And it’s become clear that youngsters’ participation in quality center-based programs can contribute to early learning and social development. Political leaders at state and federal levels have responded in recent years, dramatically boosting expenditures on various kinds of early education—from preschools and centers to vouchers that...
Lessons from San Francisco and Alameda Counties
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California’s public investment in early care and education programs has quadrupled since 1996, rising to almost $3.2 billion annually in the 2000 fiscal year. This sharp climb in political will to expand and improve the quality of childcare has several explanations. First, the steadily climbing employment rate for mothers with preschool-age children—rising from 15 percent in 1950 to over two-thirds in 1997 nationally—has sparked enormous demand for a variety of childcare providers and organizations. Second, federal and state governments, recognizing the potential influence of quality childcare...