Findings From the First Large-Scale Panel Survey of Students
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Measures of school-level growth in student outcomes are common tools for assessing the impacts of schools. The vast majority of these measures use standardized tests as the outcome of interest, even though emerging evidence demonstrates the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL). This article presents results from using the first large-scale panel surveys of students on SEL to produce school-level, value-added measures by grade for growth mind-set, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness. The article finds substantive differences across schools in SEL growth, with...
Insights from Outlier Schools
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There is a growing consensus in education that schools can and should attend to students’ social-emotional development. Emerging research and popular texts indicate that students’ mindsets, beliefs, dispositions, emotions, and behaviors can advance outcomes, such as college readiness, career success, mental health, and relationships. Despite this growing awareness, many districts and schools are still struggling to implement strategies that develop students’ social-emotional skills. The purpose of this paper is to fill this gap by examining the social-emotional learning (SEL) practices in ten...
Describing Chronically Absent Students, the Schools They Attend, and Implications for Accountability
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Student absenteeism has recently entered the national spotlight with its emphasis in the Every Student Succeeds Act, and here in California with its inclusion in the School Dashboard. Yet many questions remain about who chronically absent students are and how they are concentrated within schools. In chapter 1 (of the edited book, Absent from School), the author uses data from the CORE districts—which serve nearly one million students in over 1,000 schools in California–to better understand differences across students and schools, comparing these measures to a broader set of school performance...

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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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States and school districts across the U.S. are seeking to expand their definition of student success to include social-emotional learning. The CORE Districts, a collaborative of California districts that has developed a system of school accountability and continuous improvement that includes measures of social-emotional skills based on student self-reports, exemplify this trend. In this case study, we provide an overview of CORE's School Quality Improvement System, which was implemented in the 2015–16 school year across six districts serving roughly one million students.
Changing Mindsets and Empowering Stakeholders to Meaningfully Manage Accountability and Improvement
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School accountability and improvement policy are on the precipice of a paradigm shift. While the multiple-measure dashboard accountability approach holds great promise for promoting more meaningful learning opportunities for all students, our research indicates that this can come with substantial challenges in practice. We reflect upon the lessons learned from our recent research on CORE Districts’ use of multiple-measure data dashboards. The research indicated that a shift to greater flexibility and locally determined capacity building efforts brings its own set of challenges. Building on...
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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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Rising opposition to the Common Core Standards (CCS) has undermined implementation throughout the country, yet there has been no scholarly analysis of the predictors of CCS opposition in the populace. This analysis uses data from a statewide poll of California voters to explore the demographic and policy predictors of CCS opposition. It finds opposition strongly associated with views about President Obama; with several education policy issues (especially testing); and with two mis-/negative conceptions about the standards. It advocates using poll data in future work to understand public...
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Expansion of the use of student test score data to measure teacher performance has fueled recent policy interest in using those data to measure the effects of school administrators as well. However, little research has considered the capacity of student performance data to uncover principal effects. Filling this gap, this article identifies multiple conceptual approaches for capturing the contributions of principals to student test score growth; develops empirical models to reflect these approaches; examines the properties of these models; and compares the results of the models empirically...
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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...

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This article focuses on California's efforts to improve the alignment between K–12 and postsecondary schooling through the Early Assessment Program (EAP). Implemented in 2004, EAP was designed to give high school students information about their academic preparedness for postsecondary education and to encourage teachers to teach for college readiness. The article describes the EAP and its evolution and presence at California's community colleges. It then matches EAP and other test score data for California high school juniors to administrative data from California community colleges 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 Magnitude of Student Sorting Within Schools
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Large urban school districts serve increasingly diverse student bodies. Although many studies have described racial segregation among schools, and the causes and consequences of such segregation, far fewer have examined the extent to which students are sorted across classrooms within schools by race and ethnicity, or by family income or achievement. Attendance at the same school does not ensure that students from different backgrounds will share classrooms or have equivalent educational experiences. In this study, we examine patterns of sorting across classrooms within schools in three large...
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...
Teacher Characteristics and Class Assignments
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Although prior research has documented differences in the distribution of teacher characteristics across schools serving different student populations, few studies have examined the extent to which teacher sorting occurs within schools. This study uses data from one large urban school district and compares the class assignments of teachers who teach in the same grade and in the same school in a given year. The article finds that less experienced, minority, and female teachers are assigned classes with lower achieving students than their more experienced, white, and male colleagues. Teachers...
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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...
Examining the Effect of the Early Assessment Program at California State University
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This paper investigates how participation in the Early Assessment Program (EAP), which provides California high school juniors with information about their academic readiness for college-level work at California State University campuses, affects their college-going behavior and need for remediation in college.
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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...
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The quality of teaching in a school results from a range of factors, including available resources, curriculum, and instructional leadership, but it is also driven by the individuals who teach in each classroom. The staffing of teachers in schools, in turn, is a product of both recruitment and retention practices. This article describes how the choices of teachers and the actions of schools and districts influence who enters the profession and who stays. It then identifies common policy approaches for advancing recruitment and retention goals and summarizes the current research, discussing the...
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What is a good teacher? Do good teachers make a difference in improving student achievement? While these are simple questions, the answers are more complex. Policymakers and educators are searching for strategies to improve student outcomes. In the U.S., the 2001 the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires that all classroom teachers be highly qualified. The assumption is that highly qualified teachers will produce higher measured student achievement. NCLB has set certain criteria for determining the credentials that such teachers must have, but it does little to define the characteristics...
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Over the past two decades, the economics of education has grown rapidly as a field. Previously, scholars and policymakers tended to view education and economics as separate realms, with economics applied to the study of private goods and education as a public good. Economics has been characterized as cold and impersonal due to its focus on firms, rational self-interested individuals, and cost–benefit decision making. On the surface, all of these appear to be unrelated to the social and moral values associated with educating children. As school systems in developed countries have come under...