Counties, Differentiated Assistance, and the New School Dashboard
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This report examines the early implementation of California’s statewide System of Support. The System of Support has received general acclaim from County Offices of Education (COE) and district officials for its emphasis on assistance over compliance, and COEs have taken varying approaches to providing that assistance depending on the local context of the districts eligible for support and the COE’s internal capacity. Interview and survey data suggest significant challenges to realizing a robust support system, including inadequate funding, uneven COE capacity, and problems with the Dashboard...

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...
The Implications of Marin’s Rising Pension Costs and Tax Revolt for Increasing Education Funding
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Marin County school districts have been facing unprecedented pushback when trying to pass parcel taxes. This case study uses district financial and demographic data as well as interviews and focus groups with advocates and district and county leaders to investigate this change. It finds that (1) the current statewide financial situation is not sustainable for districts, (2) districts report feeling a tension between teacher compensation in high-cost Marin and spending in other areas, (3) there is high overall awareness of this issue but limited public awareness of the nuances of district...
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Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) faces a looming deficit and must make significant budget adjustments to avoid state intervention. This case study explores how SCUSD got to this point, how its finances compare with other districts in Sacramento County, and what the implications are for students, particularly those with the greatest needs. It finds that while SCUSD experiences many of the same fiscal pressures as other California districts, it is also unique. As compared with neighboring districts, SCUSD spends far more on health care and a smaller share of its budget on salaries...
The Case of Garden Grove Unified School District
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A crucial but challenging requirement of successful continuous improvement involves transforming the system’s culture. This case study explores how Garden Grove Unified School District built a culture that puts kids first; nurtures commitment, drive, and loyalty among teachers and other district personnel; and views both student and adult learning as important. This case examines four structures and processes used by Garden Grove leadership to establish and maintain a culture of improvement that has resulted in rising student achievement. The lessons learned could be implemented in many...
The Case of Long Beach Unified School District
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Successful continuous improvement requires educators to have a shared clarity of purpose, integrated systems of support, and a clear vision for instruction across the system with the central goal of improving classroom instruction. This case study examines how Long Beach Unified School District, one of the CORE districts involved in the CORE-PACE research project on continuous improvement, fosters these efforts. It is a portrait of a learning system that emphasizes improvement towards high-quality, rigorous instruction for all students through professional learning and capacity-building. Their...
The Case of Ayer Elementary
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Ayer Elementary School in Fresno is an exemplar of leadership practice necessary for successfully building and maintaining a culture of continuous improvement. This case study examines the leadership practices that teachers say allowed them to undertake the challenging work of using data for evidence-based changes that are steadily improving student outcomes in this ethnically diverse, high-poverty school. The report offers insights into how leaders can foster a culture of risk-taking, teacher agency, and collective efficacy. It also raises questions about how to support more principals in...
Lessons from the CORE Districts
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Continuous improvement has become a leading method of changing the way schools and districts foster better student learning and success. As part of the CORE-PACE Research Partnership, PACE spent a year studying the CORE Districts’ approach to implementing continuous improvement with a focus on two key questions: 1) What do we know about how to support educators in learning continuous improvement? 2) What conditions support continuous improvement in districts and schools? The findings are presented in a report that provides an overview of lessons learned in building a successful continuous...
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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.
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The CORE districts have been measuring SEL via self-report student surveys since 2015. Any district, state, or school looking to use these surveys can now build from what we have learned in the CORE districts. In this paper we provide benchmarking data, including means and standard deviations by construct, grade level and subgroup, and examples of how to use these data in practice. The data come from nearly half a million students across the 8 CORE districts, in grades 4 through 12, who took the survey in the 2015-16 school year. While not a true national sample, the CORE benchmarking sample...
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Researchers in the Getting Down to Facts II project showed that while the financial picture has improved in recent years for California’s school districts, several important challenges remain. This policy brief explores one of these challenges in greater detail: the costs of health and welfare benefits for district employees. In reality, employee health benefit costs pose two distinct challenges for districts. First, the cost of providing benefits to each employee has increased substantially over time. Because districts require employees to pay only a relatively small portion of these annual...

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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California’s shift towards continuous improvement in education makes understanding how districts and schools can learn to improve a more pressing question than ever. The CORE Improvement Community (CIC), a network of California school districts engaged in learning about improvement together, is an important testing ground to learn about what this work entails.
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In fall 2018, the Local Control Funding Formula Research Collaborative (LCFFRC) conducted surveys of stratified random samples of California superintendents and principals. Superintendent results were published in June 2018 in Superintendents Speak: Implementing the Local Control Funding Formula. This report, Principals’ Perceptions: Implementing the Local Control Funding Formula, is the companion account of principal survey results.

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This report examines high school graduation rates in California. It reviews the various approaches to calculating high school graduation rates, focusing on the challenges and limitations of the most widely used rate, the Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR).
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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...
Challenges and Possibilities
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In recent years, California has invested in improving early childhood education programs. Research shows the importance of high-quality early childhood education, but the disconnect from K–12 education threatens its long-term benefits. If the early grades do not build on the gains made in preschool, they likely will be lost. This brief, based on a longer technical report , describes the challenges facing pre-K–3 alignment and offers promising practices and policy recommendations.
How Rural District Networks Can Drive Continuous Improvement
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Rural school districts face unique challenges in procuring funds, recruiting staff, and obtaining high-quality technical assistance. This environment creates problems in identifying high-quality instructional materials and implementing best practices. A collaborative learning network can address these challenges by providing access to professional development, collaborative time with peer districts, and economies of scale. This report discusses rural networks, specifically Pivot Learning’s Rural Professional Learning Network, can cost-effectively provide expertise and build a professional...
Learning from the CORE Data Collaborative
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Experts agree that effective data use is critical for continuous improvement. However, there is a lack of understanding statewide about how data use for continuous improvement, with its adaptive and iterative nature, differs from data use for other purposes. In this paper, the authors discuss what data are most useful to inform continuous improvement at all levels of the system and provide a case study of how the CORE data collaborative uses a multiple-measures approach to support decision-making. {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video...

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Under emerging policy structures in California, the responsibility for school improvement is increasingly placed upon local school districts, with County Offices of Education (COEs) playing a critical support role. In this system, districts are responsible for school improvement, with counties in charge of ensuring quality across districts and providing feedback and support where necessary. Underlying this major policy shift is the idea that local leaders are in the best position to drive real educational improvement and ensure quality across multiple schools and contexts. While a continuous...

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...
A Pragmatic Approach to Validity and Reliability
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As educational practitioners and policymakers expand the range of student outcomes they assess, student perception surveys—particularly those targeting social-emotional learning—have grown in popularity. Despite excitement around the potential for measuring a wider array of important student outcomes, concerns about the validity of the inferences that might be drawn from student self-reports persist. One of the most ambitious attempts to incorporate student perception surveys into a larger assessment framework has occurred through CORE—a consortium of school districts in California. Pulling...
Evidence from the CORE Districts
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Mounting evidence demonstrates that social-emotional skills are important for students’ academic and life success, yet there is limited evidence on how these skills develop over time and how this development varies across student subgroups. This study uses the first large-scale panel survey of social-emotional learning (SEL) to describe how four SEL constructs—growth mindset, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness—develop from Grade 4 to Grade 12, and how these trends vary by gender, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity. The results are based on self-report student surveys...