A Summary Brief
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California and the rest of the country are enduring a pandemic-induced economic recession, and school and district leaders are bracing for the fallout. Funding for California schools had improved rapidly between 2013 and 2019, with districts spending roughly $13,100 per pupil in 2018–19 as compared with $9,680 only 6 years earlier. However, that level of funding still fell short of what would have been adequate given California’s goals as a state, the student population it serves, and its cost of living. According to Levin et al.’s 2018 Getting Down to Facts II study, California would need to...

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A new PACE brief summarizes key points from the report Enabling Conditions and Capacities for Continuous Improvement: A Framework for Measuring and Supporting Progress Towards the Goals of the Statewide System of Support and contextualizes the findings within the current challenge of supporting teaching and learning during a pandemic. The concept of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) provides a framework for the ways in which schools are operating amid the COVID-19 crisis. In an unprecedented VUCA context, rapid cycles of improvement are essential for identifying approaches...
Research to Guide Distance and Blended Instruction
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Though the delivery of instruction in the 2020–21 school year will be altered to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a long-standing research base on high-quality instruction can inform decisions about students’ learning and engagement. The following ten recommendations distill the key findings from the PACE report Supporting Learning in the COVID-19 Context, which offers a framework for educators and district leaders to use in their preparation to provide quality instruction through distance and blended models. Recommendations to educators: 1 Prioritize interaction and collaboration in...

Views from the 2020 PACE/USC Rossier Poll
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In the run-up to 2020 elections, where do California voters stand on key education policy issues? This report examines findings and trends from the 2020 PACE/USC Rossier poll. Key findings include rising pessimism about California education and elected officials, continued concern about gun violence in schools and college affordability, and negative opinions about higher education. However, there is substantial support for increased spending, especially on teacher salaries.

Counties, Differentiated Assistance, and the New School Dashboard
Publication authors
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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...
Publication authors
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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...
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.
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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.
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...

Practices and Supports Employed in CORE Districts and Schools
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Social-emotional learning refers to the beliefs, attitudes, personality traits, and behaviors that students need to succeed in school and life. Our study looks closely at ten “outlier schools” in California’s CORE districts whose students report strong social-emotional learning outcomes compared to other, similar middle schools. The brief and infographic—based on a longer technical report—describe the surprising breadth and variety of social-emotional learning practices found in these outlier schools, as well as commonalities in their approaches and implementation challenges that some are...
Early lessons from the CORE districts
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In California, recent policy shifts have created a high degree of local control with the expectation that school districts will think differently about school and district improvement. However, many districts lack the individual expertise and organizational capacity to support these changes at scale. In large part, this is due to a lack of a shared understanding of the routines, structures, and supports needed for school systems to develop and implement change ideas that dramatically improve student outcomes. In this policy report, we take a first step towards clarifying what continuous...