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Summary

We use data from oral reading fluency (ORF) assessments to examine COVID-19’s effects on children’s ORF in over 100 U.S. school districts. Students’ development of ORF largely stopped in spring 2020 following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fall 2020, students’ gains in reading were stronger and similar to prepandemic rates. However, fall gains were insufficient to recoup spring losses; overall, students’ ORF in second and third grade is approximately 30 percent behind expectations.

Lessons for COVID-19
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Summary

In March 2020, most schools in the U.S. transitioned to distance learning. During the transition a significant number of students did not fully engage in learning opportunities. This brief uses administrative panel data from the CORE Districts in California to approximate the impact of the pandemic by analyzing how absenteeism has affected student outcomes in the recent past. We show wide variation in absenteeism impacts on academic and social-emotional outcomes by grade and subgroup, as well as the cumulative effect of different degrees of absence.

Published
Summary

Prior work has shown that levels of self-reported student social-emotional learning (SEL) predict student achievement levels—as well as student achievement gains—but little has been done to understand if within-student changes in student reports of SEL are predictive of changes in theoretically related academic and behavioral outcomes.

The Impact of Unmotivated Questionnaire Respondents on Data Quality
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Summary
Education researchers use surveys widely. Yet, critics question respondents’ ability to provide high-quality responses. As schools increasingly use student surveys to drive policymaking, respondents’ (lack of) motivation to provide quality responses may threaten the wisdom of using surveys for data-based decision-making. To better understand student satisficing (sub-optimal responding on surveys) and its impact on data quality, we examined the pervasiveness and impact of this practice on a large-scale social-emotional learning survey administered to 409,721 students in grades 2-12.
Evidence from California’s CORE School Districts
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While the importance of social-emotional learning for student success is well established, educators and researchers have less knowledge and agreement about which social-emotional skills are most important for students and how these skills distribute across student subgroups.
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We illustrate the application of mixture IRT models to evaluate the possibility of respondent confusion due to the negative wording of certain items on a social-emotional learning (SEL) assessment. Using actual student self-report ratings on four social-emotional learning scales collected from students in grades 3-12 from CORE districts in the state of California, we also evaluate the consequences of the potential confusion in biasing student- and school-level scores as well as correlational relationships between SEL and student-level variables.
Consistent Gender Differences in Students’ Self-Efficacy
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Summary
Academic self-efficacy is a student’s belief in their ability to perform within a school environment. Prior research shows that students experience a drop in academic self-efficacy during middle school that is particularly steep for female students and results in lower self-efficacy for girls than boys throughout middle and high school. In this brief, we probe whether this pattern is consistent across student groups defined by demographics, achievement level, and school of attendance.
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Summary
This brief applies value-added models to student surveys in the CORE Districts to explore whether social-emotional learning (SEL) surveys can be used to measure effective classroom-level supports for SEL. The authors find that classrooms differ in their effect on students’ growth in self-reported SEL—even after accounting for school-level effects. Results suggest that classroom-level effects within schools may be larger than school-level effects.
Evidence from the CORE Districts and the PACE/USC Rossier Poll
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Summary

The number of students opting out of standardized tests has grown in recent years. This phenomenon poses a potential threat to our ability to accurately measure student achievement in schools and districts. This brief documents the extent to which opting out is observed in the CORE districts and models how higher opt-out levels could affect various accountability measures.

Evidence from California’s CORE Districts
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Summary
Existing research on self-management skills shows that measures of self- management predict student success. However, these conclusions are based on small samples or narrowly defined self-management measures. Using a rich longitudinal dataset of 221,840 fourth through seventh grade students, this paper describes self-management gaps across student groups, and confirms, at a large scale, the predictive power of self-management for achievement gains, even with unusually rich controls for students’ background, previous achievement, and measures of other social-emotional skills.
Published
Summary
Although there is a robust body of literature studying targets for academic indicators within school quality systems few studies explore target setting for non-academic indicators. Focusing on elementary schools within the CORE districts, we investigate how moving performance targets for non-academic indicators affects school quality ratings.
Evidence from California
Authors
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Summary
Charter schools enroll a growing share of public school students, leading to concerns about the financial implications of charter schools for traditional public schools. Using detailed expenditure data for school districts in California, this paper exploits variation in charter school enrollment across time and between districts to evaluate how district spending and overall financial health change as nearby charter sectors expand.
Published
Summary

School value-added models are increasingly used to measure schools’ contributions to student success. At the same time, policymakers and researchers agree that schools should support students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) as well as academic development. Yet, the evidence regarding whether schools can influence SEL and whether statistical growth models can appropriately measure this influence is limited. Recent work shows meaningful differences across schools in changes in SEL scores by grade, but whether these differences represent the effects of schools is still unclear.

Evidence from the CORE Districts
Published
Summary
Mounting evidence demonstrates that social-emotional skills are important for students’ academic and life success, yet we have limited evidence on how these skills develop over time and how this development varies across student subgroups. In this study, we use 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.
Findings from the First Large-Scale Panel Survey of Students
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Summary
Measures of school-level growth in student outcomes are common tools used to assess the impacts of schools. The vast majority of these measures are based on standardized tests, even though emerging evidence demonstrates the importance of social-emotional skills (SEL). This paper uses the first large-scale panel surveys of students on SEL to produce and evaluate school-level value-added measures by grade for growth mindset, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness. We find substantive differences across schools in SEL growth, of magnitudes similar to those for academic achievement.
Chaffey College’s Long Journey to Success
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Summary
Chaffey College, a three campus college with approximately 20,000 students located California’s Inland Empire, has become the destination of many community college practitioners from around the country. The reason why? Over the past ten years, the college has become nationally-known as an institution with a “risk tolerant change-oriented culture” and a signature set of student support programs that produce impressive performance outcomes for Chaffey students.
Their Heterogeneity and Readiness
Authors
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Summary
In the sixth of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al. continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges. When one observes many developmental classrooms, the most striking aspect is the heterogeneity of students. Some are “brush-up” students, who simply need to remember skills they have already learned. Some have been misplaced by placement exams, and similarly need very little additional instruction.
Their Possibilities and Limits
Authors
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Summary
In the fourth of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges. Community colleges provide a substantial array of student support services, designed to help students master basic subjects and to learn “how to be college students.” However, the use of these services by instructors and students varies substantially. Some instructors rarely or never mention the availability of such services; others make the use of some services mandatory.
Investing in Education Facilities and Stronger Communities
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Summary
Working paper series – California Builds Better Schools by PACE and the Center for Cities and Schools, at the University of California, Berkeley. 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?
Preschool and K-12 Finance Reform in New Jersey and Texas
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Summary
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.
Crafting Standards to Track Quality
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This paper, stemming from a PACE seminar, examines the idea of crafting opportunity to learn (OTL) standards—how the state might collect and analyze indicators of school quality that are predictive of student achievement. The idea is not new. Such standards were put forward by Congress over a decade ago. However, questions remain regarding which quality indicators can be feasibly monitored and which are empirically related to achievement gains. Developing, implementing, and monitoring such a system would be challenging.
California Preschool Directors Speak on Policy Options
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Summary
PACE’s statewide survey of 439 directors of community preschools, those funded outside of school districts, inquired about basic facts and their perceptions of long-term issues. Preschool access and quality remain unfairly distributed among California’s diverse communities. Persisting questions examined include how to grow more plentiful and higher quality preschools, and how to ensure a robust balance between organizations run by schools or community organizations.
District Efforts to Raise Achievement across Diverse Communities in California
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Summary
In California, policymakers and educators had already turned their attention to addressing inequities in student achievement with the passage of the Public School Accountability Act (PSAA) in 1999. PSAA provided a framework for learning with curriculum standards, and set expectations for improvement through the Academic Performance Index (API). For the first time, schools were responsible for meeting achievement targets not just school-wide, but for racial/ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups of students.
The Reliability of How States Track Achievement
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Summary
Debate is well under way regarding the effi cacy of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, including whether this bundle of federal rules and resources is prompting gains in student achievement. Spirited conversation will intensify as the Congress discusses how to adjust and reauthorize this ambitious set of school reforms. Both state and federal gauges of student achievement will inform this debate.