A Rural District’s Response to COVID-19
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COVID-19 has disrupted California’s education system in fundamental ways. Districts across the state are quickly creating strategies to serve all students, and many are designing their response around the needs of their most vulnerable students. This brief highlights the response of Mother Lode Union School District (MLUSD) to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which district staff and teachers were able to collaborate—despite the unprecedented crisis—to meet student needs.
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The use of the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to improve early childhood education program quality is based in part on assumptions that the quality of programs can be measured and that quality ratings are associated with meaningful differences in learning outcomes for children. This report reviews all of the state QRIS validation studies that examined associations between individual rating elements and child outcomes as well as other research that exists on four elements of the California QRIS, referred to as Quality Counts California: teacher qualifications, program environment...
Evidence From the First Large-Scale Panel Student Survey
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A growing number of school systems use self-report surveys to track students’ social-emotional development as a tool to inform policy and practice. In this article, the first large-scale panel survey of social-emotional learning (SEL) simulates how four 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 among students participating in the survey for two consecutive years. With the exception of growth mindset, self-reports of these constructs do not...
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Students suffer learning losses over the summer holiday in the best of circumstances; the COVID-19 school closures are likely to intensify that effect. While it is impossible to know at this point to what degree learning loss will be impacted by this extraordinary circumstance, research demonstrates that academic “slide” is typically observed most in math and, to a somewhat lesser extent, reading. Given the current limitations on in-person learning, schools can consider online summer programs as well as ramped-up assessment; targeted and differentiated instruction; and one-to-one tutoring...

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Governor Newsom has discussed staggered or multi-track calendars as an option for going back to school in fall 2020. A review of research on multi-track calendars shows that over time there are slight negative effects on learning, but this research was done during a period where the alternative was a traditional calendar. In the current situation, which would otherwise have students staying home entirely, a staggered calendar would have clear learning benefits and would help both parents and teachers get back to work. There is, however, no evidence that multi-track calendars reduce crowding...
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COVID-19 presents an array of challenges for school districts. In this brief, we share some promising practices learned from California’s Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD), particularly in the areas of family engagement and instructional access for English learners. Annually, Pivot Learning and its subsidiary Consortium on Reaching Excellence in Education (CORE) work with nearly 100 school districts in California and nationally. PVUSD, a long-time partner of Pivot Learning and CORE, is a member of the national League of Innovative Schools and a model of inclusive, data-driven...

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California’s CORE districts—a consortium of eight school districts serving a racially and socioeconomically diverse population of over one million students—since 2014 have led the way in deploying measures of social and emotional learning (SEL) and school climate and culture. Influenced by surging interest and research support over the past decade, these districts have collected data in hopes of continuously improving how their K–12 schools address the social and emotional dimensions of student development. In recent years, many advocates have called for schools to pay greater attention to...
Evidence from the 2020 PACE/USC Rossier Annual Poll
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We use data from the 2020 PACE/USC Rossier annual voter poll to report on California voters’ attitudes towards educational equity policy initiatives, specifically: (a) increasing the number of public school teachers of color in California and (b) requiring all high school students in California to complete an ethnic studies course. A majority of voters supported these initiatives. Respondents showed higher levels of support for increasing the number of teachers of color when informed about the positive academic impact this would likely have for students of color. Support varied depending on...

A Promise to What, for Whom, and Where?
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This brief describes the types of college promises that exist in the state of California. In doing so, we summarize existing research on this topic. Furthermore, we provide a framework to study the California Promise Program in community colleges in California. We use publicly available data to highlight key aspects of our proposed framework: What are we promising, to whom, and where? We end our brief by providing key recommendations to ensure that the promise extends to the most vulnerable groups of students to help in closing equity gaps in college degree and completion in California.
A Summary of the PACE Policy Research Panel
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More than 725,000 of California’s K-12 students qualified for special education services in 2018-19, but they entered a system that is often ill-equipped to serve them. This brief summarizes the findings from the PACE Policy Research Panel on Special Education: Organizing Schools to Serve Students with Disabilities in California. We find opportunities for improvement in early screening, identification, and intervention; transitions into and out of special education services; educator preparation and ongoing support; and availability of mental and physical health services. Comprehensive...
Characteristics, Outcomes, and Transitions
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In this brief, we leverage data from eight school districts, known as the CORE districts, to describe students with disabilities (SWDs) by their characteristics, outcomes, and transitions into and out of special education. We found that the most common disability type was a specific learning disability. Relative to their representation among students districtwide, males, African Americans, English language learners, and foster youth were more highly represented among SWDs. In terms of outcomes, chronic absence was more prevalent among children with multiple disabilities. Entry rates into...
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Only about 10 percent of eligible infants and toddlers with developmental delays nationwide receive early intervention services, which are widely agreed to reduce delays and lessen the adverse effects of risk factors and disabilities on learning and development. California serves fewer children than the national average. Challenges arise from spotty screening; tenuous linkages to referral and evaluation; and the intricacies of crossing multiple agencies—sometimes without knowledge of English—for families. In Massachusetts, a unified early childhood data system and robust interagency linkages...
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California continues to fall below national averages in identifying and serving infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with developmental disabilities. The transition between infant/toddler services, administered by the Department of Developmental Services, and preschool services for 3- to 5-year-olds, administered by the Department of Education, is fraught with several factors that hinder progress. The process lacks, among other things, a systematic screening and child tracking system; a data monitoring system for tracking progress of children; interagency and policy coordination; and...
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While California Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CA CCSSM) call for rigorous mathematics for all students, students with disabilities have not been provided equal access to instruction that meets these standards. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research-based framework to develop strategic, expert learners within classroom settings that maximize engagement of a wide variety of students, including students with disabilities. This brief describes how UDL can provide the foundation of mathematics instruction that provides access to rigorous, standards-based mathematics for...
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Preparing all students, including students with disabilities, for life after high school is a critical responsibility for California’s education system. Engaging students and their families in discussions regarding careers, employment, and the pre-requisites for postsecondary education, training, and employment must start early and continue throughout their educational experiences. While there are programs in California that benefit students as they explore career opportunities, students with disabilities are seldom included in these programs. Three essential actions drive the development and...
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One of the key purposes of public education is to prepare young people to reach their full potential as independent adults and engaged citizens. This transition to adulthood may be especially challenging for youth with disabilities. Students enrolled in special education often need additional supports and coordinated planning to prepare for employment, postsecondary education, and community living. Previous research has documented effective practices—such as family involvement, inclusion in general education, work-based learning, and interagency collaboration—that can help support the...
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California is in the midst of a severe special education teacher shortage that threatens the state’s ability to improve outcomes for students with disabilities, who often have the greatest needs but receive the least expert teachers. To help policymakers address the shortage, the Learning Policy Institute conducted an analysis of the special education teacher workforce to provide an update on the shortage and its causes. We also reviewed the factors that may be contributing to special education teacher attrition, based on prior research and the perspectives of current special education...
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Students with learning disabilities are spending more time in general education classrooms than at any point in history, yet there remain concerns whether general education teachers are receiving adequate preparation to support these students. Considering the rapid adoption of new accountability measures of teacher preparation programs (TPPs), including teaching performance assessments (e.g. edTPA), there is little understanding of what components of teacher preparation relate to teachers’ perceptions of readiness to educate students with learning disabilities in inclusive classrooms. Drawing...
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This brief provides recommendations for the professional development (PD) of teachers, administrators, and school personnel in order to improve student outcomes. The significant achievement gap for diverse learners—including students with disabilities, a vast majority of whom are also culturally and/or linguistically diverse—can be reduced through high quality and ongoing PD. Unfortunately, there are numerous barriers to effective PD. To address these barriers, this brief outlines recommendations for best practices in PD for teachers and other school staff. Strategies for integrating evidence...
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Under California’s System of Support, differentiated assistance (DA) provides supports to eligible districts to boost student group performance levels. This brief describes the districts that were eligible for DA in 2019 based on the performance levels of their students with disabilities (SWD). It also analyzes how SWD performance on State Priority Areas (SPAs) and indicators factored into districts’ eligibility for DA. Findings show that, among the 333 districts identified for DA, eligibility was driven, in part, by SWD performance for over half of those districts. These 187 districts were...
Lessons from Other States
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California faces challenges in its efforts to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities (SWDs), especially regarding SWDs’ participation in general education originally mandated by PL 94-142. Research evidence consistently indicates that inclusion of SWDs in general education classrooms, to the extent possible, has positive benefits to both SWDs and general education students. This report describes strategies used in three states that appear to help increase the inclusion rates for SWDs. While by no means a comprehensive look at policies from all states, the examples of...
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This brief examines California’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), which is a framework designed to identify and assist students performing below grade level. MTSS involves at least three tiers of support; Tier 2 includes personalized assistance. Unfortunately, Tier 2 services are not adequately resourced so it is not surprising that California students rank only 38th in the nation in reading and math. To move higher, it is important that the state provide categorical funding for Tier 2 services. California teachers already have a full-time job. To successfully implement MTSS, they need...
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This brief identifies the steps necessary to realize an integrated system of care, reviews two current approaches, and makes recommendations—including specifying policy reforms that would promote interagency collaboration, integration, service delivery, and improved outcomes for California’s children, both with and without disabilities. As a full commitment from the state administration is necessary to realize the proposed solutions at scale, this brief recommends the formation of a statewide interagency leadership council that has legitimacy, decision-making authority, and accountability...
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.

A Progress Report One Year After Getting Down to Facts II
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The 2018 Getting Down to Facts II research project drew attention to California’s continued need to focus on the achievement gap, strengthen the capacity of educators in support of continuous improvement, and attend to both the adequacy and stability of funding for schools. Based on the nature of the issues and the progress made in 2019, some clear next steps deserve attention as 2020 unfolds.