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California has a keen interest in ensuring the effectiveness of the teachers in its classrooms. The quality of teaching affects student learning and has a lasting impact on students’ success in school and in the labor market. Improving the quality of teaching is a crucial linchpin in California’s efforts to address many of its pressing education challenges. This brief takes up the dual topics of teacher preparation and teacher evaluation. Understanding both how well-prepared teachers are when they enter the classroom and how evaluation of practice during teachers’ careers can enhance their...

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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...

Promising Practices From the Field
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Collaboration between K–12 public school districts and higher education, as well as between education institutions, workforce groups, and community organizations, has the potential to improve college and labor market outcomes for individual students and for local communities. However, improvement efforts demand the use of longitudinal data to define the problem, set goals, and monitor progress. California has been behind in building such a longitudinal data system—linked across pre–K through postsecondary sectors—to track individuals’ education and labor market outcomes. In the absence of a...

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Across California, K–12 public school districts, institutions of higher education, economic development groups, and community organizations are collaborating to improve the educational and labor market outcomes of students. These collaborative efforts demand considerable commitment to a shared purpose as well as attention to the critical practices of data sharing, analysis, and interpretation. This Intersegmental Data Partnerships Resource Guide, and the accompanying Intersegmental Partnerships and Data Sharing practice brief, are products of a year-long qualitative research project exploring...
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...
An IRT Modeling Approach
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With an increased appreciation of students’ social-emotional skills among researchers and policy makers, many states and school districts are moving toward a systematic process to measure Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). In this study, we examine the measurement properties of California's CORE Districts’ SEL survey administered to over 400,000 students in grades 3 to 12 during the 2015-16 school year. We conduct analyses through both classical test theory and item response theory frameworks, applying three different polytomous IRT models on both the full student sample and on separate samples...
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 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...
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...
How Do Different High School Assessments Measure Up?
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Note: See March 2019 report for updates data and analysis from this March 2018 version. In 2014, the state of California implemented the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) in order to align state assessment and accountability policies with the newly adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS). At the heart of the new performance and accountability system is the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is designed to evaluate a student’s full range of college- and career-readiness as defined by the CCSS. Three years after the implementation of...
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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.
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California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was signed into law in 2013, and represents the most significant change in California education finance and governance in 40 years. It moves additional funds to districts with students in poverty, English language learners, and foster youth. The LCFF sends supplemental funds to districts based on unduplicated counts of these target student groups and concentration funds to districts with high proportions (over 55%) of these same students. In addition, the LCFF eliminates nearly all categorical funding and pushes decision-making about how best...
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High quality instruction delivered by effective teachers is the key to student success. Hiring, developing and retaining good teachers are therefore the most important tasks of our public schools. The tasks of teacher recruitment and retention have traditionally been delegated to the human resource department within school districts, but leaving these critical responsibilities to a single office is no longer sufficient. The ability to find, support, and keep good teachers is a community challenge, which demands innovative solutions collaboratively developed by diverse stakeholders. In this...
A Smart Investment for California School Districts
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Summer learning loss contributes significantly to the achievement gap between low income students and their more affluent peers. That makes high quality summer learning programs a smart investment for school districts concerned about success for all students. Such investments have become easier thanks to the flexibility built into the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The most promising programs are not traditional summer school. Instead, they look and feel like summer camp while incorporating learning goals aligned with district priorities. Summer learning programs: Offer an innovative...
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...
Lessons from Colombia
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Despite California’s great wealth, child poverty places a drag on the state’s educational performance. Disadvantaged children—including English learners, foster children, and the poor—do not receive the educational attention and services that they require to be successful. Although California’s Local Control Funding Formula recognizes this challenge, schools and districts have struggled to identify effective solutions to educate disadvantaged children. In this brief, Tom Luschei describes an approach that has been successful in educating and empowering one of South America’s most marginalized...
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Calls for “continuous improvement” in California’s K-12 education system are central to current discussions about school improvement in the state. Yet, definitions of continuous improvement vary, and knowledge of what continuous improvement looks like in practice is limited. To advance the conversation, this brief helps to define continuous improvement both in theory and in practice. As part of this work, we discuss the extent to which California policymakers and practitioners are engaged in continuous improvement efforts, how they define continuous improvement, and the barriers and gaps in...
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...
A Powerful Strategy for Equity
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The disparity in educational outcomes between student populations is one of the most serious challenges facing our public education system. Gaps in test scores, graduation rates, and college readiness pose a fundamental problem that school officials must solve. Education leaders cannot address these inequities by looking at the school day alone. They also need to consider the significant amount of time and the varied experiences young people have outside of school. Free and affordable learning experiences after school and in the summer are essential strategies for equalizing student outcomes...
Over the Hill and Out of Sight
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The typical image of California is one of coastal cities and urban centers. But this picture leaves out much of the state and many of its residents. For large numbers of policymakers, foundations, and education leaders, these parts of our large and diverse state are “invisible.” Over the past two decades, however, these communities have emerged as some of the fastest growing and neediest parts of our state. Indeed, an increasingly significant percentage of California students live and attend school outside of large urban or suburban regions. While the student enrollment in urban school...

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The implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula presents local education leaders with the power and flexibility to use resources in new and different ways. Taking full advantage of this opportunity requires leaders to adopt budgeting practices that highlight the tradeoffs among system goals and facilitate the reallocation of scarce resources to support their top priorities. In this brief Mark Murphy reviews the experiences of three California school districts with budget tools that increase their ability to meet their students’ needs. Murphy discusses key lessons from these districts...

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...
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California’s education system is highly fragmented. K-12 schools, community colleges, and the two university systems (CSU and UC) operate under entirely separate governance structures, and rely on distinct sources of funding. As a result these different "segments" of the education system generally operate independently of one another, developing policies and practices to serve their own students with little or no effort to consult with other segments. In fact, however, addressing many of the educational issues that face our state successfully will require action by more than one segment...