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...
Rural District Implementation of Common Core State Standards
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In August 2010, the California State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Three years later, the president of the State Board, Dr. Michael Kirst, noted that CCSS “changes almost everything,” including what teachers teach, how they teach, and what students are expected to learn (Kirst, 2013). Echoing his sentiments, Dr. Milbrey McLaughlin argued that “the practices and activities that faithful implementation of the CCSS would require are a long stretch for most California educators, and run contrary in many respects to deep-rooted features of teaching and learning...
Promoting College Access in Fresno Unified School District
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California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) requires districts to report multiple measures of student performance that reflect success in the goal of preparing students for college, career, and citizenship. As they engage in the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) process, they are expected to use state and local indicator data from California’s School Dashboard to monitor student progress. When Dashboard indicators identify student subgroups as low performing or low growth, districts are encouraged to engage in a process of continuous improvement to develop strategies and then...
The Local Control Funding Formula in Year 3
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This report seeks to help policymakers and others better understand ways in which LCFF implementation is changing fundamental aspects of resource allocation and governance in California’s K-12 education system. The LCFF provides all districts with base funding plus supplemental and concentration grants for low-income students, English learners, and foster youth. The law eliminated most categorical programs, giving local school systems resource allocation authority and requiring Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) developed with input from parents, community members, students, and...
How a Research Center Based at USC Rossier, Stanford and UC Davis Is Helping California Forge Its Own Path in Advancing Its Education System
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In May 2016, on the Monday following USC Rossier’s two commencement ceremonies, more than 50 policymakers, philanthropists, and researchers gathered bright and early across the street from the USC campus for a two-day conference. The goal? Hashing out a research agenda that would inform teacher policy in California and beyond. USC Rossier Professors Julie Marsh and Katharine Strunk hosted the convening under the sponsorship of Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). Founded in 1983, PACE is based at three academic institutions—the USC Rossier School of Education, Stanford University’s...
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California’s alternative education options for youth vulnerable to dropping out of school have been established at different historical points and for different student age and target populations. For purposes of this brief, we define an “alternative school” as belonging to one of six legislatively authorized types of public (non-charter) schools that meet the definitions of the Alternative School Accountability Model (ASAM). These schools are operated by different local agencies – school districts, county school boards, or juvenile justice agencies and the courts –and governed by overlapping...

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This report and accompanying policy brief show that there is good reason to pursue the measurement of social-emotional learning (SEL) and school culture/climate (CC) as a way to better understand student and school performance. Using data from California's CORE districts, we show that SEL and CC measures demonstrate reliability and validity, distinguish between schools, are related to other academic and non-academic measures, and also illuminate dimensions of student achievement that go beyond traditional indicators. We also show how the SEL and CC measures can be used to identify areas of...

Developing a Research Agenda to Further Policy Change
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In nearly every state across the country there has been recent legislative or judicial activity aimed at amending policies that shape the quality of the teacher labor force (e.g., Marianno, 2015). At the heart of this recent legislative and judicial action is the desire to attract and retain a high-quality teacher for every classroom. That good teachers are critical to student success is not up for debate; over the last decade, research has shown that a high-quality teacher is the most important school-based input into students’ achievement and long-term outcomes. Having a bad teacher rather...
Early Implementation Findings from the CORE Waiver Districts
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California and the nation are at the crossroads of a major shift in school accountability policy. At the state level, California’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) encourages the use of multiple measures of school performance used locally to support continuous improvement and strategic resource allocation. Similarly, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reinforces this local control, requiring more comprehensive assessment of school performance and a less prescriptive, local approach to school support. These changes represent a major cultural shift for California schools...
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Funding, resources, and effective teachers have been inequitably distributed across American schools for decades — contributing to vast opportunity and achievement gaps between high-need students and their more privileged peers.
Learning from the CORE Districts' Focus on Measurement, Capacity Building, and Shared Accountability
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California and the nation are at the crossroads of a major shift in school accountability policy. At the state level, California’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) encourages the use of multiple measures of school performance used locally to support continuous improvement and strategic resource allocation. Similarly, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reinforces this local control, requiring more comprehensive assessment of school performance and a less prescriptive, local approach to school support. These changes represent a major cultural shift for California schools...

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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) devolves to states many decisions about how to design the accountability system and the measures to use in these systems in order to meet new goals of college and career readiness. Because few states presently have adequate measures for the new goals, the states will need to develop the measures along with accountability structures. ESSA includes a provision that would allow district waivers to their state’s programs. States can use such waivers to make use of particularly high-capacity districts’ ability to innovate and test new approaches. The CORE...
Multiple measures and the identification of schools under ESSA
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The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) makes sweeping changes to the way school performance is measured. Using the innovative measurement system developed by the CORE Districts in California, the authors explore how schools can be identified for support and improvement using a multiple measures framework. They show that 1) Different academic indicators measure very different aspects of school performance, suggesting that states should be allowed and encouraged to make full use of multiple measures to identify schools in the way they see fit instead of reporting a summative rating; 2) The ESSA...
Obstacles and Opportunities
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Over the past several years, there has been much attention and advocacy around “PreK-3 Alignment,” both in California and nationwide. The push for alignment comes in the face of a growing body of research documenting the benefits of attending high quality preschool, along with concerns about the fading of the benefits of preschool by third grade that has been found in many studies. Supporters of preK-3 alignment note that child development is a continuous process, and that skills developed in one grade must be built upon and reinforced in later grades.
Comparing Different Student Subgroup Sizes for Accountability
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With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, California state policymakers are tasked with determining the subgroup threshold for school-level reporting. To inform this decision, this policy brief explores the implications of utilizing various subgroup sizes using data from the CORE Districts. The authors find that the 20+ subgroup size presents clear advantages in terms of the number of students represented, particularly in making historically underserved student populations visible.

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With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, California must integrate additional measures of student and school performance into the state-wide accountability system. To support the conversation as policymakers consider if/how to include chronic absenteeism data in the state’s accountability system, PACE has conducted an analysis of the CORE Districts’ student chronic absenteeism data. Chronic absence is feasible for inclusion in California’s accountability measurement system using the state’s approach for rating school achievement based on outcome and improvement, or...
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Rising opposition to the Common Core Standards (CCS) has undermined implementation throughout the country, yet there has been no scholarly analysis of the predictors of CCS opposition in the populace. This analysis uses data from a statewide poll of California voters to explore the demographic and policy predictors of CCS opposition. It finds opposition strongly associated with views about President Obama; with several education policy issues (especially testing); and with two mis-/negative conceptions about the standards. It advocates using poll data in future work to understand public...
Time to Reaffirm the Grand Vision
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California ended 40 years of reliance on categorical funding for schools when Governor Jerry Brown signed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) into law on July 1, 2013. LCFF intends to enhance services for high-needs students through new flexibility, targeted student funding, and local accountability. Two years into LCFF implementation, our research in 18 districts and more than half of the state’s County Offices of Education (COEs) uncovers both reasons for optimism and a few concerns. District officials around the state remain enthusiastic about local control. Many report that the LCFF...

Findings from School District-University Collaborative Partnerships
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In this policy brief Ilana Umansky and her co-authors review research findings from three university school district research partnerships and present recommendations for changes in policy and practice to expand opportunities for EL students. They draw three main conclusions. First, California must improve the ways in which students who need language supports are classified and reclassified, in order to improve alignment across districts in the state, and alignment between classification and services. Second, state and local officials must become more systematic in how data on ELs are...
Report 3 of a 3-Part Series
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There is growing concern that the remedial math courses taken by most community college students unnecessarily divert some students from earning a degree. Anecdotes of students who thought they had completed their math requirements in high school only to have remedial courses delay their progress through college are common. In addition, research has shown that African American and Latino students are disproportionately affected, frequently facing three or four remedial math classes. Redesigning the placement policies that assign students to these sequences could be as important as redesigning...
Report 2 of a 3-Part Series
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The conventional algebra-intensive math curriculum commonly dictates students’ options for entering and completing college, including their ability to transfer from two-year to four-year institutions. The assumption that higher-level algebra is necessary for college success has led some equity advocates to promote algebra for all students. Nearly half of states require two years of algebra for high school graduation, and the Common Core State Standards being implemented in the majority of states have a similar emphasis. While the intent has been to raise achievement, the hidden underbelly of...
Report 1 of a 3-Part Series
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Since the mid-20th century, the standard U.S. high school and college math curriculum has been based on two years of algebra and a year of geometry, preparing students to take classes in pre-calculus followed by calculus. That pathway became solidified after the 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik motivated reforms in U.S. science and engineering education to boost the nation’s technological prowess. Students’ math pursuits have been differentiated primarily by how far or how rapidly they proceed along a clearly defined trajectory that has changed little since then. But evolutions in...