Understanding, measuring & improving student outcomes
Measuring student and school performance is critical for understanding and improving outcomes and achieving higher levels of equity in our systems. However, it is equally important to bring evidence to bear in solving problems of practice when they are revealed by data. To this end, PACE research in this topic area is focused on developing evidence to support understanding, measuring and improving student outcomes.
Central to our vision in this area is the development of data systems that support educational improvement all all levels of the system. Our research has emphasized the importance of a comprehensive, longitudinal data system that can be used to support research, accountability, and continuous improvement.
We use existing data to show how students are performing on multiple indicators, and to reveal variation across regions, student demographic groups, and schools/districts. We research how indicators of school performance can be improved over time, or better used to support accountability and improvement. Finally, PACE research products document best-practices from the literature and from leaders across the state with the goal of improving student outcomes for all California students.
The California Longitudinal Pupil Assessment and Data System is maintained by the California Department of Education (CDE) and includes student data on school attendance, special program participation, course enrollments, and state test scores. Each school district in the state reports these data to the CDE, which compiles them in a CALPADS data system. CALPADS data is used to create the school- and district-level accountability reports provided in the California School Dashboard. The Dashboard fulfills the accountability requirements of LCFF and the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Meant to be a resource educators, parents, and the public at large, Each school and district Dashboard report presents performance on an array of indicators such as student results on state assessments, the progress of English learners, and graduation and suspension rates, and information about the performance of student subgroups. Schools and districts are rated in a way that takes into account both the current status and change on each indicator, however, California is one of just two states in the country that does not use a student-level growth model to measure school performance. While California has made considerable progress in compiling and reporting on K-12 education data, it is not well-integrated with other data systems in the state and is underutilized due to access issues. California currently lacks the kind of single statewide education data system found in some other states but is currently working to develop a longitudinal, cross-sector data system.
With the introduction of the California School Dashboard, California moved to a multiple measures approach to understanding student and school performance. Most outcomes in California are marked by large differences by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES), and language proficiency. On academic assessments in ELA and Mathematics, when California’s scores are disaggregated by SES, PACE research has shown that affluent districts score as well as similarly affluent districts in the rest of the country, while in non-affluent districts, students score nearly a full grade level behind their peers nationwide. Other studies show similar patterns when looking at high school graduation rates, preparedness for college and career, rates of chronic absenteeism, and school culture/climate reports. A large body of research shows that these achievement gaps are the result of societal inequality resulting in children from disadvantaged families having fewer educational opportunities starting at birth and persisting through K-12 education, with particular challenges facing students learning English and students in rural communities.
Data can be an incredibly powerful force for helping educators and system leaders diagnose and act on problems of performance. Analyzing data can help educators know which students need more support, and research and expertise from the field can provide guidance as to the kinds of support or intervention that would be effective. Recent PACE publications have provided evidence on how to improve school culture and supports for students’ social-emotional development. Researchers have documented best-practices from the literature and from leaders across the state on improving student readiness for college and career, and have documented paths from research and the field for reducing chronic absenteeism. PACE research also has documented how to better serve students learning English and advance an equity vision in the context of the Local Control Funding Formula.