CORE-PACE Research Partnership

In October 2015, Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) and the CORE Districts launched the CORE-PACE Research Partnership. This research partnership is focused on producing research that informs continuous improvement in the CORE Districts and policy and practice in California and beyond. The CORE districts (Fresno, Garden Grove, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento City, San Francisco, and Santa Ana Unified School Districts) together serve nearly a million students and utilize a unique multiple measures data system to work together to improve student outcomes. Our research aims to deepen their learning, while sharing lessons more broadly to accelerate improvement across the state. To learn more about this work or to get involved, contact the project director, Heather Hough.

Research findings:

  • Enacting Social-Emotional Learning: Practices and Supports Employed in CORE Districts and Schools
    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 facing. Our findings offer ideas and lessons learned that may benefit other schools and districts seeking to implement social-emotional learning at scale.


  • Building Systems Knowledge for Continuous Improvement: Early lessons from the CORE districts
    This policy report shares four lessons from the CORE districts’ early efforts to build systems knowledge about their shared middle school math achievement gap for their African American and Hispanic/Latino students. By participating in an extended systems analysis process, the CORE districts learned that: (1) Effective systems analysis starts with creating an improvement team that is set up for success; (2) The systems analysis process enables district leaders to revise, refine, and expand their initial theories about the reasons behind their problem of practice; (3) Accessing and interpreting different types of data are critical to building a complete understanding of a problem of practice; and (4) Teams getting started in continuous improvement benefit from expert facilitation and learn-by-doing activities.


  • Development and implementation of student social-emotional surveys in the CORE Districts
    Using CORE’s student surveys on social-emotional learning from 2015-16, this paper presents validity and reliability evidence of the survey instruments.


  • Exploring Improvement Science in Education: Promoting College Access in Fresno Unified School District
    This continuous improvement brief highlights how Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) developed and utilized its data dashboard and the principles of Improvement Science to increase college access for their students.


  • Using Surveys of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and School Climate (CC) for Accountability and Continuous Improvement
    This report and accompanying policy brief show that there is good reason to pursue the measurement of SEL and CC as a way to better understand student and school performance. CORE’s 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 academic and non-academic indicators. This report also shows how the SEL and CC measures can be used to identify areas of improvement within schools, such as identifying subgroup gaps or conflicts in CC reports from different respondent groups.


  • Local Control in Action: Learning from the CORE Districts' Focus on Measurement, Capacity Building, and Shared Accountability
    This study examines how the CORE districts understood, implemented, and responded to their accountability system implemented under the NCLB waiver as a case study for how districts can effectively utilize multiple measures of school quality, develop shared accountability, and build capacity for schools and districts to improve.


  • Identity crisis: Multiple measures and the identification of schools under ESSA
    Using the innovative measurement system developed by the CORE Districts in California, this study explores how schools can be identified for support and improvement using a multiple measures framework under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.


  • Expanding the definition of student success
    This case study by CORE partner Transforming Education provides an in-depth discussion of how social-emotional competencies—a key component of the CORE Districts’ holistic data system—were prioritized and assessed.


  • Making Students Visible: Comparing Different Student Subgroup Sizes for Accountability
    This policy brief explores the implications of utilizing various subgroup sizes using data from the CORE Districts, showing that the 20+ subgroup size presents clear advantages in terms of the number of students represented, particularly in making historically underserved student populations visible.


  • Using Chronic Absence in a Multi-Metric Accountability System
    This policy memo shows that 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 alternatively through an approach that simply looks at performance in a given school year.


  • Should non-cognitive skills be included in school accountability systems? Preliminary evidence from California’s CORE districts
    This policy brief provides early evidence on the validity and reliability of CORE’s measures of students’ Social-Emotional Learning.


  • The CORE districts and deeper learning
    In this brief, the Gardner Center uses the work of the CORE Districts as a case study to explore deeper learning and its importance to educational equity and the goal of college and career and civic readiness for all public school youth.


  • None of us are as good as all of us: Early lessons from the CORE districts
    This AIR report documented the early collaborative work of the CORE districts, showing how and why the districts came together and sharing lessons about how district partnership can accelerate the learning and progress for educators pursuing cross-district collaboration.



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