Lessons from Two Learning Networks
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Continuous improvement has a prominent place in California’s approach to educational accountability. But while there are proof points that show the potential of continuous improvement, currently there is not evidence that continuous improvement efforts are consistently leading to sustainable improvement in student outcomes and system functioning. This report analyzes the experiences of two organizations serving as the hubs of improvement networks, both of which led networks seeking to increase the proportion of students on track for postsecondary success during the 2020–21 school year. We...
The Impact of Unmotivated Questionnaire Responding on Data Quality
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Education researchers use surveys widely. Yet critics question respondents’ ability to provide high-quality responses. As schools increasingly use student surveys to drive local policymaking, respondents’ (lack of) motivation to provide quality responses may threaten the wisdom of using questionnaires for data-based decision making. To better understand student satisficing—the practice of suboptimal responding on surveys—and its impact on data quality, this article examines its pervasiveness and impact on a large-scale social-emotional learning survey administered to 409,721 elementary and...
Evidence From Interim Assessments in California
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At the first anniversary of school closures due to COVID-19, nearly half of the K–12 students in the U.S. were attending schools that were either fully remote or offering hybrid instruction, with more than 70 percent of California students attending schools remotely. For this reason, continued efforts to unpack the effects of COVID-19 on student outcomes are especially important for California students, who may be experiencing larger-than-average effects of continued school closures relative to the nation overall. In this report, we used data from multiple interim assessments to examine how...
Evidence from the CORE Districts
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Since spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has been abruptly interrupting regular instruction in almost all schools in the U.S. One year later, policymakers, district administrators, and educators are still balancing the benefits and risks of returning K–12 students to fully in-person school. Many are concerned about the pandemic’s disruption to students’ academic progress. In California, educators have been focused equally on students’ mental and emotional health, social relationships, and learning environment, given that many students have been learning remotely since the onset of the pandemic...
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This brief is one in a series aimed at providing K-12 education decision makers and advocates with an evidence base to ground discussions about how to best serve students during and following the novel coronavirus pandemic. Learn more about the EdResearch for Recovery Project and view the set of COVID-19 response-and-recovery topic areas and practitioner-generated questions here. The central question of this brief is: How can schools and districts monitor students’ social and emotional well-being across the year?
Lessons for Improving Network Collaboration
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Collaborative networks that use continuous improvement principles and tools can accelerate and spread learning across sites and contexts. Districts face unprecedented challenges in meeting students’ and families’ needs in rapidly changing conditions. Collaborative networks can be powerful drivers of system improvement. Collaborating well is key to maximizing a network’s effectiveness. This brief lays out three important lessons about how network members can work together: (a) Participants must understand the benefits of collaboration to overcome the “costs” inherent in working together; (b)...

Removing Barriers to Data Accessibility
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Parental engagement has been shown to be a key lever for improving outcomes for all students. It can positively influence grades, test scores, and graduation rates for all students. Increased engagement is also shown to improve the outcomes of underserved student populations, positively impacting low-income, Black, and Latinx students in both primary and secondary settings. Additionally, parental engagement has been found to be a critical support in blended and distance learning environments—a need that has intensified with the shift to distance learning in response to COVID-19. Current state...

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This article illustrates the application of mixture IRT models to evaluate respondent confusion due to the negative wording of certain items on a social-emotional learning (SEL) assessment. Using actual student self-report ratings on four social-emotional learning scales collected from students in Grades 3–12 from CORE Districts in the state of California, it also evaluates the consequences of the potential confusion in biasing student- and school-level scores, as well as the estimated correlational relationships between SEL constructs and student-level variables. Models of both full and...
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Prior work has shown that levels of self-reported student social-emotional learning (SEL) predict student achievement levels—as well as student achievement gains—but little has been done to understand if within-student changes in student reports of SEL are predictive of changes in theoretically related academic and behavioral outcomes. We use data from the California CORE Districts to examine whether changes in individual students’ reports of their social-emotional skills from one school year to the next predict changes in state math and English language arts (ELA) test scores and attendance...
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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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...
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...
The Impact of Unmotivated Questionnaire Respondents on Data Quality
Publication authors
Published
Summary
Education researchers use surveys widely. Yet, critics question respondents’ ability to provide high-quality responses. As schools increasingly use student surveys to drive policymaking, respondents’ (lack of) motivation to provide quality responses may threaten the wisdom of using surveys for data-based decision-making. To better understand student satisficing (sub-optimal responding on surveys) and its impact on data quality, we examined the pervasiveness and impact of this practice on a large-scale social-emotional learning survey administered to 409,721 students in grades 2-12. Findings...
Evidence from California’s CORE School Districts
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While the importance of social-emotional learning for student success is well established, educators and researchers have less knowledge and agreement about which social-emotional skills are most important for students and how these skills distribute across student subgroups. Using a rich longitudinal dataset of 221,840 fourth through seventh grade students in California districts, this paper describes growth mindset gaps across student groups, and confirms, at a large scale, the predictive power of growth mindset for achievement gains, even with unusually rich controls for students’...
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Summary
We illustrate the application of mixture IRT models to evaluate the possibility of respondent confusion due to the negative wording of certain items on a social-emotional learning (SEL) assessment. Using actual student self-report ratings on four social-emotional learning scales collected from students in grades 3-12 from CORE districts in the state of California, we also evaluate the consequences of the potential confusion in biasing student- and school-level scores as well as correlational relationships between SEL and student-level variables. Models of both full and partial confusion are...
Consistent Gender Differences in Students’ Self-Efficacy
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Academic self-efficacy is a student’s belief in their ability to perform within a school environment. Prior research shows that students experience a drop in academic self-efficacy during middle school that is particularly steep for female students and results in lower self-efficacy for girls than boys throughout middle and high school. In this brief, we probe whether this pattern is consistent across student groups defined by demographics, achievement level, and school of attendance. We find unusual consistency: while non-white, low-achieving, and poor students show somewhat lower self...
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This brief applies value-added models to student surveys in the CORE Districts to explore whether social-emotional learning (SEL) surveys can be used to measure effective classroom-level supports for SEL. The authors find that classrooms differ in their effect on students’ growth in self-reported SEL—even after accounting for school-level effects. Results suggest that classroom-level effects within schools may be larger than school-level effects. However, the low explanatory power of the SEL models means it is unclear that these are causal effects that have appropriately controlled for student...
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 for assessing the impacts of schools. The vast majority of these measures use standardized tests as the outcome of interest, even though emerging evidence demonstrates the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL). This article presents results from using the first large-scale panel surveys of students on SEL to produce school-level, value-added measures by grade for growth mind-set, self-efficacy, self-management, and social awareness. The article finds substantive differences across schools in SEL growth, with...
The Case of Garden Grove Unified School District
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A crucial but challenging requirement of successful continuous improvement involves transforming the system’s culture. This case study explores how Garden Grove Unified School District built a culture that puts kids first; nurtures commitment, drive, and loyalty among teachers and other district personnel; and views both student and adult learning as important. This case examines four structures and processes used by Garden Grove leadership to establish and maintain a culture of improvement that has resulted in rising student achievement. The lessons learned could be implemented in many...
The Case of Long Beach Unified School District
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Successful continuous improvement requires educators to have a shared clarity of purpose, integrated systems of support, and a clear vision for instruction across the system with the central goal of improving classroom instruction. This case study examines how Long Beach Unified School District, one of the CORE districts involved in the CORE-PACE research project on continuous improvement, fosters these efforts. It is a portrait of a learning system that emphasizes improvement towards high-quality, rigorous instruction for all students through professional learning and capacity-building. Their...
The Case of Ayer Elementary
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Ayer Elementary School in Fresno is an exemplar of leadership practice necessary for successfully building and maintaining a culture of continuous improvement. This case study examines the leadership practices that teachers say allowed them to undertake the challenging work of using data for evidence-based changes that are steadily improving student outcomes in this ethnically diverse, high-poverty school. The report offers insights into how leaders can foster a culture of risk-taking, teacher agency, and collective efficacy. It also raises questions about how to support more principals in...
Lessons from the CORE Districts
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Continuous improvement has become a leading method of changing the way schools and districts foster better student learning and success. As part of the CORE-PACE Research Partnership, PACE spent a year studying the CORE Districts’ approach to implementing continuous improvement with a focus on two key questions: 1) What do we know about how to support educators in learning continuous improvement? 2) What conditions support continuous improvement in districts and schools? The findings are presented in a report that provides an overview of lessons learned in building a successful continuous...
Evidence from the CORE Districts and the PACE/USC Rossier Poll
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The number of students opting out of standardized tests has grown in recent years. This phenomenon poses a potential threat to our ability to accurately measure student achievement in schools and districts. This brief documents the extent to which opting out is observed in the CORE districts and models how higher opt-out levels could affect various accountability measures. More students opting out could significantly impact some accountability measures in use in California, but the CORE districts’ growth measure is largely unaffected, as it reports the impact of schools on individual students’...

Evidence from California’s CORE Districts
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Summary
Existing research on self-management skills shows that measures of self-management predict student success. However, these conclusions are based on small samples or narrowly defined self-management measures. Using a rich longitudinal dataset of 221,840 fourth through seventh grade students, this paper describes self-management gaps across student groups, and confirms, at a large scale, the predictive power of self-management for achievement gains, even with unusually rich controls for students’ background, previous achievement, and measures of other social-emotional skills. Self-management is...
A Research Summary and Implications for Practice
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Given the importance of a college degree for both individual and societal economic prosperity, policymakers and educators are focused on strengthening the path to college beyond college entry. In this report, we synthesize the existing literature on four factors key to educational attainment—aspirations and beliefs, academic preparation, knowledge and information, and fortitude and resilience—and the implications of each.