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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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...
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...
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...
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’...

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.
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Continuous improvement is a holistic and research-based approach to education grounded in the belief that every system is designed to achieve the results it gets; therefore, change must be systemwide, not piecemeal. California is a national leader in the continuous improvement movement that is spreading throughout local school districts as well as state and county offices of education. At its annual conference in February 2019, PACE convened a panel of California educators working on the cutting edge of continuous improvement. In this brief, they share their stories and lessons learned.
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School value-added models are increasingly used to measure schools’ contributions to student success. At the same time, policymakers and researchers agree that schools should support students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) as well as academic development. Yet, the evidence regarding whether schools can influence SEL and whether statistical growth models can appropriately measure this influence is limited. Recent work shows meaningful differences across schools in changes in SEL scores by grade, but whether these differences represent the effects of schools is still unclear. The current paper...

Building System Capacity to Learn
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Creating continuously improving education systems could be the antidote to one-off education reforms that come and go with little to show for the effort. The strategy has been picking up steam in recent years, urged on by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); the California Department of Education; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which recently announced that it is earmarking 60 percent of its $1.7 billion investment in education during the next five years to support school improvement networks. Continuous improvement in education evolved from decades of similar efforts in...

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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...

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...

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...
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...
Issues, Evidence, and Resources
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Proposition 82 would provide at least $23 billion over the coming decade to enroll about 70% of the state’s four year olds in half-day preschool programs at no direct cost to parents. This brief sketches what’s known about California’s existing network of preschool centers, which children benefit, and the key issues prompted by Proposition 82. PACE’s role—as an independent research center—is to clarify relevant evidence which informs education policy options. In 2005, PACE published a review of enrollment patterns and policy options related to equalizing access to, and improving the quality of...