Leadership, Partnership, and Community
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Public education today faces a troubling set of challenges, including declining enrollment, staffing shortages, and polarized communities, with school boards at the center of broader political debates. How did we arrive at this current state? This study—described here and, in more detail, in a related report—of seven California school districts conducted during the first 14 months of the COVID-19 pandemic explores how districts responded in real time to the unfolding health crisis as well as to the growing national reckoning about structural racism. Our case studies show that districts—often...
Supporting Students During COVID-19
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In the wake of COVID-19, the California legislature mandated that local educational agencies (LEAs) develop detailed Learning Continuity and Attendance Plans (LCPs) to address student learning and progress during the 2020–21 academic year. This brief summarizes results of an analysis of nearly 1,000 LCPs from public school districts across the state to understand how they intended to support students in critical areas like instruction, technology, assessment, attendance, and well-being. Overall, districts planned to provide technology, assess student learning, employ tiered levels of support...
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The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting changes in schooling have been particularly difficult for students learning the English language. Recent research indicates that nearly 40 percent of English learners (ELs) nationwide were not receiving the services and support they needed to successfully engage with academic content during distance learning and that ELs experienced greater lags in learning than their peers. As the types and quality of instructional supports provided to ELs at school are vital to their educational outcomes, it is critical to understand how these students were supported...
Lessons from Kern County
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Counties, districts, and schools have had to respond to ever-shifting issues related to COVID-19. This brief describes the complex challenges that district superintendents faced, which often required expertise in areas beyond traditional expectations for the role, particularly in public health. The brief gives examples of crisis management structures from one county office of education (COE)—Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS)—that helped to mitigate these challenges for local education agencies (LEAs) in its county. The strategies detailed in this brief provide a replicable model...
Publication authors
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California enacted a groundbreaking shift to its school-funding system when it passed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in 2013. The law sought to make funding more equitable and also aimed to increase local control based on the premise that budgeting decisions are best made at the local level in partnership with community stakeholders, who must, in turn, hold the district accountable. This report takes stock of LCFF 8 years after its passage and explores ways it can be further refined to improve equitable funding, opportunities, and outcomes in California. Our findings are based on: (a...

Critical Actions for Recovery and the Role of Research in the Years Ahead
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The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recently issued a report providing guidance on the future of education research at the National Center for Education Research and the National Center for Special Education Research, two centers directed by IES. The report identifies critical problems and issues; details new methods and approaches; and specifies the kinds of research investments needed in the future. In addition to hearing from outside experts and soliciting public input, the committee commissioned Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) to produce a paper to help synthesize...

Evidence from the 2021 PACE/USC Rossier Poll
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In this brief, we use data from the 2021 PACE/USC Rossier Poll to report on California voters’ attitudes towards and engagement with local school district governance. Generally, our findings show relatively high support for school boards among California voters, although voters were less satisfied with school board performance in the context of the pandemic. Patterns of engagement also changed during the past year: some voters, particularly parents and higher income individuals, became more engaged in educational issues; others felt compelled to be more involved because they were unhappy or...
Views from the 2021 PACE/USC Rossier Poll
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Growing inequities and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic together with billions of dollars in new funding present an opportunity to make substantial changes to K–12 education to better serve all students in California. In May 2021, PACE and USC Rossier School of Education fielded our annual poll of California voters, which sought to gain clarity about voters’ priorities on public education issues during this period in which Californians are beginning to look towards a postpandemic future. The following are 10 key findings from the poll.
The Path Towards Reimagining and Rebuilding Schools
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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all students; however, its impact has been particularly devastating for students of color, students from low-income families, English learners, and other marginalized children and youth. As transmission rates decline and vaccination rates increase in California, many are eager to return to normalcy, but we must all recognize that even the prepandemic normal was not working for all students. The 2021–22 school year, therefore, constitutes a critical opportunity for schools to offer students, families, and educators a restorative restart. This is a moment for...

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California’s school system is under tremendous long-run fiscal pressure; allocating resources efficiently is therefore paramount. Efficient allocation means more money spent on the most effective policies and interventions; less waste; and ultimately better outcomes for students. Economic analysis—making sure districts and schools are spending their budgets wisely—is the method used to identify effectiveness and efficiency. This method responds to the question educational professionals face: Am I making the most efficient decisions given the resources I have and the goals I need to meet for my...
Restarting School with Equity at the Center
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This brief was developed by California-based family and student engagement organizations, associations representing educators and system leaders, research institutes, and civil rights and equity groups. The recommendations arise from the evidence that has collectively emerged from focus groups with educators, parents, and students; polls and surveys of stakeholders; a deep review of the literature; and original research conducted on COVID-19’s impact on schools and students. At the time of release, Reimagine and Rebuild: Restarting School with Equity at the Center was endorsed by the following...

Identifying the Structural and Instructional Changes in K–12
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In March 2020, school districts across California closed their doors, rapidly adapting operations and instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts to understand the immediate impact of the unprecedented closure of schools prompted grave concerns about meeting students’ needs, particularly for the most vulnerable. In fact, recent research indicates that learning loss related to school closures in the spring and fall of 2020 was disproportionately experienced by younger students, low-income students, and English learners. However, little is known about the specific changes made to...
In-Person Learning for the Whole Child
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Communities in California and around the country are implementing learning hubs to provide in-person education supports to students who are distance learning. In this brief, we explore a prevalent learning hub model and raise considerations for local policymakers, schools, and expanded learning partners. We include guidance for the design and operations of learning hubs, and identify the policy levers that support the model. This brief is part of a series that explores how expanded learning programs and staff can play an instrumental role in supporting students now and throughout pandemic...
A Foundation for Rebuilding to Support the Whole Child
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Strong partnerships between schools and expanded learning programs lay the foundation for building stronger, more equitable support systems for children and their families. Building on prior investments in the expanded learning system, California’s school reopening guidance encouraged intentional coordination across schools and expanded learning providers to best meet the needs of students during this unprecedented time. This brief provides key principles for school and expanded learning partnerships—informed by insights from leaders and practitioners from across California—that policymakers...
Publication author
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California districts were forced to shift to distance learning models in the spring of 2020 and the transition to distance learning for students in the early grades—transitional kindergarten through third grade (TK–3)—has proved difficult for students, parents, and teachers alike. As distance learning persists, administrators and teachers can continue to adapt their practices to meet the needs of students and families. This brief identifies challenges experienced during distance learning and suggests promising practices and potential policy changes that can positively affect the current...
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California is the fifth largest economy in the world and the wealthiest state in the nation. The Golden State is home to countless tech giants, an enormous entertainment industry, major agricultural regions, and many other successful industries. California households earn a median income of $71,000 per year, more than $10,000 above the national average. However, California school funding—even before COVID-19—was insufficient to meet educational goals and address the needs of students, particularly given the state’s high cost of living. How can that be true? Why is education funding so low in...

Insights from California's Local Control Funding Formula
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This policy brief uses the case of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to provide policy makers and educators guidance on how to involve the public in goal setting and resource distribution decisions. It provides clarity around who is and is not participating, why, and what broader lessons we can draw for implementing federal and state education policies mandating public engagement. The findings indicate tremendous room for improvement. LCFF’s target populations (e.g., low-income, English learners) are not more likely to be aware of or participate in decisions than nontargeted...
A Summary Brief
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California and the rest of the country are enduring a pandemic-induced economic recession, and school and district leaders are bracing for the fallout. Funding for California schools had improved rapidly between 2013 and 2019, with districts spending roughly $13,100 per pupil in 2018–19 as compared with $9,680 only 6 years earlier. However, that level of funding still fell short of what would have been adequate given California’s goals as a state, the student population it serves, and its cost of living. According to Levin et al.’s 2018 Getting Down to Facts II study, California would need to...

Pivoting Amid COVID-19
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The educators of Ayer Elementary in Fresno Unified School District began their continuous improvement journey in 2016. The stability of their underlying organizational conditions to engage in improvement work—a shared purpose, mutual trust, structures and resources that foster collaborative work, and preparation and mobilization of improvement capabilities—was put to the test as their focus pivoted in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This practice brief describes ways in which Ayer Elementary continued to invest in short- and long-term improvement practices to strengthen student engagement...
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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How can schools provide high-quality distance and blended learning during the pandemic? This brief includes a mix of rigorous evidence from extant studies, data from interviews with practitioners who described their learnings from informal experimentation during the spring of 2020, and expert researchers who thought about how to apply research to the current context. Breaking Down the Issues With the abrupt end of in-person schooling in the spring of 2020, learning opportunities available to students varied enormously with some students receiving almost no distance instruction and others...

A COVID-19 Recovery Strategy
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Community school strategies have emerged as a promising approach to mitigate the social and learning impacts of COVID-19. This brief draws on how the crisis-motivated responses of educators and school leaders might serve as integral investments in successful and sustainable community schools. Schools and districts interested in such an approach need to examine and reform the underlying classroom, school, and district behaviors and systems that get in the way of student-centered collaboration, partnership, and teaching. Specifically, the focus must be on: (a) the centrality of family and...

Research to Guide Distance and Blended Instruction
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Though the delivery of instruction in the 2020–21 school year will be altered to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a long-standing research base on high-quality instruction can inform decisions about students’ learning and engagement. The following ten recommendations distill the key findings from the PACE report Supporting Learning in the COVID-19 Context, which offers a framework for educators and district leaders to use in their preparation to provide quality instruction through distance and blended models. Recommendations to educators: 1 Prioritize interaction and collaboration in...

What California’s Leaders Must Do Next to Advance Student Learning During COVID-19
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On July 17th, 2020, Governor Newsom announced that all K–12 schools in California counties with rising COVID-19 infections would be required to teach remotely. Without a strong focus on improving the quality of remote education at scale, students could lose up to a year’s worth of learning, and as many as 1.1 million students could fail to graduate high school. That academic impact would be felt most acutely by low-income, Black, and Latinx students. California’s leaders must act now to prioritize equity and ensure quality across all of the state’s districts. New policies do establish baseline...
A Rural District’s Response to COVID-19
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COVID-19 has disrupted California’s education system in fundamental ways. Districts across the state are quickly creating strategies to serve all students, and many are designing their response around the needs of their most vulnerable students. This brief highlights the response of Mother Lode Union School District (MLUSD) to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which district staff and teachers were able to collaborate—despite the unprecedented crisis—to meet student needs.