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California’s Assembly Bill 705 has affected the way that English learners (ELs) access English and English as a second language (ESL) coursework, requiring that degree- or transfer-seeking students have the right to enroll in English or ESL courses, and community colleges are responsible for implementing initial placement practices and designing curricular structures that maximize gateway English completion. We found that ELs who graduated from a US high school and then enrolled in a community college experienced much higher throughput rates when allowed to enroll directly in transferable...
Evidence from the 2021 PACE/USC Rossier Annual Poll
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The 2021 PACE/USC Rossier poll provides key insights into Californians’ perceptions of higher education issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically equity and affordability. A large percentage of Californians acknowledge that college affordability is an important educational issue, and they generally express support for increased access to courses through remote options, increased funding for community colleges, loan forgiveness, and equitable admissions practices. However, public opinion on these issues is more nuanced; for example, Californians are concerned that increased access to...
A Promise to What, for Whom, and Where?
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This brief describes the types of college promises that exist in the state of California. In doing so, we summarize existing research on this topic. Furthermore, we provide a framework to study the California Promise Program in community colleges in California. We use publicly available data to highlight key aspects of our proposed framework: What are we promising, to whom, and where? We end our brief by providing key recommendations to ensure that the promise extends to the most vulnerable groups of students to help in closing equity gaps in college degree and completion in California.
A Summary of the PACE Policy Research Panel
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More than 725,000 of California’s K-12 students qualified for special education services in 2018-19, but they entered a system that is often ill-equipped to serve them. This brief summarizes the findings from the PACE Policy Research Panel on Special Education: Organizing Schools to Serve Students with Disabilities in California. We find opportunities for improvement in early screening, identification, and intervention; transitions into and out of special education services; educator preparation and ongoing support; and availability of mental and physical health services. Comprehensive...
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Preparing all students, including students with disabilities, for life after high school is a critical responsibility for California’s education system. Engaging students and their families in discussions regarding careers, employment, and the pre-requisites for postsecondary education, training, and employment must start early and continue throughout their educational experiences. While there are programs in California that benefit students as they explore career opportunities, students with disabilities are seldom included in these programs. Three essential actions drive the development and...
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One of the key purposes of public education is to prepare young people to reach their full potential as independent adults and engaged citizens. This transition to adulthood may be especially challenging for youth with disabilities. Students enrolled in special education often need additional supports and coordinated planning to prepare for employment, postsecondary education, and community living. Previous research has documented effective practices—such as family involvement, inclusion in general education, work-based learning, and interagency collaboration—that can help support the...
The Scale and Distribution of Community College Participation Among California High School Students
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Research shows that dual enrollment—a practice in which high school students take college courses while they are still in high school—has multiple benefits for student success in both systems. This brief, produced in partnership with Wheelhouse, breaks new ground by matching high school and community college datasets to provide a clearer picture of college course-taking among California public high school students statewide. The authors find that nearly 13% of high school students took a course at a California Community College at some point during their high school years. However, 82% of...

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.
Perspectives from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Poll
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California voters ranked college affordability as the second most important education policy issue in the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier poll, a concern reflected in Governor Gavin Newsom’s first budget proposal and in a number of bills currently progressing through the state legislature. Though desire for making college affordable is high among the average voter, California’s geographic and socio-economic diversity demand that lawmakers consider local contexts when designing and implementing new reforms. We discuss variation in concern over college costs at the county level and by racial/ethnic and...

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Public education in California is a study in contrasts. By many measures, schools are improving and students are doing better. But look deeper and there are significant differences in educational opportunities and, therefore, outcomes based on race, ethnicity, family income, and language. These reports describe the gaps that still exist among schools and among districts in the state. One study provides the first comprehensive comparison of patterns in educational outcomes between California and the rest of the country. These five reports examine both the challenges and the promising efforts to...

How High Schools Can Be Held Accountable for Developing Students' Career Readiness
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College and career readiness is the stated goal of the common core standards that have now been adopted by almost all the states. The Obama administration’s proposed budget for 2013 included a new name for Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act: “college and career ready schools.” There is widespread agreement on the goal of preparing every high school graduate both for postsecondary education and for a lifetime of fulfilling work. The days of distinguishing “college-bound” from “non-college-bound” students are over; instead, high schools aim to give all students a range of...
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Like most other universities in the country, the University of California (UC) requires that students submit scores from either the SAT or ACT exams as part of their application package. These tests have their origins in the efforts of a handful of elite colleges and universities to expand the socioeconomic diversity and enhance the academic promise of their admissions pools; to reduce the number of tests students must take to apply to college and the burden this places on both prospective students and postsecondary institutions; and to provide a means of comparing students who attend...
The Case for Contextualized Developmental Math
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Recent research on students entering California community colleges found that less than one in ten students who enter at the basic arithmetic or pre-algebra math level successfully complete college-level math. Students entering at the next higher level of math (elementary algebra) are only slightly more likely to succeed in college-level math. Yet, college-level math skills are required for success in nearly all college programs including most occupationally-focused certificate programs.
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In 2005-06 almost half of the pupils in California’s public schools were Latinos, but Latinos only received about 15 percent of the BA degrees awarded by public and private colleges in the state. Texas has a comparable Latino population, but does significantly better than California in getting Latino students through college. The implication of this disparity is that California stands to produce too few graduates to fuel its cutting-edge high tech and high-end service economy. In this policy brief, Martin Carnoy explores the reasons why California’s education system falls short in ensuring...
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A new PACE policy brief summarizes the findings from a study investigating the impact of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) on California’s lowest performing students. Utilizing longitudinal data from four large urban school districts, Sean Reardon from Stanford and Michal Kurlaender from UC-Davis compare students scheduled to graduate just before (2005) and after (2006-07) the exit exam became a requirement for graduation from California high schools. They find that the CAHSEE requirement had no positive effects on students’ academic skills, and a large negative impact on...
How the First Semester Matters for Community College Students’ Aspirations and Persistence
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A new PACE Policy Brief by Anne Driscoll of the University of California at Davis explains why California must do more than expand access to community college if our state is to prepare the workforce needed to remain economically competitive in the 21st century. Beyond Access: How the First Semester Matters for Community College Students’ Aspirations and Persistence shows that fewer than half of the young high school graduates who entered California community colleges with the goal of transferring to four-year colleges in 1998 made it through their first semester with their goals intact. One...
Options for California
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A PACE Policy Brief by W. Norton Grubb and David Stern. Career-technical education (CTE) is back in the policy spotlight, as Governor Schwarzenegger and key legislators seek strategies to strengthen California’s much-criticized high schools. Some forms of CTE that integrate academic with occupational content could usefully be expanded to provide high school students with multiple pathways to college and careers. This strategy, which we call “CTE/multiple pathways,” is more feasible and desirable for California high schools than other approaches to CTE — including the traditional vocational...