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High schools in California—and around the country—increasingly offer computer science (CS) and often would like to expand CS offerings further. However, these expansions pose a number of challenges for administrators and policymakers, especially if they are going to happen effectively and equitably. We consider four of the most pressing challenges for CS expansions: (a) staffing issues, including equitable access to CS teachers; (b) curricular capacity; (c) school accountability pressure; and (d) equitable access to CS coursework. For each challenge, we discuss what the research tells us about...
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...
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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...
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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At a time when students of families living in poverty have experienced the worst of the economic trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, community schools have reemerged as a promising intervention for addressing lack of access to quality education and economic prosperity. Policymakers are making investments in scaling up community schools; effective use of data will be key to the success of the expansion. This brief details findings from a 2021 research project that involved collaboration between the Los Angeles County Office of Education and the University of Southern California Center on...
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...
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...
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...
A Key Investment for COVID-19 Recovery
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A healing-centered community school implements a whole child approach to teaching and learning to address the fundamental physiological and safety needs of students as central to their cognitive development and growth. Strengthening and sustaining such strategies require intentional, complementary investments in policy, funding, and resources across general education, early learning, special education, health, and community development. This publication set provides guidance for educators, policymakers, and advocates who wish to deploy state and federal recovery resources to address immediate...
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...

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We use data from oral reading fluency (ORF) assessments to examine COVID-19’s effects on children’s ORF in over 100 U.S. school districts. Students’ development of ORF largely stopped in spring 2020 following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fall 2020, students’ gains in reading were stronger and similar to prepandemic rates. However, fall gains were insufficient to recoup spring losses; overall, students’ ORF in second and third grade is approximately 30 percent behind expectations. We also observe inequitable impact: students at lower achieving schools are falling farther behind and 10...

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...
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As California’s elementary schools reopen after prolonged physical closure due to COVID-19, attention to healing the school community will be essential. Although there is wide variation in the timing and formats with which schools plan to reopen, it is clear that when students reenter school buildings they will be eager to reconnect with friends and teachers. Because elementary school-aged children learn and grow through play, recess is an ideal time to support healing and to prepare students to return to the classroom ready to learn. When students are allowed to reenter school buildings...
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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...
Publication authors
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This brief highlights the need and ways to transform—systematically—how schools address the overlapping learning, behavioral, and emotional problems that can interfere with learning and teaching. The aim is to provide a blueprint to enable the state, Local Education Agencies (LEAs), and schools to play a greater role in providing student and learning supports, and to do so in ways that enhance equity of opportunity.
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)...

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...

Lessons for COVID-19
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In March 2020, most schools in the U.S. transitioned to distance learning. During the transition a significant number of students did not fully engage in learning opportunities. This brief uses administrative panel data from the CORE Districts in California to approximate the impact of the pandemic by analyzing how absenteeism has affected student outcomes in the recent past. We show wide variation in absenteeism impacts on academic and social-emotional outcomes by grade and subgroup, as well as the cumulative effect of different degrees of absence. Student outcomes generally suffer more from...
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A new PACE brief summarizes key points from the report Enabling Conditions and Capacities for Continuous Improvement: A Framework for Measuring and Supporting Progress Towards the Goals of the Statewide System of Support and contextualizes the findings within the current challenge of supporting teaching and learning during a pandemic. The concept of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) provides a framework for the ways in which schools are operating amid the COVID-19 crisis. In an unprecedented VUCA context, rapid cycles of improvement are essential for identifying approaches...
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 Guide for Parents, Families, and the Public
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In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of school districts in California will not have in-person teaching in fall 2020. Over the months ahead, parents, educators, and the public will have to navigate uncertainty in weighing the costs and benefits of opening schools versus supporting learning remotely. This brief offers the questions that parents, educators, and the public should ask about the education, health, safety, and social-emotional needs of children and adults when considering plans for reopening during the pandemic. The authors, education and health policy experts...
Evidence and Implications
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When California’s students return to school this fall, schools can play a pivotal role in preventing, assessing, and addressing trauma in order to support students’ well-being. We summarize the existing evidence base on multi-tiered trauma-informed practices that offer increasingly intensive tiers of support. Although many multi-tiered models of trauma-informed approaches have been implemented in schools, the evidence base demonstrating their wholescale effectiveness is limited. The most compelling evidence comes from approaches within the more intensive tiers. Moreover, most of the recent...

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...