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California is one of just two states (with Kansas) that does not use a student-level growth model to measure school performance. This brief lays out a number of common beliefs about growth models and provides evidence that these beliefs are inaccurate or unsupported. In so doing, the brief makes a positive case that the state should adopt such a model and replace the current "change" metric in the California School Dashboard.
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.

Evidence from California’s CORE Districts
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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.
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In this report we explore the patterns in mathematics course-taking among California public high school seniors. We describe what courses students are enrolled in and how course participation varies by key student characteristics, such as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and performance level on the state’s 11th grade assessments. We also explore course-taking patterns for students eligible for California’s public four-year colleges—California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC), and for applicants and admitted students at the CSU and UC.
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.
  • Aspirations and beliefs—the belief that college is possible and integral to educational success.
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Acknowledging the importance of students simply being in school, California has made student attendance part of its accountability system. This brief covers a session in which it was pointed out that using chronic absenteeism as an accountability measure is new and its underlying causes are not well understood. Even as many schools face the expectation that they take action to address high rates of absenteeism, myths about school attendance persist.
Evidence from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Voter Poll
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Governor Gavin Newsom campaigned on a “cradle to career” education strategy that identified childcare and early education as key priorities. The Governor’s 2019 Budget Proposal follows through with the inclusion of several initiatives aimed at increasing support for children five and younger.

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.

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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.
What It Takes
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Access to affordable preschool programs is a crucial issue for improving kindergarten readiness for 3- to 5-year-olds, but research shows that the quality of teaching and learning in those programs is just as essential. Across the country, states are boosting preschool policy standards and strengthening educational requirements for preschool teachers. California has not been at the forefront of this effort. But newly elected Governor Gavin Newsom is making preschool quality a signature issue of his administration.
Opportunities for Research, Policy, and Practice
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Due to fragmented and misaligned segments of public education, many students lack access to educational opportunities that will ensure their success in college and career. This problem is one that may only be solved through better alignment and coordination between high school and college, between systems of higher education, and between education and economic development sectors.
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Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal for 2019–2020 includes $10 million to develop a statewide longitudinal data system—including early education, K–12, and higher education institutions as well as health and human services agencies—to better track student outcomes and improve alignment of the education system to workforce needs.
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Although there is a robust body of literature studying targets for academic indicators within school quality systems few studies explore target setting for non-academic indicators. Focusing on elementary schools within the CORE districts, we investigate how moving performance targets for non-academic indicators affects school quality ratings.
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The CORE districts have been measuring SEL via self-report student surveys since 2015. Any district, state, or school looking to use these surveys can now build from what we have learned in the CORE districts. In this paper we provide benchmarking data, including means and standard deviations by construct, grade level and subgroup, and examples of how to use these data in practice. The data come from nearly half a million students across the 8 CORE districts, in grades 4 through 12, who took the survey in the 2015-16 school year.
Evidence from California
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Charter schools enroll a growing share of public school students, leading to concerns about the financial implications of charter schools for traditional public schools. Using detailed expenditure data for school districts in California, this paper exploits variation in charter school enrollment across time and between districts to evaluate how district spending and overall financial health change as nearby charter sectors expand.
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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.

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Researchers in the Getting Down to Facts II project showed that while the financial picture has improved in recent years for California’s school districts, several important challenges remain. This policy brief explores one of these challenges in greater detail: the costs of health and welfare benefits for district employees.

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Community engagement remains one of the most challenging expectations of California’s Local Control  Funding Formula, so much so that state leaders have funded an initiative to support regional networks focused on engagement. This brief shares insights from a session where a lead administrator from the San Bernardino County Office provided an update on that initiative. Other speakers shared their on-the-ground experiences working with educators, parents, and students to create the relationships needed for community stakeholder engagement to be consistent, meaningful, and productive.
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In this brief, we update previous research on the implementation of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) with the results from a 2019 poll of California voters. Results show that while public awareness of the LCFF has increased, more than half of voters remain unfamiliar with this state finance and accountability policy. However, voter support for the policy remains high, though it has decreased since last year. Participation in LCFF engagement has increased, but remains low, despite a majority of voters reporting desire to be involved in decisions about local education.

How Do Different High School Assessments Measure Up?
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The Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), implemented in California in 2014–15 as part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, is designed to evaluate students’ levels of college and career readiness. Student scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment are currently used for both accountability and school improvement purposes.
Evidence from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Voter Poll
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Late in 2018, the California Department of Education rolled out an updated version of the California School Dashboard. This revision altered the look and feel of the Dashboard and added new indicators based on newly available data. This brief updates a 2018 analysis of the Dashboard. First, I examine whether the state’s revisions are in line with the suggestions made in the 2018 report. I find that the state has made some improvements to the system, but that there is room for continued improvement.

Evidence to Inform Policy
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Governor Newsom’s first Budget Proposal increases funding for education in California. There are areas of substantive overlap in the Budget Proposal and research findings from the Getting Down to Facts II (GDTFII) research project, released in September 2018, which built an evidence base on the current status of California education and implications for paths forward.

Views from the 2019 PACE/USC Rossier Poll
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With a new Governor, State Superintendent, and Legislators in Sacramento and a diminished federal role in education, there is an opportunity for California’s leaders to take stock of recent educational reforms and make necessary improvements. This report presents findings from a state-representative poll of California registered voters on an array of education policy issues. Based on our analysis, we have identified nine major findings:

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Student absenteeism has recently entered the national spotlight with its emphasis in the Every Student Succeeds Act, and here in California with its inclusion in the School Dashboard. Yet many questions remain about who chronically absent students are and how they are concentrated within schools.

Lessons for Policy and Practice
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Addressing student absenteeism continues to permeate education policy and practice. California and a majority of other states have incorporated “chronic absenteeism” as an accountability metric under the Every Student Succeeds Act. It is therefore a crucial time to take stock of what we know on the research, policy, and practice to better understand the measurement of student absenteeism and how to reduce it. To further this goal and spark a broader conversation about student attendance as a valuable policy lever, we wrote the first book centered on the issue of school absenteeism.