PACE Reports & Findings

Research maximizes learning because questions are generated together by district leaders and researchers. Throughout our CORE network, educators get quick results to improve student outcomes. The findings below showcase how real-time, research-based feedback is improving student learning; informing policy; and providing breakthrough solutions to inform continuous improvement in the CORE Districts and beyond.

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Recent Findings

Using Data for Improvement: Learning from the CORE Data Collaborative

To evaluate the extent to which California’s school districts are engaging in continuous improvement, PACE interviewed 41 educational leaders across the state. Respondents reported learning a lot from the CORE data system, which helps them better define their problems of performance within schools and districts.

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Learning and Practicing Continuous Improvement: Lessons from the CORE Districts

The education sector is embracing the hope that continuous improvement will lead to more beneficial student outcomes than standards-based reform and other approaches to policies and practice in prior decades. This report examines attempts in California to realize the potential of continuous improvement in some of the state’s largest districts. Policy Analysis for California Education and the CORE Districts, a nonprofit collaborative of eight urban school districts, have been engaged in a research-practice partnership since 2015.

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A Student-Centered Culture of Improvement The Case of Garden Grove Unified School District

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Leadership that Supports Continuous Improvement: The Case of Ayer Elementary

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Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap for Continuous Improvement The Case of Long Beach Unified School District

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Engaging District and School Leaders in Continuous Improvement: Lessons from the 2nd Year of Implementing the CORE Improvement Community

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Enacting Social Emotional Learning

PACE’s report investigates how educators define SEL, support it in and outside of the school day, and use data to guide efforts.

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Building System Knowledge for Continuous Improvement: Early Lessons from the CORE Districts

The CORE Districts are leveraging their comprehensive data system and strengthening their ongoing collaboration to solve a shared problem – middle school math outcomes and the performance gap for African American and Hispanic/Latino students. The eight districts are applying a specific continuous improvement framework known as Networked Improvement Communities to reach their goal.  PACE conducted surveys, analyzed field notes from 23 CORE convenings, and conducted interviews that captured the learnings of more than a hundred educators in the CORE network. This new PACE brief ‘Building System Knowledge for Continuous Improvement: Early Lessons from the CORE Districts’ highlights lessons educators can use to refine their own continuous improvement practices.

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Development and Implementation of Student Social-Emotional Surveys in the CORE Districts

Using CORE’s student surveys on social-emotional learning from 2015-16, this paper presents validity and reliability evidence of the survey instruments.

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Exploring Improvement Science in Education: Promoting College Access in Fresno Unified School District

As districts engage in the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) process, they are expected to use state and local indicator data from California’s School Dashboard to monitor student progress. When Dashboard indicators identify student subgroups as low performing or low growth, districts are encouraged to engage in a process of continuous improvement to develop strategies and then monitor their effectiveness. At this early stage of implementation, education leaders have an opportunity to learn from early adopters who are already using continuous improvement principles. In this case study, we share how Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) developed and utilized its data dashboard and the principles of Improvement Science to increase college access for their students, in partnership with the University of California, Merced.

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Using Surveys of Students’ Social-Emotional Skills and School Climate for Accountability and Continuous Improvement

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 improvement within schools, such as identifying subgroup gaps or differences in reports between various respondent groups.

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Local Control in Action: Learning from the CORE Districts’ Focus on Measurement, Capacity Building, and Shared Accountability

This study examines the major shift in California and across the nation in school accountability policy. As California supports districts statewide to embark on this improvement journey, there are important lessons to be learned from the CORE districts, six of which developed an innovative accountability system under a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The CORE districts are early adopters of the new accountability paradigm: local leaders using multiple measures of school performance and working together to figure out collectively what works best for struggling schools.

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Identity crisis: Multiple measures and the identification of schools under ESSA

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 regulations effectively restrict the weighting of the non-academic “School Quality and Student Success” indicators to zero, which is not in the spirit of the expanded measurement; and 3) The majority of schools will be identified for targeted support under the current regulations, suggesting the need for a clarification in federal policy.

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Expanding the Definition of Student Success

This Transforming Education case study provides an overview of the CORE Districts’ groundbreaking data system and the ways in which this system has been operationalized in practice. We look in depth at how social-emotional competencies—a key component of the system—were prioritized and assessed. We conclude with lessons learned about the CORE Districts’ innovative system that can inform other next-generation assessment and continuous improvement efforts, including those catalyzed by ESSA.

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Making Students Visible: Comparing Different Subgroup Sizes for Accountability

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.

In response to new ESSA regulations, the authors produced a supplemental report comparing subgroup sizes of 20+ to 30+.

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Using Chronic Absence in a Multi-Metric Accountability System

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 alternatively through an approach that simply looks at performance in a given school year.

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Should Non-Cognitive Skills be Included in School Accountability Systems? Preliminary Evidence from California’s CORE Districts

This policy brief provides early evidence on the validity and reliability of CORE’s measures of students’ Social-Emotional Learning.

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The CORE Districts and Deeper Learning

In this brief, the Gardner Center uses the work of the CORE Districts as a case study to explore deeper learning and its importance to educational equity and the goal of college and career and civic readiness for all public school youth.

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