Category Archives: front page


Effective Basic Skills Instruction: The Case for Contextualized Developmental Math

A new PACE policy brief by W. Charles Wiseley, CTE Specialist at the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office,  examines both the scarcity and the effectiveness of contextualized developmental math in the 110 public California Community Colleges (CCC) during the 2006-2007 academic year.

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. Overall, fewer than 20 percent of remedial math students who do not complete a college level math course earn a certificate, degree, or transfer to a four-year university within six years. Beginning in 2006, California community colleges, through changes in regulations designed to strengthen the core curriculum for the associate degree began to eliminate many occupationally-focused and “contextualized” math courses such as “Business Math” and “Technical Math for Airframe Mechanics.” These integrated courses often focus on the mathematics required in specific occupations, starting with basic arithmetic or pre-algebra and progressing into intermediate algebra topics, and have significantly higher success rates than traditional math courses. Unfortunately, the pressure for traditional academic courses has eliminated many of these contextualized courses, as they no longer meet the requirements for the associate degree. But the low success rates that are common in remedial math courses in the academic model mean that few students will be able to acquire the occupational skills necessary to complete an advanced occupational course, certificate, or degree.

Effective Basic Skills Instruction

Deregulation of School Aid in California: Revenues and Expenditure in the First Year of Categorical Flexibility

California’s school finance system is notoriously complex. Its critics have long advocated for simplifying funding streams and returning authority to local school boards. In 2009 the state partially acquiesced, giving districts significant flexibility over the funds from 40 categorical programs.  This flexibility provides an opportunity to see how districts respond when released from categorical funds. However, Tier 3 flexibility was adopted during a severe budget crisis, and most districts have been trying simply to maintain core services. So it is difficult to isolate the discrete impact of this policy change.

In this report, Jennifer Imazeki, Professor of Economics at San Diego State University, highlights preliminary results from an ongoing study of district response to this increased categorical flexibility, generally referred to as Tier 3.

Diregulation of School Aid in California

Two New Podcasts

January 12th Podcast – Redesigning Evaluation Processes: A Systems Approach to Improving Evaluation and Teacher/Principal Effectiveness.

January 21st Podcast – Experiments in Deregulating School Finance.

January 12th Podcast – Redesigning Evaluation Processes

Redesigning Evaluation Processes: A Systems Approach to Improving Evaluation and Teacher/Principal Effectiveness

On January 12th, Pivot Learning Partners, Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) and Full Circle Fund sponsored a one-day conference for school district teams with an interest in redesigning their teacher/principal evaluation systems in the larger context of strengthening teacher/principal effectiveness. In addition to listening to a panel of experts, team members had  the opportunity to network with other district leaders from across the state. For biographies of the speakers, please click here

Introduction
Judith Warren Little
, Dean of Education, UC Berkeley, Graduate School of Education
The Policy Context: What’s Driving the Interest in Teacher and Principal Evaluation?

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The Policy Context: What’s Driving the Interest in Teacher and Principal Evaluation?
Johanna VanderMolen,
Pivot Learning Partners 
Merrill Vargo, Executive Director, Pivot Learning Partners

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Framing the Issues: What Should Be Driving Our Work On?
Jim Brown
, Pivot Learning Partners
Teacher and Principal Evaluation

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Discussion Panel – Perspectives from Policy and Research
David N. Plank,
Panel Moderator. Executive Director, Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE).
Katharine Strunk, Assistant Professor of Education and Policy, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California.  
What We Know (and Don’t Know) About Teacher Evaluations.

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To view a copy of Katharine Strunk’s  slides , click here.

Michael Egan, Assistant Executive Director of the California Teachers Association.
Union Perspective on the Components of an Effective Teacher Evaluation Procedure.

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To view a copy of Michael Egan’s handout, click here.

Julia Koppich, President, J. Koppich & Associates.
Making Evaluation Work.

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To view a copy of Julia Koppich’s slides, click here.  For her activity sheet, click here.

December 17th Podcast – Learning from L.A.: Policy Levers for Institutional Change

The podcast for our December 17th seminar, “Learning from L.A.: Policy Levers for Institutional Change” is now available.  The speaker was Charles Taylor Kerchner, Research Professor, Claremont Graduate University.

The history of the Los Angeles Unified School District over the past five decades, reveals an organization pulled up from its early 20th Century Progressive Era roots.  Decades of reform efforts have provided a lively audition for what a new institution of public education could look like. But public policy and the surrounding political system have created an atmosphere of continuing crisis rather than a new institutional stability. In this seminar Charles Kerchner reviews the recent history of LAUSD, drawing from the recent book, Learning from L.A.: Institutional Change in Public Education. He shows how successive reform efforts have outlined the design of a more effective educational system, and identifies some policy levers that can help to create a new institutional structure for public education, in L.A. and for all of California and beyond. The speaker is introduced by David N. Plank, Executive Director of PACE.

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View Charles Kerchner’s presentation slides.

November 19 Podcast – Strategic School Funding for Results

The podcast for our November 19th seminar “Strategic School Funding for Results” is now available.

The presenters were Jay Chambers, PhD, Senior Research Fellow and Managing Director, American Institutes for Research;
Jim Brown, Senior Advisor, Pivot Learning Partners; Steve Jubb, Director of Innovation and District Redesign, Pivot Learning Partners.  The speakers were introduced by David N. Plank, Executive Director of PACE.

Since July 2009, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Pivot Learning Partners (Pivot) have successfully formed partnerships with the Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Twin Rivers Unified School Districts. The Strategic School Funding for Results (SSFR) project has these major goals: (a) to develop and implement more equitable and transparent strategies for allocating resources to schools within each district; (b) to link these strategies to systems designed to encourage innovation and efficiency; and (c) to strengthen accountability for student outcomes.

The AIR/Pivot team has made a great deal of progress in initiating the activities necessary to implement the basic policy elements of SSFR at the local level.  The team has engaged district partners in substantive discussions about how to create an incentive structure that encourages equitable distribution of teaching talent, meaningful engagement of parents and teachers in support of student learning, and more effective and efficient use of public education dollars. In the current fiscal and policy environment, it is clear that California’s school finance system needs to change significantly. At this briefing, representatives from each district joined Jay Chambers (AIR), Steve Jubb and Jim Brown (Pivot Learning Partners), and the district leads from Pivot Learning in discussing the partnership’s progress and the challenges, and offered recommendations for state policy and other districts.

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Policy Report: Costs of California Multiple Pathway Programs

There is widespread agreement that many of California’s high schools are doing a poor job of preparing their students for college and careers.  The James Irvine Foundation is sponsoring a major initiative to develop “Multiple Pathways” –– now called the Linked Learning approach –– as a strategy for improving the performance of California high schools.  To inform this effort, the Foundation asked PACE to gather evidence on the cost of linked learning programs.  This report by Ace Parsi, University of California, Berkeley, David N. Plank, Policy Analysis for California Education and David Stern, University of California, Berkeley presents the results.

How much does a good high school education cost?  This is a hard question to answer, because we do not know whether traditional high schools are using their resources in the best possible ways.  We know how much school districts spend on their high schools to achieve their current level of performance, but we do not know to what extent achieving better results could be accomplished by using current resources better or whether improved performance would require additional resources.  This makes judgments about whether reform strategies like Linked Learning cost more than, less than, or the same as traditional high school programs difficult, because we do not have a clear baseline against which to compare costs.

Costs of California Multiple Pathways Programs

November 19 Seminar: Strategic School Funding for Results

Strategic School Funding for Results
Jay Chambers
, PhD, Senior Research Fellow and Managing Director, American Institutes for Research
Jim Brown, Senior Advisor, Pivot Learning Partners
Steve Jubb, Director of Innovation and District Redesign, Pivot Learning Partners
Since July 2009 the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Pivot Learning Partners (Pivot) have successfully formed partnerships with the Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Twin Rivers Unified School Districts. The Strategic School Funding for Results (SSFR) project has these major goals: (a) to develop and implement more equitable and transparent strategies for allocating resources to schools within each district; (b) to link these strategies to systems designed to encourage innovation and efficiency; and (c) to strengthen accountability for student outcomes.

The AIR/Pivot team has made a great deal of progress in initiating the activities necessary to implement the basic policy elements of SSFR at the local level. The team has engaged district partners in substantive discussions about how to create an incentive structure that encourages equitable distribution of teaching talent, meaningful engagement of parents and teachers in support of student learning, and more effective and efficient use of public education dollars. In the current fiscal and policy environment, it is clear that California’s school finance system needs to change significantly. At this briefing, representatives from each district will join Jay Chambers (AIR), Steve Jubb and Jim Brown (Pivot Learning Partners), and the district leads from Pivot Learning in discussing the partnership’s progress and the challenges, and offer recommendations for state policy and other districts.