Category Archives: news

Student Support Services: Their Possibilities and Limits

In the fourth of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, continue their analysis of basic skills education in California Community Colleges.

Community colleges provide a substantial array of student support services, designed to help students master basic subjects and to learn “how to be college students.” However, the use of these services by instructors and students varies substantially. Some instructors rarely or never mention the availability of such services; others make the use of some services mandatory. But the largely voluntary nature of student services means that many students do not use these services, for reasons ranging from competing demands for their time to avoidance of stigma or stereotype threat. The result is general consensus that the students who most need support services fail to get them — except where colleges have moved to portray such services as  “what all good students do.”

Student services suffer from certain structural problems. One is related to funding, since students services (unlike conventional instruction) do not generate additional revenues for colleges. The large number of adjunct faculty members, especially in developmental education, also complicates contact between instruction and student services. The nature of most colleges as laissez-faire institutions, reluctant to place requirements on either students or instructors, contributes to the voluntary use of student services. Various ways of reshaping student services therefore require challenging conventional practices and norms of community colleges, but the results have the promise of making the entire enterprise of developmental education more effective.

Student Support Services: Their Possibilities and Limits

December 9th Seminar: Expanding College-and-career Pathways for High School Students. What Does it Cost?

December 9
David Stern, University of California, Berkeley
Expanding College-and-career Pathways for High School Students: What Does it Cost?

To improve the preparation of California high school students for postsecondary education and careers, in 2006 the James Irvine Foundation launched a major initiative to develop what is now called the Linked Learning approach. The Foundation asked PACE to inform this effort by gathering evidence on the cost of Linked Learning programs. This seminar presents the results.

The Linked Learning strategy is based on previous studies, mainly on evaluations of career academies. Prior research found that combining academic and career-technical coursework in a small-school setting, with work-based learning related to classroom instruction, can produce positive outcomes for students during and after high school. The focus of this seminar is on costs, not on outcomes. David Stern of the University of California, Berkeley, will discuss how the study’s authors attempted to measure the actual resources that go into the programs, rather than relying on administrative budgets; focused on incremental rather than total costs; and distinguished between start-up and ongoing costs.

Teacher Stability and Turnover in Los Angeles: The Influence of Teacher and School Characteristics

In a new PACE Working Paper, Xiaoxia A. Newton, Rosario Rivero, Bruce Fuller, and Luke Dauter, University of California, Berkeley, investigate the effects of teacher characteristics and school context on the timing of teachers’ decisions to exit schools where they teach. The two-level discrete-time survival analysis framework allows for simultaneous examinations of who exits, when, and under what conditions. Their results for a large sample of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, observed from 2002-03 to 2008-09, affirm the importance of school context, such as type of school (e.g., charter) and school organizational characteristics (e.g., teacher-students racial match) above and beyond individual teacher characteristics and qualifications. In addition, differences in the relationship between some factors and teacher turnover are observed between elementary and secondary teachers.

Teacher Stability and Turnover in Los Angeles: The Influence of Teacher and School Characteristics

Understanding the “Crisis” in Basic Skills: Framing the Issues in Community Colleges

In the first of eleven PACE Working Papers, W. Norton Grubb et al, frame the issues surrounding basic skills instruction in California Community Colleges.

While increases in remedial education (or basic skills instruction or developmental education) have taken place at several levels of the education and training system, there are reasons for thinking that the issue is particularly acute in community colleges. This introductory working paper divides the problem into two. The first is the high proportion — perhaps 60 percent for the country, and 80 percent in California — of students entering colleges who assess into developmental courses. This can be explained by the pattern of dynamic inequality in American education, where inequalities among students increase as they move through the system.

The second problem arises from the evidence that students entering a remedial trajectory are unlikely to move into college-level work, so remediation has become a serious barrier to success for many students. Unfortunately, like other second-chance efforts, basic skills instructions often works under difficult conditions, and there are many hypotheses about why success rates in basic skill are not higher — most of which will be examined in this series of papers.

Since developmental education is first and foremost an instructional issue, this series of papers rests on a conceptual foundation focusing on the triangle of instruction, considering the instructor, students, and content within a set of institutional influences. The underlying research for these papers involves classroom observation, and interviews with instructors and administrators, to understand both classroom settings and the institutional setting. This framing paper then introduces the subjects for remaining papers in the series.

Understanding the “Crisis” in Basic Skills: Framing the Issues in Community Colleges

Deregulating School Aid in California: How 10 Districts Responded to Fiscal Flexibility, 2009-2010

In a new report, “Deregulating School Aid in California: How 10 Districts Responded to Fiscal Flexibility, 2009-2010,” Bruce Fuller, Julie Marsh, Brian Stecher and Tom Timar detail how leaders in 10 California school districts are responding to the deregulation of $4.5 billion in education funding. Sacramento policymakers have freed local educators from the specific guidelines that previously regulated spending on 40 categorical-aid programs. These program funds became entirely flexible in 2009, and local school boards could decide how to allocate these resources.

This decentralization of fiscal authority is the latest episode in a four-decade-old debate in Sacramento over who is best qualified to allocate public dollars to improve student achievement. This study illuminates what happened to these 40 programs (referred to as Tier 3 resources subject to categorical flexibility) in 10 diverse districts, how budget decisions were made by district leaders, and what local factors explain the various ways in which districts responded to this flexibility. The study was conducted by researchers from the RAND Corporation; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Davis; and San Diego State University.

Diregulation of School Aid in California

May 16 Video and Podcast: The Road Ahead for State Assessments

A panel of education researchers and policy experts convened in Washington DC on May 16 to explore the findings of a new report that makes the case for bold new student testing models that are fairer and more valid than their predecessors. The report, The Road Ahead for State Assessments, was released by the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). Student assessment is a timely topic, since most states are currently in the process of adopting the new Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts and are considering how to gauge students’ progress toward those standards.

State education systems rely heavily on the use of large-scale assessments to evaluate and improve student performance. Given the stakes, ensuring accurate measurements is paramount. Flaws in current assessment systems, however, blur the true picture of achievement for many students. For example, there has been considerable debate about how best to measure the progress of students with special needs or limited English proficiency toward uniform academic standards, and whether they should be provided accommodations for taking the tests, or excluded altogether.

Click here to view the video of this discussion panel.

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To view a copy of slides used by Robert Linquanti,  click here.
To view a copy of slides used by Mark D. Reckase, click here.
To view a copy of slides used by Jody Clarke-Midura and Chris Dede, click here.

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January 21st Seminar: Experiments in Deregulating School Finance

Bruce Fuller, Professor of Education, University of California, Berkeley

Since the 1980s, the governor and legislature have tried to balance statewide educational priorities against the desire for local flexibility, frequently expanding targeted categorical aid programs. Some argue that this approach to school finance undermines local educators’ efforts to devise coherent instructional initiatives and respond to accountability pressures. In the midst of the ongoing budget crisis, the legislature suspended requirements attached to approximately 40 “Tier 3” categorical aid programs. This represents a massive experiment in deregulating school finance, with districts potentially making new choices about how to spend $4.5 billion in 2009-10 alone. The RAND Corporation, in collaboration with the University of California and San Diego State University, is conducting a 2-year study that explores district and school leader responses to the Tier 3 initiative and federal stimulus dollars. How are districts making use of this fiscal flexibility? What forces are shaping resource allocation decisions? The study team will discuss qualitative data collected at 10 districts during the spring of 2010. Initial findings suggest that after one year, the Tier 3 flexibility is playing a critical role in helping districts to backfill budget gaps as the state crisis continues. At the same time, there is evidence that some district leaders are actively reworking existing spending patterns to better align with local educational needs and make strategic spending choice.

October 15 Podcast – The Fresno-Long Beach Learning Partnership: Lessons for Policy and Practice

A partial podcast for our October 15th seminar “The Fresno-Long Beach Learning Partnership: Lessons for Policy and Practice” is now available. Due to technical difficulties, we lost half of the discussion and the recording ends, abruptly, after 18 minutes.

The presenters were Mike Hanson, Superintendent, Fresno Unified School District; Vincent Harris, Executive Officer of District Accountability and Improvement, Fresno Unified School District; Chris Steinhauser, Superintendent, Long Beach Unified School District; Robert Tagorda, Assistant to the Superintendent, Long Beach Unified School District; Jim Brown, Senior Advisor, Pivot Learning Partners; and Helen Duffy, Senior Research Analyst, American Institutes for Research. The speakers were introduced by David N. Plank, Executive Director of PACE.

As California faces growing numbers of districts identified for improvement with shrinking resources to support them, policymakers are eager to identify effective alternatives to the usual external assistance models, given their uneven results. In addition, the state and other districts are interested in learning more about the ways districts are leveraging their resources in this difficult state budget climate and the one-time influx of federal dollars. Since 2008, Fresno and Long Beach Unified School Districts have been engaged in a formal district partnership designed to help the districts achieve a common a set of goals. With the generous support of the Hewlett and Stuart Foundations, the American Institutes for Research, in collaboration with Pivot Learning Partners, has been documenting the districts’ work together. This panel featured the leaders of these two districts who discussed their Partnership and its implications for policy and practice. In addition, Brown and Duffy shared findings from their documentation of the Partnership.

For more information on the Fresno-Long Beach Learning Partnership, please read the AIR’s Special Series on the Fresno Long Beach Learning Partnership: Perspectives of District Leaders.

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