Reports in Brief

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High school students need multiple math pathways

High school math pathways have historically filtered many black and Latino students out of STEM opportunities, so some districts are redesigning their math course sequences and offerings to create multiple options to prepare all students regardless of what field they are pursuing, according to a new report from Just Equations, a project of the nonprofit Opportunity Institute, which analyzes and advocates for equity in education. The report highlights how districts such as Escondido Unified have removed practices that they discovered where limiting opportunities for black and Latino students, such as math tracking, which divides and places students into different math course sequences based on their previous performance.


Homeless youth less likely to attend college

Homeless young people are less likely to attend a four-year college, and those who do often continue to struggle with homelessness, according to a report by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. The report, ninth in a series of research briefs on homeless youth in the U.S., also found that young people without a high school degree or general education diploma are more likely to become homeless. The authors recommend that schools do a better job identifying and supporting homeless students so their educations are disrupted as little as possible, and colleges collect information from applicants about their housing needs, so dormitories and other resources can be made available to students who need it.

California the least affordable for infant child care

The cost of sending an infant to a child care center is less affordable in California than any other state, according to an annual report from Child Care Aware® of America. The average annual cost of center-based infant care in California is $16,542, which amounts to 17.6% of the median income for a two-parent family. The report also found that in 30 states plus D.C., the annual price of center-based child care for an infant exceeds annual in-state tuition and fees at a public university and in 39 states and D.C., the annual prices of center-based child care for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) exceeds average annual mortgage payments.

Innovative program led by teacher leaders provides effective instruction

Since its creation in 2014, the Instructional Leadership Corps, a peer-based professional development project involving the California Teachers Association, the National Board Resource Center and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, has provided multi-session trainings in the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. An examination of four instructional teams, at Madera Unified, Conejo Valley Unified, the East Side Alliance in San Jose and a network of Orange County teacher leaders and CSU Fullerton, found that teachers valued professional learning led by their colleagues, and teacher leaders broadened their sense of professional effectiveness.

What money can buy: Comparison of high schools in San Jose, Urbana and Garfield, NJ

Researchers from the advocacy nonprofit Children Now compared high schools of the same size and demographics in Illinois, New Jersey and California (Gunderson High in San Jose Unified) to determine what difference funding makes. A lot, they found. Gunderson’s cost-adjusted per-student funding is about half of Urbana High, in Illinois, and 60 percent of Garfield High, in New Jersey. Its student-to-teacher ratio was far larger; there were fewer teachers, administrators, counselors and instruction support staff such as social workers, far fewer after-school clubs; fewer courses in math, career technology education and the arts, and fewer hours for teacher training and collaboration.

Harsher discipline for black students linked to wider achievement gaps

If black students are disciplined more harshly than white students in a school district, the gap in academic achievement between black and white students is also wider, according to a new study. The researchers also found that the reverse is true: the larger the achievement gap, the more disproportionate the discipline. The study also confirmed results of previous research, that black and Latino students are more likely to face suspension or expulsion for discipline infractions than their white peers.

“If your district is suspending students of color at higher rates compared to white students, then your district likely is also failing to meet the academic needs of students of color,” author Francis Pearman said in a press release.

The authors call for districts to continue to implement changes in discipline policies and improve their teaching for black and Latino students.

Resources and challenges for undocumented college students in California

This publication by the Campaign for College Opportunity, an advocacy organization, details all the protections and financial help that California has provided the approximately 64,000 to 86,000 undocumented students it says is a conservative estimate of the number of those students enrolled in the state’s public colleges and universities. But interviews found that resources for undocumented students are inconsistent across college campuses and that campus climates can be hostile to them. “Losing, or even underutilizing, these talented students poses a threat to our state’s workforce and economy when you consider California needs an additional 1.65 million college-educated workers by 2030,”  the report asserts.

Building a ‘growth culture’ among educators can make a big difference

Using a model successfully developed by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and successfully applied in industry,  Superintendent P.K. Diffenbaugh of the Monterey Peninsula Unified led an effort to improve school and district culture by applying the latest research on adult development to employees’ lives, relationships, and professional practices. The report asserts that creating a healthy culture, which includes creating a strong sense of community, establishing high levels of trust and the ability to give and receive feedback, can produce significant gains in student achievement. This 10-page case report  describes the approach,  assesses its impact and its implications for the education sector. Co-author Arun Ramanathan is the CEO of PivotLearning, an Oakland-based nonprofit that guided the effort through a grant from the Silver Giving Foundation.

Millennials Aren’t Drowning in Student Debt

This national report seeks to counter what it portrays as an alarmist narrative that college debt is ruining most young people’s lives. It argues against the across-the-board loan forgiveness some presidential candidates advocate. In fact, the study says that 66 percent of millennials have no student debt at all. That’s because they haven’t gone to college or because they managed to get through without having to borrow. And of those who do have college debt, their repayment burdens usually are not out of line with their incomes. Typical four-year-degree graduates who borrow have $28,500 in debt and that can be paid back with monthly payments of less than $200, the study says. However, the author notes that the real ones in debt trouble are borrowers who dropped out of college before earning a degree and are defaulting with loan balances below $5,000. The high rate of default among this group suggests that they are unaware of, or have had trouble navigating, the safety nets available to help them, such as income-based repayment plans.

California community colleges see greater student success when expanding access to transfer-level courses

Thirty-nine California community colleges that significantly expanded access to transfer-level English courses, instead of placing them in remedial courses first, saw significantly more students completing the course in 2018 than in 2015. The share of students completing the English courses in one term increased by 30 percentage points from 24 percent in 2015 to 54 percent, according to a report published Monday by the Public Policy Institute of California. The report analyzed how more than 100 community colleges improved placing students directly in transfer-level math and English in anticipation of a new law known as AB 705, which goes into effect this fall. That law requires the colleges to maximize the likelihood that students will enter and complete transfer-level courses within one year, instead of placing students in a sequence of remedial courses that many students take years to complete, or never do so. The report also found that nearly 63 percent of students who started an English “corequisite course,” devised as an alternative to remedial courses, completed the class on their first try. Corequisite courses are tied to the transfer-level course and provide academic support and assistance to students.

California, too, should adopt a student growth model of school performance

California is one of just two states, the other being Kansas, that does not measure school performance based on the growth of individual students’ scores on standardized tests. Instead, it measures a school’s yearly progress by comparing the change in the scores of this year’s students with those in the same grade the previous year.

The author, an associate professor of education policy at the USC Rossier School of Education, argues in the 13-page report that adopting a student growth model to rate performance on the California School Dashboard would be a “dramatic improvement” and would more validly identify schools succeeding and in need of support. He dispels common misconceptions about the growth model and recommends which version of it the State Board of Education should choose.

Early childhood education more segregated than K-12

Early childhood education programs nationwide are more segregated than K-12 classrooms, according to a new study by researchers at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization focused on public policy. Researchers found that early childhood programs overall are 20 percent more segregated than high schools. Compared to kindergarten and 1st grade, researchers found that early childhood programs are twice as likely to be serving 90 to 100 percent black or Latino children. Included in the study are private and public programs that serve at least five children who are between 0 and 5 years old. “Early childhood education is a key place for addressing—or exacerbating—issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” and racial and ethnic isolation isolation “can lead to missed opportunities for contact and kinship during a critical point in child development,” the study asserts.

70 percent of California districts are implementing Common Core

The majority (70 percent) of districts have implemented Common Core, new academic standards in English language arts and math adopted by California in 2010, a report from the Public Policy Institute of California shows. About a third of districts have not yet started, and rural districts are less likely than urban or suburban districts to be teaching the new standards.

In districts that have adopted the standards, Smarter Balanced test scores for middle school math and English language arts improved slightly, and increases were larger among low-income and Latino students.

More than a million California children still live in concentrated poverty

More than 1 million California children live in neighborhoods with high poverty, according to a new report using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The percentage of children living in poverty has gone down only slightly in recent years, from 15 percent in 2008-12 to 13 percent in 2013-2017. African-American, Latino and Native American children are much more likely than white children to be living in poverty. More than half of Latino children living in poverty nationwide live in California and Texas. Children who live in high-poverty neighborhoods have less access to healthy food, medical care, quality education, and are more likely to be exposed to toxic environmental hazards, such as poor air quality or lead, that can lead to chronic disease.

Gov. Newsom’s pension relief compounds funding inequities

In addition to the $4.4 billion the state is obligated to pay as its share of teacher and administrator pensions, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest budget includes $850 million more to lower school districts’ record contributions to the CalSTRS pension fund. The money will be distributed without regard to equity, and wealthy districts with the best paid teachers will get the biggest portion of the funding, author Carrie Hahnel found. “At a time when rising pension and benefit costs are squeezing school district budgets and leading to painful reductions in student services, the state should be seeking every opportunity to ease the burden on school districts through equity-centered policies, not regressive approaches that exacerbate inequities,” she writes.


Teacher preparation programs lack faculty with early STEM expertise

Teacher preparation programs for elementary math are too often led by faculty who lack connection to elementary classroom instruction, according to a report by 100Kin10, a network of academic institutions, nonprofits, companies, and government agencies aiming to get 100,000 STEM teachers into classrooms nationwide. The report looks at ways to improve early math education by highlighting challenges and opportunities to equip teacher preparation faculty with more expertise in elementary STEM education, and how faculty can better model instructional strategies that teachers should use in the classroom. “There is a scarcity of teacher preparation faculty with expertise in elementary STEM education, making recruitment and selection of faculty with sufficient expertise challenging,” the report reads.

California ranks third from the bottom among states in average college debt load

Class of 2018 graduates from four-year colleges in California left school with an average debt load of $22,585, less than the average debt taken on by students in 47 other states, according to a report published Thursday by the Institute for College Access and Success. About half of students in California graduated with no debt at all, and only students in Utah and New Mexico graduated with less debt on average than California students. The findings reflect previous years’ versions of the same report, which have also showed that only graduates from Utah and New Mexico had smaller debt loads than California’s graduates. Across the United States, the average student loan debt for Class of 2018 graduates was $29,200, a 2 percent increase from the Class of 2017

California community colleges double number of transfer-level math and English

English and math courses that can transfer to California universities have increased dramatically among 47 of California’s 114 community colleges, according to a report released Tuesday by the Campaign for College Opportunity. Transfer-level classes in English have increased from 45 percent to 88 percent since 2017 and from 33 percent to 71 percent in math. The colleges have also increased the number of courses that offer co-requisite remediation, which provides additional support in entry-level classes. Among 47 colleges, 39 now offer this form of remediation in English and 30 offer them in science, technology, engineering and math courses. The report analyzed 47 colleges from the Central Valley, Inland Empire and Los Angeles areas, or about one-third of the community colleges in the state. A new law known as AB 705, which goes into effect this fall, requires the colleges to offer transferable, college-level classes. The report said additional research will be needed to examine the entire two-year college system.

Chronic absenteeism data can diagnose problems that keep kids from learning

State and local policymakers can use chronic absenteeism data to decide where to allocate resources to help improve academic outcomes at schools, according to a new study from American Institutes for Research and Attendance Works. “Using Chronic Absence Data to Improve Conditions for Learning” found that there is a relationship between chronic absenteeism — missing 10 percent or more of a school year — and academic achievement. The study concluded that the data can be used to pinpoint and diagnose problems in the school and community that are causing chronic absenteeism and hurting academic outcomes.




Less than half of America’s high schools teach computer science

Less than half (45 percent) of America’s high schools teach computer science, and low-income students and students in rural areas are among the least likely to attend schools that offer the subject, a new report from, the Computer Science Teachers Association, and Expanding Computing Education Pathways shows.

But things may be changing: Over the last year, 33 states have passed laws to promote computer science. And some states, including California, provide guidance with computer science standards around how to make access to computer science education more equitable.

Free community college could backfire for earning bachelor’s degrees

A Brookings Institution study finds that better financial aid or waiving tuition at four-year public colleges with an income cutoff can effectively increase the rates of students earning bachelor’s degrees. However, it also finds that free community college programs are significantly less effective and can even backfire. While eliminating community college tuition and fees does lead to more associate’s degrees, some students who otherwise would have started at a four-year school instead are drawn to the community college and never earn a bachelor’s degree, the study finds. Besides, most free community college policies exclude students from the lowest-income families since these students already receive federal Pell Grants that cover most, if not all, of the tuition cost for community college.

California lags in Latino college enrollment and degree attainment

A report released today from The Education Trust finds California fails to provide Latinos with the same access to selective universities as white students, despite having a large population of the former. The state is home to more than 60 percent of all Latino students, but the share of these students attending a selective institution is about 23 percent. The report found a 17.1 percentage point gap between the number of California Latinos attending a selective, four-year university and their white peers. The difference was only slightly better for all public four-year universities, at nearly 35 percent for Latinos and 45.7 percent for their white peers.


Common strategies of 7 ‘positive outlier’ districts in California

As a followup to a report last spring, Learning Policy Institute researchers visited and studied seven California districts in which African American, Latino, and white students achieve at high levels on math and English language arts to learn strategies behind their success. Among the commonalities, the authors found instructionally engaged leaders; strategies for hiring and retaining a strong, stable educator workforce; collaborative professional learning; a deliberate, developmental approach to instructional change; systemic supports for students’ academic, social, and emotional needs; and an engagement of families and communities. The districts were Chula Vista Elementary School District, Clovis Unified, Gridley Unified (Butte County), Hawthorne School District, Long Beach Unified, San Diego Unified and Sanger Unified.

How states can benefit from collecting school-level data

School administrators in California and other states have been recalculating data to comply with a new federal law requiring the reporting of spending, including actual, not average, teacher salaries, at the school level. A study of a pilot project of states’ efforts by the National Center for Education Studies found that the work, if done right, could be a useful tool for developing state education policy. Many  participating states found they were able to report complete expenditure data for a high percentage of their schools. Although there are “numerous inherent challenges,” evidence suggests “the feasibility of collecting and reporting school-level finance data of reasonable quality is relatively high.”

Women are poorly represented in political science course readings

There is a major gender gap in political science course readings at colleges across the nation and that could affect women’s choices in becoming professors in that field. So says a new study headed by UC Irvine political science associate professor Heidi Hardt. Only one in five readings assigned to political science graduate students is written by a female author, according to the article published in both The Journal of Politics and PS: Political Science & Politics.  Hardt and co-authors show that women are underrepresented on political science course syllabi and reading lists compared with the rate at which women publish academic articles generally. The researchers analyzed 88,673 readings from 840 syllabi and 65 reading lists used in political science graduate courses.


No seniors took advanced math at 40 percent of California high schools

About 75 percent of all California high school seniors enrolled in a math class in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but only 47 percent of those students were enrolled in advanced math courses above Algebra 2, a study from Policy Analysis for California Education shows. White, Asian and high-income students were much more likely to take advanced math in their senior year, compared with African American, Latino and low-income students. The report also found that students who were admitted to California State University and University of California campuses were much more likely to take advanced math in 12th grade, compared with the overall population of 12th-graders.

Why school principals quit: focus groups share their stories

A study by the Learning Policy Institute draws on evidence from focus groups to understand challenges principals face and suggests strategies to support and retain them, including professional learning opportunities, competitive salaries, more decision-making authority, and timely evaluations and feedback.

Berkeley report ‘Breaking the Silence’ on early child care and education costs

How much would it cost for California to provide high-quality early care and education? According to a new report by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley and the Economic Policy Institute, California should be spending at least $30,000 per child enrolled in child care and preschool. That’s almost four times as much as the state currently spends on children in public preschool. The researchers say in order to provide high-quality early education, lead teachers should be paid $77,214 a year, and there would need to be almost three times as many early childhood teachers in the state as there are currently.

Special ed students, especially African Americans, suspended at high rates

Tackling an issue that has long been a concern to civil rights advocates, this 212-page  report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights shows that special education students with a range of disabilities are suspended at twice the rate of non-disabled students. Among those students, black students with disabilities are suspended or expelled at higher rates than their proportion among all students with disabilities, and that they lose approximately 77 more days of instruction compared to white students with disabilities. It includes two lengthy dissenting reports by commissioners, including one who argues that the disparities noted in the report could well be because of a student’s behavior, not racial discrimination.


Reforming school discipline: what teachers think

An ongoing issue in the push to reduce suspensions and expulsions whether doing so results in improved behavior and school climate, or whether it contributes to the reverse.  This paper by the conservative-leaning Fordham Institute takes what may be the first in-depth look at this issue in a nationally representative sample of teachers were polled on their views on this topic.  A majority of teachers feel that a decline in suspensions in their school has been replaced by a higher tolerance for misbehavior.  Most teachers say alternative strategies have been “somewhat” effective, but that suspensions have their uses, including “sending messages to parents about the seriousness of infractions” and encouraging other students to follow the rules.  It is important to note that the poll is based on teachers perceptions and opinions, rather than any measurement of actual incidents or behavior in schools themselves.

Under-enrollment of students with disabilities in California charter schools

The California Teachers Association and United Teachers Los Angeles provide new evidence behind a familiar argument, that charter schools significantly under-enroll students with disabilities, particularly those with the most expensive impairments to treat, such as autism. The charter under-enrollment significantly shifted special education costs to districts, the study found.  Union researchers say their analysis is the first extensive comparison of enrollment and costs between charter schools and districts that authorized them. It examined the three districts with the largest numbers of charter schools – Los Angeles, San Diego and Oakland. The report details sources for the data and the methodology.

Majority of teens get news from social media and YouTube

More than half (54 percent) of teenagers say they find news at least a few times a week from social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, according to a survey by Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey that polled 1,005 teenagers age 13 to 17 in the United States. Fifty percent or respondents said they get news from YouTube. For teens who turn to YouTube for news consumption, 60 percent said they are more likely to learn about current events by watching videos from celebrities or social media personalities, rather than news organizations.