School & District Improvement

In order to support the California Department of Education (CDE) in its mission to provide a world-class education for all students, the CA CC focuses on three vital aspects of school and district improvement: compliance monitoring for state and federal programs, strategic planning at the district level, and targeted support for low-performing schools. The Work Highlights below follow these three areas of focus.

Work Highlights

School Improvement Grant (SIG) Webinar Resources

The SIG Webinar resources have migrated to the new CA CC website, found here.

Effective District Planning

The CA CC is supporting the CDE’s initiative to restructure strategic planning process requirements for schools and districts. As part of this initiative, the CA CC conducted a research study on how successful districts develop and implement improvement plans that led to increased student achievement.

High-Performing, High-Need (Beating the Odds)

The CA CC has engaged in several initiatives with the CDE related to providing support to low-performing schools and districts. One such initiative is the identification and description of schools and districts that are outperforming their demographic equals or as we like to call it “beating the odds.” The CA CC developed reports on the identified schools and districts and hosted online webinar presentations as well.

A Climate for Academic Success: How School Climate Distinguishes Schools That Are Beating the Achievement Odds

School success is often defined in absolute terms, such as average standardized test scores. But such criteria are known to be strongly correlated with the socioeconomic characteristics of a school’s student body. The fact that a largely affluent student body is linked to school success offers little useful direction for those trying to improve achievement in struggling schools with low-income student populations.

To address this limitation, the present study’s design and methodology take student characteristics into account. Specifically, a successful school is defined as one whose test scores are better than would be predicted based on its student characteristics. Using this definition, A Climate for Academic Success investigates how two factors—school climate and school personnel resources—differed among three groups of California secondary schools.

Special Education

This paper was prepared in response to a request from the California State Board of Education and the California Advisory Commission on Special Education to provide information regarding special education spending in California. The paper includes a national overview of special education funding and provision, presents data on special education in California as compared to other states and the nation, and examines state-level special education spending in California in greater detail.

Schools to Watch

This study describes the Schools to Watch (STW) program nationally and focuses on California’s “Schools to Watch—Taking Center Stage” (STW-TCS). The report presents demographic and achievement statistics on participating STW-TCS schools and compares them with other middle-grades schools across the state and summarizes program perspectives as expressed by a randomly selected sample of 12 STW-TCS principals. Based on the data used in this study, STW-TCS schools show somewhat higher achievement on average than all other California middle grades schools (even when controlling for demographics). All the interviewed principals spoke positively about the program, highlighting network opportunities that arise from the program, a focus on continuous improvement and positive publicity for the school. Reported challenges included the time commitment and the cost of participating in conferences.