Publications: Briefs

The California Collaborative on District Reform periodically releases publications to document the work of California districts and to inform discussion around important policy issues.

Units of Study Practice Brief
Common Core Implementation: Units of Study in Sacramento City
March 2014

As district leaders search for the best ways to improve student learning with the Common Core State Standards, some early implementers are giving us an opportunity to learn from their experience. This brief describes Sacramento City Unified School District’s approach to developing units of study that guide teachers’ classroom practice. The units provide a valuable tool for designing curriculum and instructional materials, but just as importantly, they have driven teacher capacity building and engagement teachers in the implementation of the new standards. The brief examines the units of study strategy as it has unfolded in Sacramento, identifies some of the key points of evolution since the district began its work three years ago, and discusses some of the challenges and tensions facing districts that might employ a similar approach.

For more information about SCUSD and Common Core implementation, please view the resources on the Meeting 23 and Common Core pages of the California Collaborative website.

You’ll Never Be Better Than Your Teachers: The Garden Grove Approach to Human Capital Development
September 2013

Teachers matter. Educators, policymakers, and the general public alike agree that great teachers are vital to a thriving K-12 education system, yet the pathways to assembling a high quality teaching force remain elusive. This case study of Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD), winner of the 2004 Broad Prize for Urban Education, demonstrates what a comprehensive approach to maximizing teacher quality can look like in practice. The report examines the strategies behind the district’s two key levers for improvement: (1) getting the best teachers and (2) building the capacity of the teachers it has. The story of Garden Grove is less about what it does, however, than how the district approaches its work. The report therefore explores the district culture and commitment to continuous improvement that produce effective practices of human capital development and enable these practices to achieve success. For more information about GGUSD, please visit the Meeting 15 page.

CCSS brief
California and the Common Core State Standards: Early Steps, Early Opportunities
February 2013

This brief stems from the symposium Collaborating for Success: Implementing the Common Core State Standards in California co-hosted by the California Collaborative in August 2012.  It provides an overview of the promises and challenges of implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as discussed at the symposium by several national experts.  In particular, California Collaborative member, Kenji Hakuta, emphasized the importance of linking English language development with content.  The report presents themes which emerged from conversations among district leaders about their strategies for and experiences with implementing the CCSS.  Themes include strategies for communicating the CCSS vision to various audiences, aligning resources, tools, policies, and practices to support CCSS implementation, and building partnerships with community organizations such as afterschool providers.  The report concludes with a discussion of next steps in California’s transition to the CCSS including the need to ensure equity and access for all students as well as navigating the statess upcoming transition to a new accountability system.

Learning from the Past: Drawing on California’s CLAS Experience to Inform Assessment of the Common Core
Learning from the Past: Drawing on California’s CLAS Experience to Inform Assessment of the Common Core
September 2012

As California approaches a new system of academic standards, instruction, and assessment, it enters familiar territory. The use of multiple modes of assessment, tight alignment between assessments and expectations for student learning, and a focus on assessment for formative (as well as summative) purposes—all with an emphasis on students’ understanding and ability to apply their learning—mirror the state’s priorities as it transitioned to the California Learning Assessment System (CLAS) in the early 1990s. This policy and practice brief examines the CLAS experience to identify lessons for districts as they implement the Common Core today. Through these lessons, districts across the state might build on promising practices from two decades ago while avoiding some of the pitfalls that undermined the CLAS effort. This brief was an outcome of the California Collaborative meeting Digging Into the Standards: Assessment and the Common Core.

Beyond the School: Exploring a Systemic Approach to School Turnaround
Beyond the School: Exploring a Systemic Approach to School Turnaround
February 2011

Recent attention to school turnaround often situates the causes for (and solutions to) persistent low performance at the school level. This policy and practice brief draws on the experience of eight California school districts to suggest a more systemic approach to school improvement. By looking at common approaches across all eight districts and by sharing three districts stories more in-depth, the brief demonstrates the ways that districts can leverage their capacity and resources to more effectively achieve growth in struggling schools. Based on this work, the brief concludes with a set of considerations for how the federal government can promote a more systemic and customized approach to intervention in our lowest-performing schools through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Raising Expectations for Mathematics Instruction in California: Algebra and Beyond
March 2010

This policy and practice brief builds on dialogue that began in response to the California State Board of Education’s July 2008 motion to make Algebra 1 the test of record for California’s eighth grade students. While this decision has since been overturned, districts need to continue to think of ways to help all students meet high standards in mathematics, recognizing the gateway that algebra provides to higher mathematics and college access. To this end, the brief discusses ways in which districts can approach the creation of strong K-12 mathematics curriculum, appropriate placement of students in mathematics courses, enhancement of instructional capacity, and provision of supports for struggling students given the current fiscal and political context in California. The brief concludes with a set of policy recommendations.

Policy Briefs on California Education Finance and Governance
Policy Briefs on California Education Finance and Governance
October 2007

In October 2007, EdSource hosted a policy convening in response to findings from the Getting Down to Facts research project. These four briefs were prepared by a working group of district Collaborative members to inform the dialogue of this “Getting from Facts to Policy” conference. They advocate for new state policy in the areas of (1) governance and finance, (2) standards based funding and accountability systems, (3) accessible and informative data, and (4) teacher preparation and development.