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Collaborative Outcomes from the Youth Justice and Employment Community of Practice

October 18, 2022

Established in mid-2021, the Youth Justice and Employment Community of Practice (CoP) is a partnership of the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF), the National Youth Employment Coalition (NYEC), and Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) formed to improve outcomes for youth with justice involvement by increasing collaboration among local workforce and juvenile justice systems. The CoP began during the middle of COVID-19 at a time when counterparts in each jurisdiction were seeking to reestablish pandemic-disrupted communication and collaboration. CoP participants met monthly to share knowledge and expertise on topics of importance to both systems. Based on work from the CoP, participating cities and counties produced notable improvements in building relationships, expanding partnerships, and promoting investments that benefit justice-involved young people in their communities. This report documents successes and offers recommendations for others seeking to improve outcomes for these young people.

Asian Immigrant Experiences with Racism, Immigration-Related Fears, and the COVID-19 Pandemic

June 18, 2021

Asian immigrants have faced multiple challenges in the past year. There has been a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, driven, in part, by inflammatory rhetoric related to the coronavirus pandemic, which has spurred the federal government to make a recent statement condemning and denouncing acts of racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian American communities and to enact the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. At the same time, immigrants living in the U.S. have experienced a range of increased health and financial risks associated with COVID-19. These risks and barriers may have been compounded by immigration policy changes made by the Trump administration that increased fears among immigrant families and made some more reluctant to access programs and services, including health coverage and health care. Although the Biden administration has since reversed many of these policies, they may continue to have lingering effects among families.Limited data are available to understand how immigrants have been affected by the pandemic, and there are particularly little data available to understand the experiences of Asian immigrants even though they are one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the U.S. and are projected to become the nation's largest immigrant group over the next 35 years. To help fill these gaps in information, this analysis provides insight into recent experiences with racism and discrimination, immigration-related fears, and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic among Asian immigrant patients at four community health centers.The findings are based on a KFF survey with a convenience sample of 1,086 Asian American patients at four community health centers. Respondents were largely low-income and 80% were born outside the United States. The survey was conducted between February 15 and April 12, 2021. 

Building Leadership Capacity to Improve Math Teaching and Learning: Lessons from the Math in Common Initiative

September 1, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has required educators to make a seismic shift to distance learning, first on an emergency basis early in the crisis, and now with some amount of pre-planning in fall 2020. Many educators are concerned that distance learning exacerbates students' inability to access and engage in high-quality math learning. Educators are particularly concerned about learning for the groups of students that, prior to the pandemic, were already performing less well than average on the state math achievement test: Black students, English learner students, and students with disabilities.Before COVID-19, there was already a growing awareness that school site leaders' instructional leadership could be critical for raising student achievement. The pandemic further highlighted the potential for targeted leadership development to improve math teaching and learning in California schools at a moment when achievement gaps could be widening.Findings from WestEd's evaluation of a seven-year initiative called Math in Common may offer some useful insights at this time. Math in Common was organized to support 10 California districts in effectively implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) across grades K-8. A key part of the effort to improve math teaching and learning in these districts involved providing leadership development opportunities for many types of district and school leaders — from teacher leaders and instructional coaches to principals and district administrators — to help them understand and support the math content and instruction that teachers are expected to use.In this brief, we offer three recommendations for how educators in California and beyond should conceptualize new leadership development opportunities to support math improvement - during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. We offer these recommendations to a broad audience of educators, administrators, and policymakers concerned with building leaders' capacity for school improvement, including representatives from county offices of education, district central offices, the California Subject Matter Projects, the newly formed California Leadership academies, and leadership associations such as the Association for California School Administrators. To ground our recommendations, we begin with some brief background on the CCSS-M and the Math in Common initiative.

Cross-Community Evaluation Findings 2019: for the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative

July 1, 2020

Four years into this collective effort to aggregate and analyze data of communities in the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative, we are beginning to yield some findings that are consistent year-over-year—and actionable. This report presents the findings of evaluation work completed during the 2018–2019 program year and homes in on those findings most ripe for appreciation and action.There is a strong correlation between teens' connection to Jewish values and and the influence those values have on the livesteens choose to lead. Substantive Jewish content creates a sense of belonging, a desire to do good in the world, and a platformfor teens to build friendships—these peer relationships also contribute to strong Jewish outcomes overall. Importantly, the report concludes with recommendations applicable beyond the 10 community-based teen initiatives, informing any organization committed to effective teen programs, professional development for youth professionals, and affordability of programs for parents.The report draws from a variety of sources to offer a snapshot of a moment in time, and evaluation alone cannot provide the full picture of tectonic shifts occurring on the ground in these 10 communities. Extremely complex efforts involving stakeholders, implementers, and the communities are making lasting and positive changes to the culture impacting teen engagement.We encourage you to read the complementary case studies documenting the work, along with previous reports, all found onthe Learnings page of 

Disparate Debts: How Student Loans Drive Racial Inequality Across American Cities

June 29, 2020

This report examines alarming racial disparities in student debt burdens and borrower distress across American cities. The report highlights trends and offers new analysis of recent research by economists and city officials in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and San Francisco. The report finds student borrower distress is heavily concentrated in majority-Black and majority-Latinx neighborhoods, and offers stark new evidence of the role of student debt in exacerbating the nation's vicious cycle of inequality and racial wealth gap.

Math in Common: Reflections after Five Years

April 13, 2020

Math in Common is a seven-year initiative launched in spring 2013 that supports a formal network of ten diverse California school districts as they implement the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSS-M) in grades K-8. The ten unified school districts are: Dinuba, Elk Grove, Garden Grove, Long Beach, Oakland, Oceanside, Sacramento City, San Francisco, Sanger, and Santa Ana. Eight districts, all but Garden Grove and Long Beach, will continue to work together in a community of practice through June 2020. The initiative is funded by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. WestEd serves as the formative evaluator and California Education Partners facilitates the community of practice.Foundation staff has partnered with all ten districts in the initiative's first five years through regular phone calls, site visits, formal grant reports, participation in three community of practice meetings each year, and involvement in optional multi-district events. Based on this experience, staff has compiled reflections on this ambitious investment in California's students and educators. We are sharing these reflections here in the belief that learning from Math in Common provides current "real-world" evidence of best practices applicable to standards implementation, as well as insights into barriers districts may encounter.

Building Capacity for Improving California Mathematics Teaching and Learning: How the Math in Common Districts Leveraged Three Types of Expertise

January 1, 2020

Imagine a school district administrator in the fictional California district of "Rosewood," who is concerned about her 5th grade students' proficiency in math. Fifth grade math achievement scores have been static in the district and teachers say that many 5th graders are struggling with multiplication, even though it was supposed to be introduced in 3rd grade through the California Common Core State Standards: Mathematics (CCSS-M). Rosewood's district math team has tried to address principals' and teachers' concerns with multiplication, but those efforts don't seem to be moving the needle for students. The Rosewood administrator is ready to dedicate more resources toward improving 5th grade student math learning, and wants to be efficient in seeking technical assistance (TA) to help solve this district challenge. How might this administrator go about identifying and obtaining relevant and appropriate technical assistance?Under California's funding structures, districts have autonomy to purchase technical assistance in prioritized need areas.1 That freedom can be both a blessing and curse, as there are thousands of consultants, nonprofits, and resources available in the multimillion-dollar technical assistance marketplace -- almost all of which promise to help districts solve their problems, but very few of which have been vetted by any authority.The 10 districts in the Math in Common (MiC) community of practice regularly faced the kind of scenario unfolding in Rosewood. That is, they often needed to seek out TA to help them address issues related to implementing the CCSS-M -- ranging from improving the alignment of their textbooks' lessons, to supporting better standards-aligned instruction for English learners, to reconfiguring teacher professional learning communities (PLCs) to help teachers effectively implement the standards. But unlike most California school districts, MiC participants received significant support on making TA decisions through MiC's community of practice. Their experience highlights a major issue in standards implementation across the state: Districts need to be thoughtful, and well supported, in identifying and accessing TA that will help them bring standards to life in their local contexts and ultimately improve student achievement.As MiC's evaluator, WestEd examined districts' experiences with standards implementation in a comprehensive series of formative and summative evaluation reports spanning 2013-2019. This brief summarizes our learning from these reports on the successes and challenges that districts encountered.

San Francisco Foundation 2019 Annual Report

October 28, 2019

Read our 2019 annual report.

Supporting Vulnerable Communities: Strengthening Nonprofits Before and Immediately after a Catastrophic Disaster

September 23, 2019

The Foundation recognizes that nonprofits play a key role in disaster relief and recovery for vulnerable communities and that many of these organizations will serve as "first responders" because they are already trusted resources in these communities through their daily provision of safety net services. To enable the Foundation to help meet the immediate relief needs of vulnerable communities in the aftermath of a disaster, it developed agreements with key social service grantees for rapid, almost automatic, grantmaking during the initial post-disaster period when communication systems are compromised and needs assessments have not yet been conducted. Additionally, to increase the likelihood that these organizations would be in a position to deliver services and utilize these funds, the Foundation sought their commitment to disaster planning and offered technical assistance to support them in their efforts.

Understanding Complex Instructional Change: Classroom Observations of Math in Common Districts

January 1, 2019

Although mathematics standards have changed dramatically in recent years, teaching mathematics is as complex as it has always been. Some would argue that mathematics teaching has become even more complex, with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010), as teachers are being asked to make significant shifts in their instruction.1 Teachers report that they are incorporating math standards into their daily practice and are feeling positive about their efforts to do so (Reade, Perry, & Heredia, 2018; Perry, Marple, & Reade, 2017), but the education field still has little empirical documentation on exactly how math teachers are shifting their classroom instruction to align with the CCSS-M. Exactly what are math teachers doing in their classrooms to help students master the standards?Part of the reason for the lack of data is the challenge of accurately measuring what happens during classroom instruction. The only real way to know what is happening in classrooms is through direct observation, and while it may be possible to get the gist of math classes through quick "drop-in" observations, it is ideal, for a systemic understanding of change, to use a valid and reliable observation instrument tied to specific elements of instruction. This sort of targeted instrument enables observers to obtain meaningful data and identify patterns in instruction across different lessons and teachers.Regardless of who carries out these observations and analyzes the resulting data -- teachers, principals, district staff, or partners from a research institution -- it is challenging and time-consuming work. But this work is essential in order to gain knowledge of how the standards are being implemented in classrooms to support all students in achieving mastery of the CCSS-M. Without understanding of how teachers and students are responding to the standards, it is impossible to know what supports and course changes are still needed, from either a district perspective or a policy perspective. Additionally, we frequently hear that there are not enough real-life examples of what the CCSS-M look like in classrooms when implemented well. Without examples of high-quality, standards-aligned instruction, it is difficult for educators to imagine how the standards should look and feel in their own classrooms, or to gauge their own progress. Carefully documented classroom observations can be a source of these sorts of real-world examples of standards-aligned instruction.The Math in Common (MiC) initiative was launched to support CCSS-M implementation in grades K-8 in 10 California school districts. As part of its evaluation of MiC, WestEd conducted classroom observations in participating MiC districts to document K-8 teachers' instructional shifts related to the CCSS-M. The research staff visited elementary and middle school classrooms in nine MiC school districts, during the 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 academic years, to observe and analyze mathematics lessons, using an observation protocol adapted for this project. Participants from MiC teams often joined us during the observations and debriefed with us afterwards.Our preliminary learning from these classroom observation data was publicly reported in a blog post characterizing common structural features of highly rated lessons (Seago & Perry, 2017) and in case studies of incremental change in teacher practice over time (Seago & Carroll, 2018). This report describes additional analyses of observation data on eight dimensions of classroom mathematics instruction. These analyses are drawn from our complete set of classroom observation data: 201 lesson observations, representing more than 130 hours of observation over three years. We begin the report by describing our classroom observation protocol and the dimensions of classroom instruction that we observed using this protocol. We then present our findings on the instructional variability that we saw across classrooms and districts. Next, drawing on classroom transcripts and observation data, we discuss what highly rated classrooms looked like across the various dimensions that we observed, and how administrators and others can support this sort of CCSS-M-aligned instruction. The report concludes with several recommendations for conducting effective classroom observations.Our primary goal with this report is to share with teachers and administrators what we have learned about how particular elements of CCSS-M-aligned instruction look and feel when implemented effectively in the classroom. We also wish to stimulate discussion in the field about what kinds of information can best help educators understand standards implementation, and to share emerging insights from our experience trying to measure shifts in mathematics instruction.

What Accelerates a Community of Practice? Inflection Points That Changed the Course of the Math in Common Initiative

January 1, 2019

Establishing professional communities of educators from districts and schools has gained popularity as a mechanism for collaboratively thinking through and enacting change in education. Modeled on successful practices in business and healthcare, education-focused networks embody the belief that "learning is better together" (Bryk, Gomez, Grunow, & LeMahieu, 2015) -- that a group of organizations or individuals can learn more quickly and effectively by working together than by working in isolation.In 2013, 10 California school districts received grant funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation ("the Foundation") to participate in the Math in Common (MiC) initiative to support implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010). The districts were located across the state, ranging in size and characteristics, from large urban districts to small rural districts. A portion of the grant funding to the districts was dedicated to enabling their participation in a community of practice (CoP) to "share lessons learned with each other [about implementing the CCSS-M] and participate in learning communities to share instructional materials and best practices" (S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, 2012).Rather than creating a "networked improvement community," whose collaborative work is driven by a very targeted and specific common problem of practice or improvement aim,1 MiC organized its CoP around collective learning about mathematics standards implementation in a very broad sense.The trajectory of the MiC CoP was guided by the convening organization, California Education Partners ("Ed Partners"), in response to direct engagement with the districts and their perceived needs over the course of the initiative. WestEd worked alongside Ed Partners and the districts, using evaluation findings to help hone the CoP's focus, ensure that the work was data-driven, and support capacity building. Figure 1 shows the participants in the MiC CoP.While it is difficult to condense the rich array of the initiative's activities into one linear timeline, it does seem that the initiative can be divided into two fairly distinct phases. This report describes how the MiC CoP gradually honed its focus over the first five years of the initiative. It begins by describing actions taken early in the initiative that laid important foundations for the CoP. During this first phase (2013-2015), Ed Partners devoted significant effort to developing the structure of the CoP, offering a range of potential focal ideas to the CoP, and building trusting relationships across the districts. The report's discussion of the second phase, building on these earlier efforts, highlights what we have identified as the seven most significant inflection points -- that is, points where the trajectory of the MiC CoP changed. These seven inflection points resulted from lessons learned from the earlier years and, in most cases, led to more productive collaborative work in the later years of the initiative, when work shifted from thinking broadly and generally about implementation to focusing far more specifically on classroom instruction and on how to achieve the mathematics instruction that districts were hoping for under the CCSS-M.Rather than providing a "how to" manual for CoPs, we intend for this report to describe the trajectory of the MiC CoP, including both its missteps and its successes, in the hope that designers or participants of other formal or informal CoPs can leverage the MiC experience and make progress more quickly in their own collaborations.

Roadblocks and Routes: Professional Development in Math in Common Districts

January 1, 2019

In their proposals to join the Math in Common (MiC) initiative, staff from each of the 10 participating districts acknowledged that the shifts required to implement the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) (NGA Center & CCSSO, 2010) would be a huge lift for teachers. They knew that mathematics teachers would be required to take up new, sometimes foreign ways of doing their work with students. Learning to provide useful, impactful professional development (PD) to support teachers in this process would become a primary focus of MiC.Unfortunately, even before the challenge of supporting teachers' classroom instruction to implement the new, demanding standards, teacher PD had been shown to be only minimally impactful (Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001; Garet et al., 2001; Gersten, Taylor, Keys, Rolfhus, & Newman-Gonchar, 2014). Because of teachers' very different experiences and expertise, districts can find challenges in providing the types of support that all teachers want, need, and find useful, and that will ultimately have positive impacts on student achievement. With regard to the CCSS-M, an even larger challenge was the scale of the shifts. The new standards meant that staff at every level of each district system, regardless of their experience, would need to build new understandings about mathematics content and about teaching and learning -- teachers as they supported their students, coaches and principals as they supported teachers, and district staff as they supported coaches and principals.In working to build the understandings of all of these different staff groups about implementing the CCSS-M, districts faced several common "roadblock" conditions -- specific challenges related to how to provide effective, scalable PD to staff, administrators, and teachers in support of CCSS-M implementation. Despite the challenges that they presented, these roadblocks also created rich environments for innovation, problem solving, and learning across the MiC community of practice.This report describes some of the more common roadblocks that MiC districts faced in their early years of CCSS-M implementation, and routes that the districts took around the roadblocks in order to support teacher and student learning. These descriptions of district PD efforts are not meant to provide comprehensive reporting of all PD offerings across all 10 MiC districts over the five-year initiative. Moreover, districts may have, and probably did, take multiple other routes to bypass similar roadblocks. However, we hope that other districts can learn from and adapt some of the more widely adopted and successful routes taken in the MiC districts. This report also includes brief vignettes, in The View from the Field text boxes, of districts' practices, to more clearly illustrate some of these roadblocks and the routes around them.