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Creativity Challenge: The State of Arts Education in California

September 7, 2022

California has long maintained ambitious goals for arts education. The state Education Code requires schools to offer courses of study in four arts disciplines to all California K–12 students. In 2005/06, with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, SRI Education researchers conducted a study of arts education in California. Our goal was to assess schools' arts programs relative to state goals, examine the systems of support for these programs, and identify ways in which state and local policymakers might improve conditions for young people to experience arts education in schools. In 2019, the Hewlett Foundation engaged SRI to "refresh" the 2007 study. In most ways, the current study addresses the same research questions and relies on the same research design and data sources as the earlier report—a statewide school survey, case studies, and analysis of extant data provided by the California Department of Education. The context, however, has changed. Perhaps most prominently, in 2013, with the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), California radically changed its system for funding schools. Importantly, we examined arts education in California schools in school year 2019/20 and as such the data collected for this study reflect the status of arts education in California prior to the pandemic. In 2021 and 2022, before the release of this report (but after data collection), California enacted a host of new policies that may improve students' opportunities to experience arts education in schools.Overall, we found that, while much remained the same in 2020 as in 2006, some aspects of arts education in California's K–12 schools had improved. These improvements coincide with funding increases associated with LCFF and career and technical education (CTE), coordinated advocacy efforts, changes to the state accountability system, and substantial increases in support from school districts, counties, and partner organizations. Nonetheless, despite improvements, California schools still fall short of state goals for arts education and a persistent pattern of inequity emerges from our current data.

Study of the Engage New England Initiative Cross-Site Learning Brief 3: Improving Instructional Systems

December 1, 2020

SRI Education, the research partner for the Barr Engage New England (ENE) initiative, captured the ENE school and program grantees' learnings about improving instructional systems through interviews of school leaders, school staff members, and external partners; student focus groups; and staff surveys during the 2019-20 school year. This brief describes common facilitators and challenges experienced by grantees as they worked to further their instructional systems. It also provides some promising practices that grantees used to support these efforts or to address challenges.

Study of the Engage New England initiative, cross-site learning brief 1: Learnings from the cohort 1 planning process.

October 29, 2018

In 2017, the Barr Foundation launched Engage New England (ENE), a signature initiative that provides a unique opportunity for local education agencies and nonprofits to plan for and develop innovative schools designed to serve students off track to high school graduation. School design partner Springpoint is leading three cohorts of grantees through a three-phase planning year: Understand, Design, and Build. During the Understand phase, grantees conduct research to understand the needs of their student populations. In the Design phase, the grantees design a school model to meet those needs; planning to launch that model begins in the Build phase. The first cohort of grantees received planning year grants for the 2017–18 school year and included a combination of new schools and school redesigns. During the planning year, these grantees assembled teams to lead the design work, collected and analyzed data to learn about their current or potential students and community needs and capacities, articulated design priorities, and began to plan for the launch of the new or refined school model. SRI Education, the research partner for the ENE initiative, captured the learnings from the planning process through interviews, classroom observations, and student focus groups conducted during March and April 2018. The findings in this brief are based on the reflections of the school and design leaders and staff members involved in the design process as well as Springpoint staff members who supported the design process. This brief is designed to benefit all three cohorts of ENE grantees as they plan and build their schools and to highlight key elements of planning for innovative school models.

What It Takes to Create Linked Learning

November 1, 2016

Linked Learning is an approach for transforming high schools to prepare all students for college, career, and life. It works through career-themed pathways that integrate college preparatory academics, rigorous technical training, work-based learning, and supports to help students stay on track. With support from The James Irvine Foundation, SRI International has evaluated this approach at work in nine school districts across California over the course of seven years.

Improving Early Literacy in PreK-3: Lessons Learned

August 23, 2016

In 2011, The McKnight Foundation partnered with a set of districts and schools in the Twin Cities area, all serving high-needs students, on a PreK–3 literacy initiative. The Pathway Schools Initiative aims to dramatically increase the number of students who reach the critical milestone of third-grade reading proficiency, an indicator predictive of later academic outcomes and high school graduation. This report focuses on findings from Phase I of the Pathway Schools Initiative (2011–2015).The McKnight Foundation selected the Urban Education Institute (UEI) at the University of Chicago to serve as the initiative's intermediary. UEI was tasked with providing the intellectual, conceptual, and managerial leadership for the initiative as well as professional development and technical assistance focused on literacy and leadership to the Pathway districts and schools. UEI anchored this support on two, validated diagnostic tools developed at the University of Chicago: the Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress (STEP) developmental literacy assessment and the 5Essentials Survey.Participating Pathway schools and districts carried out the day-to-day work of the initiative. They used grant funds to expand or refine their PreK programs; hire additional staff such as program managers, literacy coaches, classroom aides, and family engagement liaisons; and purchase high-quality instructional materials, such as classroom libraries or tablets.An advisory group, the Education and Learning National Advisory Committee (ELNAC), was established in 2010 to help inform decisions about the initiative. SRI International has served as the initiative's evaluator since 2010.

Empowering Adults to Thrive at Work: Personal Success Skills for 21st Century Jobs: A Report on Promising Research and Practice

March 8, 2016

The growing significance of personal success skills has been a challenge for those trying to help struggling adults get and keep good jobs, and grow in careers. Workforce development programs tend to focus on occupational skills, like welding, truck driving, and phlebotomy. And "job readiness training" in these programs too often means resume writing and interviewing -- two skills no employer asks for. Three reasons for this collective neglect are (1) a lack of clarity about what, specifically, we're talking about when we refer to these skills; (2) common belief that these factors, which seem in sum to constitute one's personality, aren't going to change in adulthood; and (3) uncertainty about the best ways to help adults develop them. A new study conducted by SRI International for the Joyce Foundation addresses each of these hurdles. It supplies a coherent framework for understanding what the skills are, summarizes research that shows they can still be developed well into adulthood (old dogs CAN learn new tricks), and highlights effective programs around the country that are already empowering so many struggling adults to successfully pursue quality employment. This report is a charge to educators and workforce development providers, human services agencies, policymakers, foundations and researchers to begin addressing the economic opportunity challenge of our time. SRI has provided recommendations to each of these groups on how to get started. Now, it's our job to take up the charge.

Pathway Schools Initiative Developmental Evaluation: Learning Brief

January 1, 2016

By supporting the adoption of evidence-based PreK -- 3 policies and practices, The McKnight Foundation's Pathway Schools Initiative seeks to dramatically increase the percentage of proficient third-grade readers in high need schools. To support real-time learning, decisionmaking, and improvement of new practices, programs, and policies, The McKnight Foundation has engaged Pathway Schools Initiative leaders in a developmental evaluation (DE) of highpriority questions of practical interest. DE is a collaborative effort that begins with identification of a question about challenges or new approaches to meeting students', teachers', and other critical stakeholders' needs. DE then supports continuous improvement by gathering data and offering rapid, relevant feedback to the initiative leaders, who develop action plans based on the implications of the findings. The DE team was composed of two to three leaders from each of the participating schools and districts1 and staff members from McKnight, the Urban Education Institute (UEI) at the University of Chicago, SRI International, and Child Trends. This learning brief summarizes the team's first DE question, research methods, findings, and action plans. The team intends to address two to three DE questions each year.

Lessons from Five Years of Funding Digital Coursework, Executive Summary

September 1, 2014

As the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Postsecondary Success strategy enters its fifth year of learning technology investments, it is a good time to take stock of what has been learned and to draw implications for future investments. The foundation asked SRI Education to review the major courseware-related projects in the Postsecondary Success portfolio and provide an independent synthesis of findings.The foundation identified the 12 major postsecondary courseware-related projects in Exhibit 1 as sufficiently completed to contribute to SRI's review. Three of the projects were actually sets of multiple grants or subgrants addressing a common goal. In total, the courseware investments reviewed by SRI involved 137 courses and represented approximately 90% of the foundation's financial investment in postsecondary courseware over the last five years.Primary data sources for this synthesis and review were final and interim reports submitted by the 12 projects and their subgrantees, interviews with principal investigators, and project-related research articles and additional data provided in response to SRI's request. Proposals, RFPs (requests for proposals), and project websites provided additional background information.SRI analyzed the features of the 137 different courses developed or evaluated through these projects and performed a quantitative meta-analysis of student outcomes for those projects that provided the data needed to estimate the impact of the project's courseware.It is important to keep in mind that this review reflects a window in time. Technology advances rapidly, and product features and approaches that are commonplace today were either just emerging or even unheard of in 2009 when the first of the grants reviewed here was awarded. To take a prominent example, MOOCs (massive open online courses) as they are known today did not really arrive on the scene until 2012, and the MOOCs that were the products of some of the Postsecondary Success grants reviewed here were using early versions of MOOC platforms that have since been revised.