Across all of our services and programs, we engage in research and strategic partnerships to expand awareness about the most critical issues in education and the impact of our work in pursuing educational justice.

We hope you’ll read, share, and discuss these reports and that they will be beneficial to your own work.

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COVID-19 Crisis Response in Pajaro Valley Started with Listening to Families

When schools closed their doors in March 2020 due to the coronavirus, administrators in Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) quickly built on existing relationships with their community to identify students’ basic needs and smoothly transition to distance learning.

The district prioritized equity throughout their early COVID-19 crisis response: distributing digital devices alongside multiple forms of technical support; creating multilingual outreach to inform students and families about social distancing protocols; and quickly expanding their communication plans to respond to families’ access and language needs. District leaders worked with teachers and families to ensure that all policies, procedures, and practices put into place to respond to COVID-19 were designed with the district’s most vulnerable students in mind.

English Language Learners and the Local Control Funding Formula: Implementation Challenges and Successes from Two District Cases

In this report, released in partnership by Pivot Learning and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), Dr. Eduardo Muñoz-Muñoz investigates how two California districts have been able to use the flexibility of the LCFF to serve students who are classified as English Language Learners (ELLs).

Both districts—Los Banos Unified School District in the Central Valley and Chino Valley Unified School District in the Inland Empire—showcase instances in which ELLs are benefitting from locally devised mechanisms and structures aimed at improving their education.

English Language Learners and the Local Control Funding Formula
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Growth Culture: A New Approach to School Improvement

There is increasing evidence that highlights a strong connection between student and adult learning. Adults who are learning, growing and collaborating to improve their practice exemplify what is known as a growth culture. This is why Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD)  and Pivot Learning launched a pilot program to evaluate and grow MPUSD’s culture with the goal of creating a better place for adults, and ultimately students, to learn and grow. Read the full whitepaper for a deep-dive into the pilot program, its impact at MPUSD and the implications it could have on professional learning and student outcomes.

The Canary in the Gold Mine: The Implications of Marin’s Rising Pension Costs and Tax Revolt for Increasing Education Funding

Voters in Marin County have long been willing to pass parcel taxes to fund their schools. In 2016, taxes faced unprecedented opposition from local activists; taxes in Kentfield and Mill Valley were defeated or passed by previously unheard-of narrow margins, respectively.

What changed? This case study uses district financial and demographic data as well as interviews and focus groups with advocates and education leaders to answer this question.

Read the Executive Summary.

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The Implications of Sacramento City Unified's Ongoing Budgetary Challenges for Local and State Policy

Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD), California’s thirteenth largest school district, faces a looming deficit and must make significant budget adjustments to avoid state intervention. This case study explores how the district reached this point, how its finances compare with other districts in Sacramento County, and what the implications are for students, particularly those with the greatest needs.

Read the Executive Summary.

The Big Squeeze: How Unfunded Pension Costs Threaten Educational Equity

School districts’ unfunded pension and benefit costs are rapidly increasing at a rate that will become unsustainable. While districts paid approximately $500 per pupil in 2013 for employee pension costs, they will pay $1600 per pupil in 2020. We’ve dubbed this “The Big Squeeze” because it is strangling public education funding, forcing districts to reduce both teacher salaries and crucial services for high-need students.

California must maintain its commitments to retirees, invest in and support teachers, and provide its diverse student population a high-quality education. How does it do all of this in an era of inadequate revenues, massive unfunded pension liabilities, and other soaring costs? This report explores these questions.

Read the Executive Summary.

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Improving LCFF Implementation Through User-Centered Design

Improving LCFF Implementation Through User-Center Design: Year 1 of the LCFF Test Kitchen

More than 5 years after the passage of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), California school districts continue to develop and refine strategies to act on the opportunities and expectations associated with the state’s school finance system. A new project called the LCFF Test Kitchen has enabled three school districts to make progress by leveraging the power of user-centered design. This brief describes progress in Year 1 of the LCFF Test Kitchen and the solutions it has generated.

User-Centered Design as a Pathway to Effective Policy: Lessons from the LCFF Test Kitchen

The process that created California’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) is an example of this traditional approach to policy development. Developed to accompany the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), the LCAP is a document template in which a district is to articulate its goals, identify the strategies designed to achieve those goals, and describe the resources supporting those strategies. The current template is the result of a process designed to satisfy everyone. But in the end, bloated district plans that stretch to hundreds of pages meet nobody’s needs well. The LCFF Test Kitchen set out to address key policy design and implementation challenges in a different way—by employing an approach called user-centered design. This brief addresses the question, “To what extent can user-centered design help us address these policy issues?”

Improving LCFF Improvement Through User-Centered Design
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Crisis on the Coast: The Bay Coastal Foster Youth and Homeless Student Populations

A homelessness crisis is exploding, mostly out of the public view, in Monterey County, just down the bay from the upscale high-tech capital of San Francisco. Surprising findings from a study by Pivot Learning and the National Center for Youth Law show that economic pressures such as skyrocketing rents, low-wage jobs and the overall high cost of living are prompting a spike in student homelessness. Concurrently, the region experienced a pronounced increase in the number of children in foster care. For students in these unstable circumstances, the challenge of keeping up with their peers is daunting.

The Antelope Valley: Over the Hill and Out of Sight

The typical image of California is one of coastal cities and urban centers. But this picture leaves out much of the state and many of its residents. For large numbers of policymakers, foundations, and education leaders, these parts of our large and diverse state are “invisible.” Over the past two decades, however, these communities have emerged as some of the fastest growing and neediest parts of our state. The goal of this report is to highlight and describe the Antelope Valley, identify its available resources, and call attention to the needs of districts, students and their families.

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Rural District Implementation of CCSS

Surprising Strengths and Substantial Needs: Rural District Implementation of Common Core State Standards

For two years , with generous support from the S.H. Cowell and William and Flora Hewlett FoundationPivot Learning supported and collaborated with twenty-one rural districts and counties in Northern California to create the Rural Professional Learning Network (RPLN). Through an iterative design process, the RPLN joined forces to overcome unique challenges due to their limited budgets and remote locations and effectively implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards.

Pivot partnered with Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), an independent, nonpartisan research center at Stanford University, to conduct research and present findings on the current challenges facing rural districts in California.

The Network Solution: How Rural District Networks Can Drive Continuous Improvement

Rural school districts face unique challenges in procuring funds, recruiting staff, and obtaining high-quality technical assistance. This environment creates problems in identifying high-quality instructional materials and implementing best practices. A collaborative learning network can address these challenges by providing access to professional development, collaborative time with peer districts, and economies of scale. Pivot Learning designed the Rural Professional Learning Network (RPLN) to address this need and partnered with the El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE) in the 2016–2017 school year to pilot the program.

The Network Solution: How Rural District Networks Can Drive Continuous Improvement