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SanDERA Mission Statement

The San Diego Education Research Alliance (SanDERA) at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) conducts rigorous and relevant research that contributes to the development of education policy and informs, supports, and sustains high-quality educational opportunities for all students in San Diego and beyond.

Welcome from the Executive Director and Director

Betts and Bachofer

Julian Betts and Karen Bachofer

The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and the UCSD Department of Economics have partnered to create a research entity called the San Diego Education Research Alliance at UCSD (SanDERA). SanDERA builds on a decade-long collaborative research relationship between UCSD and SDUSD that has resulted in the publication of more than 20 books and papers on a variety of topics ranging from the determinants of student achievement, the progress of English Learners, and school choice to detailed evaluations of major reading reforms implemented in San Diego and studies of the impact of the California High School Exit Exam, the use of the Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project (MDTP), Career and Technical Education (CTE), and the district's new "college prep for all" graduation policy.

SanDERA is led by an Executive Committee made up of Julian Betts, professor and former chair of the Department of Economics at UCSD, who also serves as the Executive Director of SanDERA, Karen Volz Bachofer, Ph.D., former Executive Director of SDUSD’s Research and Evaluation Division and now the Director of SanDERA, Andrew Zau, SanDERA’s Senior Statistician, Ron Rode, Director of the Office of Research and Development at SDUSD, Peter Bell, Ph.D., Director of Data Analysis and Reporting at SDUSD, and Dina Policar, Director of Instructional Data Support at SDUSD.

We welcome you to the SanDERA website and hope you will visit often to see what SanDERA is up to.

"College Prep for All" Report Released by PPIC

Several of California's large urban school districts have adopted ambitious new high school graduation requirements, making college preparatory coursework mandatory.  On April 29, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released College Prep for All: Will San Diego Students Meet Challenging New Graduation Requirements? – a report that examines the progress of San Diego Unified School District's Class of 2016, the first class subject to the new graduation policy.  The full report can be accessed by clicking on the report title, above.

Newly Released "College Prep for All" Report

SanDERA Releases Updated Report on San Diego's "College Prep for All" Policy

On March 15, SanDERA released College Prep for All: Will San Diego Students Meet Challenging New Graduation Requirements? The paper is co-authored by Julian Betts, executive director of SanDERA and professor of economics at UC San Diego, with Sam Young, a doctoral candidate in economics at UC San Diego, Andrew Zau, senior statistician for SanDERA, and SanDERA Director Karen Volz Bachofer.

In the class of 2016, the first class subject to the new requirement, about 10 percent more students may become eligible to apply to the California State University and University of California systems, but as many as 16 percent more students may not graduate at all. That translates roughly to 650 more students ready for higher education and 1,000 more who will find themselves in June without a high school diploma.

Students at risk of not graduating on time could still meet the requirement, the co-authors note. The district has implemented online credit recovery courses that satisfy the a-g requirements and, if students take them and pass, the graduation rate may be higher. However, as of August 2015, about 12 percent of students in the class of 2016 had more than a year of coursework to complete in a single subject area. More worrying, Betts said, almost 15 percent of students had more than a full year of coursework to complete in not just one but two or more subject areas during 2015-16.

The study was supported by funding from the Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research at UC San Diego. A final version of the report will be published by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) in late April 2016.

UC San Diego News Center Features SanDERA "College Prep for All" Paper

The UC San Diego News Center announces the release of SanDERA's new "College Prep for All" report on thisweek@ucsandiego.  CLICK HERE to view the full article.

Featured Publication (May 2014)

New Report on the Success of Reclassified English Learners Now Available

On May 7th, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released Pathways to Fluency: Examining the Link Between Language Reclassification Policies and Student Success, a report co-authored by Laura Hill and Belen Chavez (PPIC) and Julian Betts, Andrew Zau, and Karen Volz Bachofer (SanDERA at UCSD).  The report is based on a study of the two largest school districts in California, Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified, which together serve about 15 percent of California’s English Learners.  Researchers found that English Learners who are reclassified as proficient in English by the end of fifth grade perform as well or better academically than native English speakers – and they continue to do so through middle and high school.  

The issue of reclassification has taken on added urgency because California is implementing a major overhaul of K-12 standards and the testing system.  The state is also changing the way it funds schools.  Under the new Local Control Funding Formula, districts with high numbers of English Learners receive additional funding.  

  • Researchers conclude the report with a list of policy recommendations, among them:
  • Consider allowing districts to reclassify students on the basis of a single test.
  • Reconsider the use of reclassification criteria that are more rigorous than the State Board of Education recommends.
  • Consider a uniform standard for reclassification across the state's school districts.

The report was supported with funding from the Donald Bren Founcation and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

Great Grant News!

SanDERA-SDUSD Partnership Awarded IES Grant

The U.S. Department of Education Institute for Education Sciences (IES) has named SanDERA a recipient of a grant in the Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research category. The project, which was developed jointly by SanDERA and San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), is entitled Academic Trajectories and Policies to Narrow Achievement Gaps in San Diego. Over the next two years, SanDERA and SDUSD will examine the progress of district students from Kindergarten through Grade 12 in order to determine ideal “trajectories” and identify trouble spots that derail students or particular groups of students as they progress toward graduation. SanDERA and the district will then develop, field test, and deploy a set of on-track indicators to help district leadership, school staff, and parents quickly identify and support students who are off track.

Featured Publication (April 2014)

Evaluation of the Outcomes of Career and Technical Education in San Diego (April 2014)

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 requires the U.S. Department of Education to conduct a National Assessment of Career and Technical Education (NACTE) to examine the status and effectiveness of career and technical education (CTE) in the United States.  To broaden the national evaluation, the USDOE commissioned a number of district-level studies aimed at determining the factors that lead high school students to enroll in and complete CTE coursework.  SanDERA researchers were selected to conduct a two-part study of CTE in San Diego.  The resulting reports – one qualitative and one quantitative – are now available.

The quantitative component of the study, authored by Julian R. Betts, Andrew C. Zau, Dallas Dotter, and John McAdams, examines the CTE program in SDUSD from 2007-2010 to determine the overall availability of CTE coursework at each school and the district, overall.  The study goes on to explore which students enroll in CTE coursework and the relationships between CTE course-taking and high school and postsecondary academic outcomes.  (Click here for Executive Summary or Full Report.)  

The qualitative component, authored by Karen Volz Bachofer, Julian R. Betts, and Andrew C. Zau, is a descriptive case study that explores the relationships between CTE program characteristics (programmatic, organizational, instructional) and school success in seven high schools and the district, overall.  It also explores staff and student perceptions of the CTE program and the benefits/drawbacks to enrolling in CTE coursework.  (Click here for Executive Summary or Full Report.)

Key Findings

  • There is a structured and comprehensive CTE program in San Diego, and evidence of substantial involvement of business/industry partners.
  • About 93% of students in San Diego have taken at least one CTE course.
  • Establishing and maintaining complete career pathways in individual high schools is a challenge due to changing site leadership, emphasis on college-prep coursework, and lack of program awareness.
  • Insufficient funding and master scheduling challenges are the biggest barriers to CTE program success.
  • There is no evidence that taking CTE coursework is associated with lower high school or postsecondary outcomes.
  • Staff and students agree on the benefits of CTE program participation: career awareness and exploration, acquisition of job and life skills, real-world relevance and application in coursework, and engaging and motivating curriculum.