Back to School in the Era of COVID-19: Uncertainties, Complexities, and Emerging Plans

California Context

This collection of readings provides a broad overview of the progress California has made in terms of ensuring educational equity for all students, other factors that may influence students outside of school, and the longstanding challenges that stand in the way of change.

**Edley Jr., C., & Kimner, H. (2018). Education equity in California: A review of Getting Down to Facts II Findings. Available at Getting Down to Facts website:

This research brief summarizes the implications of current education literature and policy on equity in California. Topics of discussion include teaching pipeline and distribution, early childhood and English learners (ELs), school finance, statewide accountability, and equity. The brief introduces the concept of “whole child equity” and addresses the fit between individual needs and resources. In order to do so, practices and policies must align in their use of valid and reliable measurements, link scientific research with intervention and supports, bring together child-serving agencies that support student success, and support multidisciplinary collaboration by service providers. Furthermore, the authors argue that equity indicators and California data systems must be implemented, regularly evaluated, and integrated across segments and systems to reflect the diversity of the state’s students and teachers. Furthermore, they suggest that California must critically analyze existing policies and data systems to ensure that updated equity indicators are consistent with priority areas, accountability measures and requirements are comprehensive, and systems and supports are known and used effectively. The research brief concludes with specific policy recommendations on each topic of discussion, emphasizing the shared goal on equity and achievement for all.

Resnikoff, N. (2020). Narrowing California’s K-12 student achievement gaps. Available at Legislative Analyst’s Office website:

Tasked by the California Legislature with analyzing achievement gaps in California K-12 schools, this report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office examines differences in funding, shares efforts the state is already undertaking to close gaps, and proposes new ways the state can support under-performing student groups. The authors found that among racial groups, African American student performance was the lowest, but there are several other student groups that struggle in school (e.g., foster youth, ELs, students from low income families). The report also describes state efforts to close the gaps, including state funding and accountability systems, but notes that funding and support differences remain. One solution proposed in the report is to improve how county offices approve district’s Local Control and Accountability Plans. The authors also suggest that the state make achievement gap data more accessible, provide more professional learning opportunities for school and district leaders, and create assistance plans for low-performing districts.

Bohn, S., Danielson, C., & Thorman, T. (2019). Just the facts: Child poverty in California. Available at Public Policy Institute of California website:

This factsheet summarizes facts related to child poverty in California. According to the factsheet, child poverty rates in California remain higher than before the recession as 18.1% of children in poverty were recorded in 2017. Despite this, federal and state social safety nets like the Earned Income Tax Credit and CalFresh—among other housing, social security, nutrition and cash assistance subsidies and programs—have contributed to lower child poverty rates. When these programs are included in analysis, child poverty levels decreased from 21.3% in 2016 to 19.3% in 2017. The fact sheet also illustrates the variation in child poverty across California counties and districts: Orange County featured the highest average child poverty rates at 24.2% while El Dorado County had the lowest at 8.2%. Finally, the factsheet explores connections between race and parental education with child poverty. Poverty rates range from more than a quarter of Latino children (25.8%) to 18.6% of African American children, 14.4% of Asian American/Pacific Islander children, and 10.4% of white children. Children with parents who only completed high school have poverty rates of 49.2%, as compared to 7.7% of children with parents who held at least a bachelor’s degree.

**This document is considered a priority reading.