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What is the CSR Research Consortium?

The CSR Research Consortium is composed of major California research organizations working in partnership on a four-year, comprehensive study to evaluate the implementation and impact of California's class size reduction initiative under a contract with the California Department of Education. The evaluation was legislatively mandated and based on a research plan adopted by the State Board of Education.

Who are the members?

The Consortium is headed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and RAND and involves Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), WestEd, and EdSource.

What is the focus of the evaluation?

The study examines implementation rates; resource allocation; teacher quality; classroom practices; parent involvement and satisfaction; integration with other reforms, and student achievement. Its findings hold implications for education policymaking in California. Principal evaluation questions include:

  • Are small-class students achieving at higher levels than those in non-reduced classes? Are the gains greater for low-income and minority students?
  • How has CSR affected teaching qualifications? Are less-qualified teachers disproportionately in schools serving low-income students and English language learners?
  • Has CSR changed the way teachers teach? If so, in what ways?
  • How has CSR affected resource distribution? Did some districts receive disproportionate amounts of operations and facilities resources?
  • Has CSR affected parent involvement? If so, in what ways? Has CSR changed parent perceptions of the quality of their child's education?
  • Has CSR affected services received by special student populations, including special education students and English language learners?

What is the approach and timeline?

The evaluation began in May 1998 and will end in June 2002. Data sources include existing state databases, results from the statewide STAR test (SAT9), surveys, case studies and data from selected districts. The Consortium has issued annual, formative reports to provide information that the state, districts, schools and teachers can use to improve implementation. The final, summative report presents the cumulative effect of CSR and provides an overall indication of the program's effectiveness along with policy recommendations for how the program might be changed.

Why a consortium?

Too often, multiple, small evaluations of major reforms result in a mixed bag of findings that cannot be reconciled. The Consortium has set out to avoid that problem by mounting a coordinated, comprehensive study that helps shape the outcome of CSR in California rather than merely analyzing it. The Consortium developed its research design with extensive input from school district officials as well as representatives of the California Department of Education, the Association of California School Administrators, the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, the California School Boards Association, and the California PTA.

 

Additional funding support has been provided by the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, the Stuart Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum and Assessment.