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Research Priorities

Information and samples of research questions for data requestors.

2018–2020 Research Priorities

The California Department of Education's (CDE's) vision is:

All California students of the 21st century will attain the highest level of academic knowledge, applied learning and performance skills to ensure fulfilling personal lives and careers and contribute to civic and economic progress in our diverse and changing democratic society.

State law describes the legislative intent that data within the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) be used to “support continuous improvement of instruction, operations, management, and resource allocation” (California Education Code Section 49079.5) as allowable by state and federal laws. In pursuit of this legislative intent, as well as the CDE’s vision, researchers are encouraged to conduct high-quality research in partnership with the CDE. While student-level data are exempt from public disclosure, the CDE has authority within state and federal law to enter into written agreements for research studies to be conducted on behalf of the CDE.

The CDE may enter into select agreements with experienced researchers at nonprofit organizations, universities, and colleges to conduct studies on behalf of the CDE using CDE-supplied data. In compliance with state and federal law, the research studies conducted on behalf of the CDE must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Align with the CDE's research goals and priorities;
  • Inform the policies and/or practices of the CDE; or
  • Improve education and/or instruction

This document was developed to provide researchers with information on the CDE’s research goals and priorities from 2018 to 2020. These research priorities have been drafted to be consistent with the CDE Quality Schooling Framework (QSF), the Blueprint for Great Schools, Version 2.0 report, and the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) and include:

  • Equity
  • Culture, Climate, and Family Engagement
  • College and Career Readiness
  • Educator Quality
  • School Finance

Because it is the CDE’s vision to provide a world-class education for all students, the research priorities apply to all students as well as specific student groups, in particular the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) groups included in the new California School Dashboard. For example, a research proposal may investigate all student groups or it may focus on one specific group such as low-income students, foster youth, English learners, or students with disabilities.

Established researchers wishing to conduct studies on behalf of the CDE using student-level or aggregated data for purposes aligned with the research priorities outlined in this document will be given priority. While the CDE has provided specific research questions under each research priority, these questions are meant as examples only. The CDE welcomes research questions related to the research priorities, including, but not limited to, those explicitly stated in this document. Given the CDE’s limited resources, the CDE will use its discretion in determining which research studies to prioritize and support and may not be able to fulfill all requests.

For more information on the data request process, please visit the CDE Data Requests Web page.

Questions or concerns about the CDE's research priorities should be addressed to the Data Visualization and Reporting Office by e-mail at

Sample Questions Related to the CDE Research Priorities

  • Which techniques used by schools and districts to narrow the achievement gap between students of various ethnicities, income levels, language statuses, and/or disabilities show promise?

  • Which student achievement gaps are growing and shrinking over time?  Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, can we see geographic pockets within California that demonstrate shifts in these gaps longitudinally?

  • How do schools effectively engage students in specialized programs? What barriers do schools face in attempting to increase access, enrollment, and successful completion of specialized programs for students? Are there certain schools that are more effective than others in engaging students in specialized programs, and if so, what strategies are they employing to do so?

  • To what extent do the LCAPs address student achievement gaps and district needs? To what extent are the LCAPs assisting districts and schools in addressing issues related to equitable distribution of resources and equitable student outcomes? Have districts successfully articulated goals for students and developed appropriate measures for meeting the goals stated within their LCAPs? Are the goals for students described in the LCAPs connected to particular instructional programs and services? To what extent are districts using data and appropriate forms of data analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of these instructional programs and services?

  • Do all students have equal access to a broad and robust set of courses at the local level? In cases where there is unequal access to a broad set of courses, which students have more or less access and why?
Culture, Climate, and Family Engagement
  • What are the effects of school culture and climate on teacher retention and student outcomes? Are there specific aspects of school culture that lead to a positive learning environment, improved teacher retention, and increases in attendance and student outcomes? What techniques are used by successful schools and/or districts to transform key aspects of school climate and create positive learning environments?

  • What student, school, and district characteristics predict whether students are suspended or expelled? Are students who are suspended or expelled more likely to drop out and does the relationship between suspension/expulsion and dropout vary among schools and districts? Can judicious use of suspension and expulsion have a positive effect on students, teachers, and/or schools?

  • To what extent does parental involvement in schools lead to positive school culture and/or increase student outcomes? What types of parental/community involvement programs or policies lead to improved school climate and student outcomes? What are effective strategies for engaging parents/communities in schools in order to improve student outcomes? What types of activities do parents feel would increase their engagement and involvement in the education of their children? What types of parental involvement programs, policies, and/or practices lead to increased parental satisfaction with the education of their children?

  • Examine the effects of school-based programs aimed at increasing parental skills (e.g., programs aimed at increasing literacy skills of parents of English language learners, programs aimed at increasing math skills of parents, etc.). To what extent are such programs effective at improving parental skills? How do such programs impact parental involvement in schools and engagement in their child(ren)’s learning? How do such programs impact the success of student learning in specific content areas?

  • To what extent have districts been successful in engaging a diverse and representative group of parents and the community in the creation of the LCAPs? To what extent is there evidence that the goals stated within the LCAPs reflect the parents’ and community’s goals for students? Were there challenges in or barriers to involving parents and the community in the LCAP development process? Have the LCAPs helped parents and the community to better understand district educational goals for children and district progress in meeting those goals?

  • Drawing on both state and local indicator data from the Dashboard and on LCAP information, is there evidence of increased parent engagement in critical school planning decisions?  Using GIS software, can these trends be mapped statewide?
College and Career Readiness
  • Determine the extent to which access and participation in specialized programs (e.g., Advanced Placement; Career Technical coursework; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM] coursework; etc.) lead to college and career readiness and more equitable student outcomes.

  • Is participation in certain Career Technical Education (CTE) pathways correlated with positive post-secondary outcomes both in terms of community college, college, and university completion rates as well as post-graduation wage gains and career retention patterns?

  • Are the following practices correlated with post-secondary completion rates and higher post-graduation wage gains, and if so, which program is most impactful?

    • Work-based Learning
    • Internships
    • Industry Certifications
Educator Quality
  • What strategies are most effective in improving teacher and leader effectiveness? What techniques are most effective in launching these promising strategies at the school, district, county, and/or state level? Specifically, examine methods to deliver actionable feedback to teachers and leaders to improve instructional practices. Determine the effect of such feedback on teacher and/or leader practices and student outcomes.

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of peer assistance professional learning programs for new teachers. How effective are such programs in retaining teachers from diverse backgrounds, especially in rural and urban areas? Are such programs effective in increasing teaching confidence and competence? Do such programs improve student outcomes? What aspects of peer assistance programs do beginning teachers and mentors find to be most helpful? What issues are faced in implementing peer assistance professional learning programs?

  • How does a culture of collaboration at the school site impact teacher learning and student outcomes? What types of collaborative practices are most effective in improving teacher learning and student outcomes and what is the nature of such effective collaborative practices?

  • What practices and strategies hold promise for improving retention and/or reducing attrition of effective teachers? What are the attrition patterns among teachers in schools and districts, including those schools and districts serving at-risk students? What are the characteristics of the schools and districts that are successful in retaining teachers?
School Finance
  • Examine resource allocation/re-allocation processes that are linked with positive student outcomes. Specifically, investigate the impact of the LCFF on the distribution of school spending and student, school, and district outcomes.
Questions:   Data Visualization and Reporting Office | | 916-322-3245
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, December 30, 2020
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