Center for Applied Policy in Education

Center for Applied Policy in Education (CAP-Ed)

People sitting around a large table at a CAP-Ed hosted meeting

The Center for Applied Policy in Education (CAP-Ed) at UC Davis facilitates the nexus of research, policy, and practice with a commitment to eliminating inequities in schooling and providing learning opportunities for diverse students. CAP-Ed connects education leaders and practitioners with nonpartisan, research-supported information and expertise from scholars and policymakers. Our services and publications foster a thoughtful, well-informed education system in California encompassing policy makers and those implementing policy in schools and districts.

CAP-Ed Services & Practices

  • Publishing and distributing syntheses of current research and policy to inform policymaking and policy implementation throughout the education system.
  • Hosting seminars for policymakers and education stakeholders with experts in key education topics.
  • Assembling collaborative systems and instructional rounds to mobilize intersectional, reform-oriented networks.
  • Conducting new policy research on key education policy topics such as school finance, accountability, and curriculum and instruction.

Current Programs & Services

Superintendents’ Executive Leadership Forum (SELF)

California Superintendents Collaborative Network

California Principals’ Support Network (CAPS)

California Institute for School Improvement (CISI)

CAP-ED Programs are Aligned with California’s Quality Professional Learning Standards (QPLS)


Quality professional learning:

1) Uses formative and summative student achievement data, disaggregated by race, gender, English language learner status, special needs, foster youth, and/or poverty indicators, to identify critical student needs that require improved instruction, support, and leadership.  

2) Incorporates disaggregated school climate data to identify student social, emotional, and health and safety areas requiring increased educator knowledge or skill.

3) Utilizes family and community information to assist educators in meeting students’ needs.

4) Includes staff, community, family, and student opinions as perception data to inform decisions.

Content and Pedagogy

Quality professional learning enhances educators’ expertise to increase students’ capacity to learn and thrive.

1) Focuses on learning the content required in meeting state and district outcomes for students.

2) Deepens and extends subject-matter knowledge within educators’ own discipline and across other disciplines.

3) Builds educators’ capacity to use curriculum frameworks, instructional materials, equipment, and technology that support the teaching and learning of subject-matter content. 

4) Increases educators’ use of universal and linguistically and culturally responsive materials. 


1) Builds educators’ repertoires of evidence-based instructional approaches for various content areas and diverse student learning needs.

2) Creates multiple opportunities, in different settings, for educators to practice and receive feedback on new skills.

3) Uses instructional technique and strategies that educators then use with students.

4) Develops educators’ abilities to use formative and summative assessment information to plan and modify content and instruction.


Quality professional learning focuses on equitable access, opportunities, and outcomes for all students, with a emphasis on addressing achievement and opportunity disparities between student groups.

1) Uses summative and formative achievement and perception data, disaggregated by gender, race, language, special needs, foster youth, and poverty indicators, to identify critical student needs that require improved instruction and support.

2) Enables educators to plan and implement evidence-based instructional strategies that are responsive to students’ diverse backgrounds and needs.

3) Helps educators understand that building on students’ abilities, perspectives, and potential contributes to increased student learning.

Design and Structure

Quality professional learning reflects evidence-based approaches, recognizing that focused, sustained learning enables educators to acquire, implement, and assess improved practices.

1) Focuses on clearly identified purposes and needs related to educators’ capacity to increase students’ learning outcomes.

2) Is ongoing and requires consistent effort.

3) Requires dedicated time, within the school schedule, for educator learning, practice, reflection, and collaboration.

4) Leverages extended time opportunities for educator learning, practice, reflection, and collaboration.

Learning that is Embedded in Practice

1) Utilizes real problems of practice as a base for new learning.

2) Clarifies how to apply and use learning.

3) Incorporates deliberate practice of new learning with frequent reflection, feedback, and support, so that knowledge and skills become fully integrated.

Collaboration and Shared Accountability

Quality professional learning facilitates the development of a shared purpose for student learning and collective responsibility for achieving it.

1) Establishes professional communities of practice to support mutually agreed-upon student learning goals and outcomes.

2) Sets clear purposes, goals, and working agreements that support the sharing of practices and results within a safe and supportive environment.

3) Integrates a common understanding of the terminology and group process skills involved in establishing and sustaining a professional community of practice.

4) Structures collective learning around an evidence-based cycle of continuous learning and improvement, maintaining a consistent focus on shared goals.

5) Supports educators in making practice more transparent, through peer observation, common planning, and experimentation with feedback.


Quality professional learning dedicates resources that are adequate, accessible, and allocated appropriately toward established priorities and outcomes.

Human Capital

1) Recognizes the leadership capacity of internal staff to present, facilitate, or coach targeted professional learning.

2) Capitalizes on flexible staffing arrangements that allow for peer-to-peer learning.

3) Engages external expertise when necessary.

4) Requires external professional learning providers to be vetted against rigorous criteria.

5) Includes parents, community members, regional partnerships, institutions of higher education, county offices of education, and others as professional learning providers and partners.


1) Requires that time for collaboration and learning is made available in an ongoing and systematic way.

2) Develops a cycle of activities spaced over time, including theory, demonstration, practice, feedback, reflection, and coaching.

3) Necessitates that current educator schedules increase time for collaboration and learning.

4) Uses time within the school day for practice-embedded learning, but also provides release time when needed.

Alignment and Coherence

Quality professional learning contributes to a coherent system of educator learning and support that connects district and school priorities and needs with state and federal requirements and resources.​

1) Uses local goals and state direction in following federal laws and guidelines to improve individual and collective educator and student performance.

2) Frames educators’ development through preparation, licensing, induction, and continuously improving practice.

3) Extends educators’ capacity to implement content and pedagogy that prepare all students for national, state, and local curricula and assessments.

4) Offers learning and practice activities that are directed toward meeting educators’ professional and performance standards.

Recommended Reading

Bryk, Anthony S. Organizing Schools for Improvement : Lessons from Chicago. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2010. Print.

Fullan, M. (2019). Nuance Why Some Leaders Succeed and Others Fail. Corwin Press. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320. Retrieved from

Hattie, John. Visible Learning : A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-analyses Relating to Achievement. London ; New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Many, T. W., Maffoni, M. J., Sparks, S. K., & Thomas, T. F. (2018). Amplify Your Impact Coaching Collaborative Teams in PLCs at Work. Solution Tree Press. 555 North Morton Street, Bloomington, IN 47404. Retrieved from

Many, T. W., & Sparks-Many, S. K. (2015). Leverage: Using PLCs to Promote Lasting Improvement in Schools. Corwin Press. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320. Retrieved from

Murphy, J. F., & Louis, K. S. (2018). Positive school leadership: Building capacity and strengthening relationships Teachers College Press. 1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027. Retrieved from

Popham, J. W. (2017). The ABCs of Educational Testing Demystifying the Tools That Shape Our Schools. Corwin Press. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320. Retrieved from

Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. 1st ed. New York: Doubleday, 1990. Print.


Whole-system change

See the Center for Applied Policy in Education (CAP-Ed) Report

The System Transformation Collaborative (STC) was a three-year project designed to facilitate inter- and intra-district collaboration and to develop collective leadership and instructional capacity.

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