After years of painful budget cuts, new revenues will begin to flow to California school districts in 2014. Thanks to the voters’ approval of Proposition 30 and the adoption of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), nearly all districts can expect budget increases over the next several years. Districts that educate the most challenging students will see the largest gains. When the LCFF is fully implemented many schools and districts will receive 50 to 75 percent more revenue per pupil than they do now.
Social-emotional learning refers to the beliefs, attitudes, personality traits, and behaviors that students need to succeed in school and life. Our study looks closely at ten “outlier schools” in California’s CORE districts whose students report strong social-emotional learning outcomes compared to other, similar middle schools.
In 2014, the state of California implemented the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) in order to align state assessment and accountability policies with the newly adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS). At the heart of the new performance and accountability system is the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is designed to evaluate a student’s full range of college- and career-readiness as defined by the CCSS.
California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was signed into law in 2013, and represents the most significant change in California education finance and governance in 40 years. It moves additional funds to districts with students in poverty, English language learners, and foster youth. The LCFF sends supplemental funds to districts based on unduplicated counts of these target student groups and concentration funds to districts with high proportions (over 55%) of these same students. In addition, the LCFF eliminates nearly all categorical funding and pushes decision-making about how best to allocate resources to the local level. The LCFF also requires districts to develop a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) with meaningful local community engagement of parents, community members, students, and educators.
Summer learning loss contributes significantly to the achievement gap between low income students and their more affluent peers. That makes high quality summer learning programs a smart investment for school districts concerned about success for all students. Such investments have become easier thanks to the flexibility built into the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).
The most promising programs are not traditional summer school. Instead, they look and feel like summer camp while incorporating learning goals aligned with district priorities. Summer learning programs:
High quality instruction delivered by effective teachers is the key to student success. Hiring, developing and retaining good teachers are therefore the most important tasks of our public schools. The tasks of teacher recruitment and retention have traditionally been delegated to the human resource department within school districts, but leaving these critical responsibilities to a single office is no longer sufficient. The ability to find, support, and keep good teachers is a community challenge, which demands innovative solutions collaboratively developed by diverse stakeholders.
Despite California’s great wealth, child poverty places a drag on the state’s educational performance. Disadvantaged children—including English learners, foster children, and the poor—do not receive the educational attention and services that they require to be successful. Although California’s Local Control Funding Formula recognizes this challenge, schools and districts have struggled to identify effective solutions to educate disadvantaged children.
In California, recent policy shifts have created a high degree of local control with the expectation that school districts will think differently about school and district improvement. However, many districts lack the individual expertise and organizational capacity to support these changes at scale. In large part, this is due to a lack of a shared understanding of the routines, structures, and supports needed for school systems to develop and implement change ideas that dramatically improve student outcomes.
Calls for “continuous improvement” in California’s K-12 education system are central to current discussions about school improvement in the state. Yet, definitions of continuous improvement vary, and knowledge of what continuous improvement looks like in practice is limited. To advance the conversation, this brief helps to define continuous improvement both in theory and in practice.
The implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula presents local education leaders with the power and flexibility to use resources in new and different ways. Taking full advantage of this opportunity requires leaders to adopt budgeting practices that highlight the tradeoffs among system goals and facilitate the reallocation of scarce resources to support their top priorities. In this brief Mark Murphy reviews the experiences of three California school districts with budget tools that increase their ability to meet their students’ needs.