New California Education Funding Formula, New Accountability Metrics, New Testing Regimen Add Up to New SCUSD Challenges
It used to be there was only one acronym anyone needed to talk about education – the 3Rs. Today, the ed-speak acronym blizzard is so deep as to make discussions about local education policy largely incomprehensible to the uninitiated. There’s LEA, API, AYP, ACIA, CAHSEE, CTE, DAIT, ELL, GATE, IEP, LEP, PI, RFEP, and STEM. There’s even one for visitors: VE (Visiting Educators).
Now there are two new ones in California that folks need to pay attention to: LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) and LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan).
New Funding Formula (LCFF) Simplifies and Adds Local Flexibility
The new state education funding structure simplifies funding to local educational agencies (LEAs, typically school districts) by replacing funding by program (categorical funding) with base and supplemental funding based on the demographic profile of the district’s students. Further, it allows greater flexibility in the use of the funds to improve “educational outcomes” – otherwise known as “learning.”
So far, it sounds straightforward. But, if not as labyrinthine as the former funding system, it nevertheless has its own complexities.
There are adjustments for grades K-3 class sizes and grades 9-12 career technical education. There are “supplemental grants equal to 20 percent of the adjusted base grants multiplied by the LEA’s unduplicated percentage of English learners, free and reduced-price meal eligible, and foster youth students.”
Then there’s the concentration grant “equal to 50 percent of the adjusted base grants multiplied by an LEA’s percentage of unduplicated pupils above 55 percent.” In plain English, this is additional funding based on the percentage of economically disadvantaged, non-English-speaking, and foster care students in the district.
Why is this important? Because overall academic results, especially of the highlighted cohorts, are what California Dept. Of Education (CDE) is going to be looking at when it comes time to evaluate how well districts are using state money to advance student learning.
New Funding Directs New Performance Measurement
Several criteria will be used to ensure districts measure up, Santa Clara USD Superintendent Stanley Rose told the board at the Nov. 14 meeting. These include: APIs, percentages of students satisfying UC and CSU entrance requirements, Career Technical Education (CTE) standards, English Language Arts (ELA) standards, English Learners (EL) reclassification rates, percentages of students passing AP exams, and the percentages of students demonstrating college readiness (for a definition of this, visit www.adlit.org/article/31527/).
By July of next year, the SCUSD board must adopt a three-year plan that includes annual goals for all pupils and targeted subgroups and a description of an action plan, Rose told Trustees. And by 2015, the district must have a published rubric for how evaluations will be conducted.
These metrics will direct how the district will invest its educational resources.
“What are the resources we have and how are we going to apply them?” Rose said. “We need to be inclusive in the conversations we’re having. We’re going to have to broaden the conversation. We re-formed a budget committee that looked at what we might look at in terms of restoration…. [We need] a full conversation with all our stakeholders about what that plan is going to look like. There isn’t a lot of state guidance.” In effect the CDE is saying: “Now that you have this authority, what are you going to do with it?”
Further, “Budget adoption is going to be much more connected to the plan than ever before,” Rose said. “The County Office of Education (COE) will review the plan and the County Superintendent can approve or disapprove budget.”
The stakes are high for non-performance, Rose noted. If a district fails to improve across more than one state priority for one or more pupil subgroups, the COE can step in with assistance. However, the next step is state intervention; which essentially means that the CDE will control the district’s budget and decide how money is spent on programs.
New Testing Makes for a Trifecta of Change
If new funding formula and new accountability metrics aren’t enough, California schools also face a new testing regimen. Santa Clara Unified’s Legislative Committee – Trustees Jim Canova, Christine Kolterman, and Christopher Stampolis – has been discussing implementation of AB484 – which suspends current testing systems and funds trials of the new computer-based Smarter Balanced Assessments. The committee provides reports and recommendations for board action.
AB 484 replaces the old STAR tests with the new California Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress (CalMAPP) assessment system, providing some funding and several options for implementation.
“Districts have many options to choose from,” said Canova. “However the options are either funded or unfunded, so the best options need to be identified with a price tag.”