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State Board meeting gets down to details on System of Support 

Hears updates on new California School Dashboard, Every Student Succeeds Act

California’s new System of Support, its practical implications and a promising implementation in a local school district were at the center of the State Board of Education’s Nov. 8-9 meeting. One of the central components of California’s accountability and continuous improvement system. the system aims to help local educational agencies and their schools meet the needs of every student.

“We’re really in the assistance business, not the punishment business,” SBE President Michael Kirst said in introducing a presentation highlighting the System of Support’s “no wrong door approach” for LEAs. As districts and county offices of education transition into the system centered on local control, decision making and cooperation, a Sacramento-area school district’s leaders provided an example of the system in action.

San Juan Unified School District Superintendent Kent Kern, board of trustees President Pam Costa and San Juan Teachers Association Executive Director Shannan Brown discussed their collaborative efforts to improve three areas in which the district was identified for differentiated assistance: Student achievement, engagement and school climate.

“I think we’ve come a long way as a district and a state,” said Costa, looking back on her career as a teacher, principal and now a board president. She said the advent of the Local Control and Accountability Plan has allowed unprecedented cooperation across many levels, including labor partners, school site teams, district leaders, the county office of education and the state. Prior to the LCAP, Kern agreed, there was often a lack of a unified approach, which led to fragmented results.

Additionally, Kern said, a move away from punitive intervention triggered by poor district performance allows leaders to focus on assisting students and root causes, rather than simply trying to improve numbers and data. “I don’t want to fix the numbers, I want to fix the issues,” he said in discussing the district’s effort to address high suspension rates for African-American students and foster youth.

Tom Armelino, executive director of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence — an important System of Support resource, also spoke at the meeting. Armelino, (who explained the role of his relatively young agency in the fall issue of California Schools magazine) said the framework of the CCEE is first to support and prepare county offices of education to assist in-need districts and schools. The goal, he said, is not for the CCEE to fix every school in the state, but to provide resources illustrating best practices.

“This can become a very powerful system,” said SBE member Sue Burr, who also serves as chair of the CCEE board.

To aid in the new era of the System of Support, the California School Boards Association has engaged with and provided professional learning support, policy advice and technical assistance to governing boards and superintendents. The work includes professional learning networks of governing board members and superintendents as well as ongoing policy updates, governance briefs and fact sheets. A recent brief, “School Board Members Get Down to Facts: Results of a CSBA Survey of Trustees on Key Education Topics,” provides insights on a number of LCFF-related topics.

In other Nov. 8-9 State Board meeting news:

• CDE staff presented on several on the changes for the 2018 California School Dashboard (PDF slides available here). The new Dashboard, scheduled to be available to the public on Dec. 3, features a new chronic absenteeism indicator, in addition to several SBE-approved revisions to change and cut scores to existing indicators. More information about the changes to the Dashboard are described in a September California Schools News article. Leading up to the new Dashboard going live, the CDE said it plans to hold a webinar on each indicator during the week that indicator’s data is released. CSBA has also produced a brief, “The California School Dashboard and Small Districts,” with recommendations for governing boards of small districts to assess and communicate with stakeholders about student performance.

• The State Board approved amendments to California's Every Student Succeeds Act State Plan for submission to the U.S. Department of Education (PDF slides available here). The Department approved the state’s plan in July, but the CDE recommended several sections be amended to reflect the changes to California’s accountability and continuous improvement system.

• The board approved the Instructional Quality Commission’s recommendations for the 2018 Science Adoption of K-8 instructional materials for the framework approved in 2016. The IQC recommended 29 out of 34 proposed materials from publishers be adopted, and districts will have a chance to dive deeper into which textbooks best fit their needs. The board also heard a report on the preliminary implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards at several sites across the state. In a new research brief, “Supporting STEM Access, Equity and Effectiveness,” CSBA provides recommendations for governing board members to support LEA implementation efforts.

• The 2018 Student Advisory Board on Education Conference wrapped up in Sacramento with student leaders presenting proposals to the State Board. Pitches included a greater focus on sustainability by incentivizing efforts for districts, implementing a statewide mental health curriculum, creating a task force to evaluate and possibly audit sexual education programs, and including a student member on the IQC.

• CSBA thanked State Superintendent Tom Torlakson for his eight years of service and commitment to students and local control. Torlakson, who was attending his final State Board meeting before his tenure ends, was superintendent during the enactment and development of the LCAP and helped lead CDE through significant transition.