This past Saturday, I attended a SFUSD Community Forum (co-hosted by Parents for Public Schools) to gather input from district families about the new Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). Never heard of it? Neither had I until I attended a Parents for Pubic Schools event last month. From what I learned, the good news is CA schools will be better funded over the next six years (Yay!) Other than that, I still haven’t really wrapped my head around how the proposed changes will impact school funding or accountability in any real actionable ways. This is really important, because the new law tasks districts to include parent and community input in defining NEW requirements for monitoring school success in some very different ways. Some of these “accountability” measures will be familiar ones, like standardized test results which are often used to measure academic success. Additionally, CA districts are also being charged with creating measures of other important factors of school success: materials and safe and well-maintained schools, teacher implementation of new state standards (CCSS), family involvement, student engagement, and school culture.
These changes in accountability and reporting demonstrate an important shift in thinking about how we as a community evaluate the success of our public schools. During the “accountability movement” of years past, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) required schools and districts to report student success using results of standardized test scores. For the first time, parents and the public at large were able to evaluate student performance across grades, schools and districts. More importantly, it allowed educators, parents, and community members a means for discussing educational equity for important subgroups such as English Learners, African Americans, or students receiving special education services.
While these measures were helpful in raising discourse about the “opportunity gap” that many teachers and parents have been witnessing in our public schools, state reporting systems (such as the API and AYP) ended up creating new problems as parents used these systems to make enrollment decisions as these reporting systems became shorthand identifiers of “good” and “bad” schools. Teachers and administrators felt additional pressure to focus instruction on preparing students for standardized tests, due to the fact that as state and federal funding was often attached to their performance on them. In these ways, test scores became one of the MOST IMPORTANT means that evaluating school/district success. And, as we know, there are many other important factors that make up a successful school or district.
That was then, this is NOW!
The new California law represents not only a change in how schools are funded. It also reflects a new way of looking at how we hold schools and districts accountable for student success. What will the new measures look like? Well, they most likely will include other quantifiable data such as attendance, suspension and expulsion, and drop out rates. In addition, there are many other measures which districts will have to create. How will we measure student engagement or family involvement, for example? And, how will we measure district implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)? This has yet to be determined.
Before we get into these DEEP questions (which honestly have my brain reeling!) it’s important to understand some basic information about California education funding. In looking through resources on the SFUSD website and other sources, I have attempted to summarize some of what I’ve learned. (Many of these facts were obtained from the Update on Budget Topics presentation to the SFUSD Board of Education on February 18. You can see more resources at the bottom of this post.)
A (very) Brief Primer on CA Education Funding
Due to budget cuts and economic shortfalls during in California over the past 10 years, California currently ranks among the bottom tier of states in per-pupil spending for education. Specifically, data from “School Services of CA” estimates from 20011-12 shows CA ranking 49th in per-pupil spending and 50th in students enrolled per teacher. (FYI: When I was a kid in CA public schools we were in the top four! Way to go Prop 13!)
- In July 2013 Governor Brown signed into law a new school funding formula called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Under this new formula, schools and districts across California will see an INCREASE in per-pupil funding, with some districts seeing larger funding growth than others. First, districts will receive increased resources from the state, with “full funding” being reached by 2020.
Funding will be provided for schools based on two categories: 1.) All districts will receive a “Base” amount per pupil based on average daily attendance (ADA). This base amount varies at various grade levels (see links below for more details) 2.) Districts will also receive additional “Supplemental Grant” and “Concentration Grant” funding based on demographic make-up of student population: low-income, English Language Learner, foster youth.
- For SFUSD, per-pupil average daily attendance (ADA) funding is currently below the level received in 2007-2008. Because our district as a whole serves a large number of students who are low-income, ELL and foster youth, (over 55%) funding at most sites and at the district level will increase dramatically over the next 6 years.
What’s Different about the New Funding Formula?
It sounds like categorical funding as we currently know it will go away. Sites and districts will still receive some of these funds, nonetheless, most of this extra funding will allow for increasing flexibility in how schools and districts allocate funding to support specific student subgroups.
- In exchange for increased flexibility in spending, new district accountability measures will be put in place. This new model of accountability be comprised of three main categories: Conditions of learning (facilities and materials, implementation of the standards, equitable course access), student outcomes (academic achievement and other areas of student performance), Engagement (student engagement, parent involvement, school climate.)
- All CA school districts will be required to design and implement a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). Richard Carranza, SFUSD superintendent, spoke at the PPS-SF Community Forum I attended last Saturday. He explained that this three-year plan is similar to a school site plan (what we call the Balanced Score Card or BSC) yet at a district scale. It requires districts to outline how they will use state funds to support defined district outcomes. Additionally, the state is requiring that LCAP creation involve parents, teachers, students and community partners in making sure the plan reflects community values, priorities and goals.
So… Here’s Where YOU Come in!
What should involved parents, educators and community members be doing now to ensure that SFUSD writes a GREAT plan?
- Review a FAQ* – This two-page document put together by SFUSD staff provides a simple overview of the new law.
- Read a district report* – This parent-friendly guide, developed by SFUSD, explains LCFF and LCAP in detail.
- Download the PTA Spring Newsletter: LCFF LCAP Special Edition – This CA Parent Teacher Association Newsletter is also available in Spanish. It outlines basic components of the new funding law as well as key areas where families can get involved in advocating the ways that districts should prioritize resources. It also lists some helpful questions families should ask district officials as our district develops our district LCAP.
- View this guide put together by EdSource which includes videos in English and Spanish, a full explanation of how the funding formula works, an analysis of how funding will look at various districts across CA, as well as a short history of school finance reform in our state
Provide input – Attend a Community Forum
Attend an SFUSD Community Forum* – This month (April 2014) SFUSD is holding Community conversations co-led by various parent groups (e.g. Parent Advisory Council, District English Learner Advisory Council) and community partners (Parents for Public Schools, Parent Teacher Association, etc.) Learn more bout the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and and provide input on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) by attending a Community Forum.
- Take a Survey* – Can’t attend a forum? Submit your input via a survey here.
- Talk with other parents, teachers, administrators and share ideas. – Share these and other resources with parents at your school’s School Site Council (SSC), English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC) or Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Let others know that these important changes are happening NOW! Let them know their voice is needed in this important conversation.
* Most SFUSD resources are available in Spanish and Chinese as well. Go to the SFUSD website and click the link on the top right of the page to view it in other languages.