EdSource Today http://edsource.org Engaging Californians on Complex Education Issues Fri, 25 Apr 2014 05:34:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 Districts may have funding flexibility to repair and improve school facilities - by Karla Scoon Reid/EdSource correspondent http://edsource.org/2014/districts-may-have-funding-flexibility-to-repair-and-improve-school-facilities/61366 http://edsource.org/2014/districts-may-have-funding-flexibility-to-repair-and-improve-school-facilities/61366#comments Fri, 25 Apr 2014 04:00:41 +0000 http://edsource.org/?p=61366 Students play at Lincoln Elementary School in San Bernardino. The district's accountability plan is expected to set aside funds to repair the school's playing field. Credit: Karla Scoon Reid

Students play at Lincoln Elementary School in San Bernardino. The district’s accountability plan is expected to set aside funds to repair the school’s playing field. Credit: Karla Scoon Reid

To weather deep cuts in public school funding, many California school districts shifted much-needed dollars away from repairing and maintaining their buildings to keep teachers in the classroom and save instructional programs from being eliminated.

Now, the state’s new funding formula, which allocates much of the increased school revenue to high-needs students, provides some latitude for districts to fix their ailing buildings too.

While there has been an assumption that only base grant dollars — the funds allocated to districts for all students — can be used for building repairs and improvements, that’s not necessarily the case under the Local Control Funding Formula’s current regulations. But what’s considered an allowable use of money targeted for high-needs students – defined as English-language learners, low-income children and foster youth – gets somewhat murky when it comes to school facilities.

Included in the eight priorities that school districts must address in their state-mandated Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs), which identify how districts will allocate their funding, is a goal to ensure that school facilities are maintained in “good repair.”

Jeff Vincent, the deputy director of the Center for Cities & Schools at UC Berkeley, said the healthy school facilities goal has “flown under the radar” throughout accountability plan discussions.

The Center for Cities & Schools is hosting a daylong forum Friday at the California Endowment office in Oakland, which will include sessions that will further explore how districts should meet the healthy school facilities goal. The Center for Cities & Schools is a research and technical assistance center that promotes high-quality education as a means to support urban development.

The healthy school facilities standard is defined under state regulations drafted following the Williams settlement, the resolution of a class-action lawsuit filed against the state in 2000 that alleged that public school students were denied equal access to instructional materials, safe and decent schools and qualified teachers. A building in “good repair” is defined as a facility that is maintained in a manner that assures that it is clean, safe and functional.

Although the Williams settlement established criteria for districts to evaluate the condition of their facilities, Vincent said there’s been very little oversight or enforcement of the standards outlined in the education code. He believes that including school facilities in the education funding law means communities can hold districts more accountable for the condition of their buildings under the accountability plan.

“In my mind, it puts [school facilities] on a platform where it will be taken much more seriously,” Vincent said.

Rules “Not Cut-And-Dried”

Whether a district allocates money for high-needs students, known as concentration and supplemental funds, to repair or improve facilities may come down to two main questions, said Liz Guillen, director of legislative and community affairs for Public Advocates, a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization:

  • How does the expenditure meet the district’s accountability plan goals for high-needs students?
  • What is the effect of the proposed use of those funds on high-needs students as compared to the rest of students?


“It’s not cut-and-dried,” Guillen said about how districts can use state dollars under the new funding formula for facilities’ needs. “But mostly, it shouldn’t be hard if districts are transparent and develop relationships with the community, which the LCAP process requires and encourages them to do.”

Districts are mandated to seek input from a variety of stakeholders, including parents and labor groups, as they develop their accountability plans, which must be adopted by July 1. Other priorities that must be addressed in the plans include school climate, student achievement and parent engagement.

While many districts are still working on their accountability plans, the West Contra Costa Unified School District is proposing an annual 3 percent increase in the percentage of buildings deemed in “good repair” and will solely use base grant dollars to fund this goal. The San Bernardino City Unified School District has proposed spending $1.7 million to help meet the facilities goal in its accountability plan.

Meanwhile, the Santa Ana Unified School District developed a five-year plan to maintain and improve its facilities. So far, Santa Ana Unified has identified almost $800,000 in projects that will be tied to its accountability plan’s school building goal. Both San Bernardino and Santa Ana are still in the process of determining which funds will be allocated to finance those school building improvements. EdSource is tracking all three districts as part of its Following the School Funding Formula series.

Trusting Communities

Brooks Allen, deputy policy director and assistant legal counsel to the State Board of Education, explained that the makeup of a district’s enrollment influences how it may use funds targeted for high-needs students.

If a district’s enrollment is below 40 percent in all three of the high-needs groups – English language learners, foster youth and low-income students – then Allen said it would need to show how the proposed use of the funds is the “most effective” way to serve those students. For a district where the student roll exceeds 40 percent in one of the high-needs student subgroups, he said it would be required to demonstrate that the funds will help meet a specific goal for those students.

For instance, a schoolwide program that boosts services for a subgroup of students, say English-language learners, but benefits all pupils is not prohibited under the current emergency expenditure regulations for the 2014-15 school year, Allen said. (The permanent regulations are still being developed.)

By its very nature, the new school funding formula does not lend itself to “hard-and-fast rules,” Allen said. Instead, he said the funding law places its “trust and faith” in local communities’ abilities to identify the most appropriate investments to meet the goals outlined in the accountability plan.

“This area always makes me a little nervous,” admitted Allen, who, while working at the ACLU of Southern California, led the litigation of the Williams case. “I would worry about how it could be taken to an irrational conclusion.”

Randall Putz, a Bear Valley Unified School District board member, described the ambiguity inherent in the school funding law as both a “blessing and a curse.” Putz, who participated in a Center for Cities & Schools webinar on the LCAP’s healthy school facilities goal earlier this month, said the 2,600-student district in Big Bear Lake will receive a $1 million budget increase for the 2014-15 school year. About 68 percent of the rural school system’s students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch, the criteria for categorizing low-income students.

Like many California school districts, Bear Valley Unified funneled deferred-maintenance dollars to help save academic programs and teaching positions and as a result, he said, the district’s seven schools are in disrepair. Now, deferred maintenance is part of the base per-pupil funds each district receives from the state.

“How are we going to create better physical conditions for our kids, if that’s the only additional money we are getting?” Putz asked, referring to the supplemental and concentration funds.

A Defensible Plan

Joe Dixon, assistant superintendent for facilities and governmental relations for the Santa Ana Unified School District, agrees that school districts must be permitted to tap into their supplemental and concentration grants to address their facilities needs, especially in districts with high percentages of disadvantaged students. Dixon also serves as chair of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing, a nonprofit made up of district administrators that supports statewide efforts to fund K-12 school construction.

To help districts quantify their repair and maintenance needs with greater accuracy, Dixon is developing a comprehensive “good repair” evaluation tool. Dixon is working on the evaluation tool with the Center for Cities and Schools and the 21st Century Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to modernizing public schools to support high-quality education. Santa Ana Unified received an $83,000 California Endowment grant to develop the facilities evaluation system.

Dixon said this newly developed tool is much different than the Facility Inspection Tool (FIT), a ranking and scoring system that most districts use to evaluate whether their schools are clean, safe and functional. Dixon calls the state tool a “snapshot” of a school’s physical condition on one specific day, whereas the “good repair” tool provides a five-year plan to address a school’s maintenance and repair needs, and includes cost estimates.

Dixon’s goal is to help districts develop a detailed financial plan that is “defensible and makes sense.” He plans to pilot the tool in a handful of districts this summer and will make the tool available statewide by year’s end.

Buildings have a lot to do with kids learning,” he said, adding that some research studies have found that healthy school facilities can boost student achievement.

During a recent visit to San Bernardino’s Lincoln Elementary School, which once served 1,600 students year-round and now enrolls 910 students, Assistant Principal Cynthia Nicolaisen said her school is a gathering place for local residents.

“This community sees this school as a park,” she said, adding that on weekends families picnic at the school.

But the school’s field is uneven, with patches of dirt and brown grass. Thieves ruined one of its two soccer goals by attempting to dismantle the metal bars and sell them. To make do, Nicolaisen said students pile up their jackets for makeshift soccer goals.

John Peukert, assistant superintendent for facilities and operations for the San Bernardino City School District, said the district has had a $1 billion investment in new construction and modernization of existing facilities since 2004. Prior to the investment, more than 40 of the district’s schools had been operating on a year-round schedule. The final four schools running year-round will begin a traditional schedule in the fall and two new schools are slated to open by 2015.

Peukert explained that the 50,000-student district, where 85 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch, qualified for state hardship and modernization school construction funds. As a result, Peukert said, the school system’s facilities are in far better shape than school buildings in other California districts.

Still, as state coffers shrunk and school funding decreased in 2007, Peukert said San Bernardino, much like other districts across the state, postponed maintenance to support academic programs, leaving some older buildings in disrepair. The district’s $1.7 million for facilities repairs and improvements includes painting, asphalt repair and landscaping.

“The LCAP will really help save this community,” Peukert said. “This new funding formula will bring equality where there wouldn’t be equality.”

Karla Scoon Reid covers Southern California for EdSource.

This report is part of EdSource’s Following the School Funding Formula project, tracking the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula in selected school districts around the state.

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$700 million wish list for career pathways grants - by Michelle Maitre http://edsource.org/2014/700-million-wish-list-for-career-pathways-grants/61353 http://edsource.org/2014/700-million-wish-list-for-career-pathways-grants/61353#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 22:54:03 +0000 http://edsource.org/?p=61353 Grant applications totaling just over $709 million have been submitted for a piece of the California Career Pathways Trust, a one-time grant program to fund job training programs for students, according to updated figures provided Thursday by the California Department of Education.

As anticipated, the applications far exceed the $250 million available in the program, created last year at the urging of Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. The competitive grant fund encourages partnerships between schools, community colleges and businesses to create and strengthen programs that offer real-world work experiences to students.

The state Department of Education received 123 eligible applications seeking a grant, officials said. Of those, 26 were from community college districts, 16 were from county offices of education, 17 were from charter schools, and 64 were from K-12 districts. The funding requests totaled $709,050,488.

The department expects to award $15 million grants to 10 regional partnerships. Another 15 successful grant applicants will receive $6 million and up to 15 grants for $600,000 will also be awarded. The grants will be awarded June 1, and money can be spent beginning July 1.

Noting the keen interest, Steinberg said he will work to secure additional funding for the Career Pathways Trust in this year’s budget. “We’ve got to go back and do another $250 million,” Steinberg said at a workforce preparation event in Sacramento.

new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that a majority of Californians support career technical education in schools, Steinberg noted. Seventy-three percent of adults said it is “very important” that public schools include career preparation programs as part of the curriculum, the poll said, yet only 41 percent of those surveyed said they feel schools are doing an “excellent” or “good” job preparing students for the work place.

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Higher college attainment will raise wages but not narrow income gap - by Marisol Cuellar and Hans Johnson / commentary http://edsource.org/2014/higher-college-attainment-will-raise-wages-but-not-narrow-income-gap/61213 http://edsource.org/2014/higher-college-attainment-will-raise-wages-but-not-narrow-income-gap/61213#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 05:37:23 +0000 http://edsource.org/?p=61213 Marisol Cuellar

Marisol Cuellar Mejia

In both California and the nation, income inequality is at or near record levels. Because educational attainment is by far the single most important determinant of an individual’s income, a key question, then, is whether improvements in educational outcomes can reduce inequality. Unfortunately, for those who argue for policies that will lead to greater levels of educational attainment, the answer is mostly no. This does not mean we should stop pushing for higher levels of education. Indeed, on average, college graduates earn far more in the labor market than do less educated workers. It’s just that the variation in wages for college graduates is quite wide. Inequality at relatively high wages is better than the alternative of low wages for everyone, and improvements in educational attainment will lead to higher incomes on average. But don’t expect to reduce income inequality substantially simply by  increasing the rate of college graduation.

For most people, wages (including salaries and bonuses) are the primary source of income. Increases in wage disparities have been the key driver of the overall rise in income inequality. Education is related to wage inequality in three ways:

Hans Johnson

Hans Johnson

  • First, highly educated workers earn more than less educated workers. PPIC research shows that college graduates have done far better in the California labor market than individuals with less education. For example, workers with a bachelor’s degree earn 57 percent more on average than otherwise similar workers with only a high school diploma. This college wage premium is far higher today than it was decades ago. This rise in wage returns to education explains part of the rise in wage inequality.
  • Second, overall inequality changes as the share of workers with different levels of education changes. If wage differences between college graduates and high school graduates are very wide, but hardly anyone graduates from college, then the effect of education on overall inequality would not be very large. In 1960, only a very small share of working-age adults in California had a college degree. Most workers had no more than a high school degree. Thus, the college wage premium did not affect a lot of workers. But by 2012, education was much more bifurcated, with strong growth at top of the education distribution; the share of workers having at least a bachelor’s degree grew from 12 percent in 1960 to 30 percent in 2010-12. The increase in overall wage inequality mirrors this bifurcation in educational outcomes. Not only did the college wage premium grow between 1960 and 2012, but the share of workers enjoying this premium also went up.
  • Finally, and least well-known, is inequality within an educational category (e.g., wage inequality among college graduates). As more adults have acquired college degrees in California, the value of those degrees in terms of wages has dispersed. For example, in 1980 the most successful workers with a bachelor’s degree (those in the 75th percentile) earned $15 more per hour than the least successful baccalaureates (those in the 25th percentile). By 2012, the difference had grown to $22 – a 47% increase. That is, among workers with a bachelor’s degree in 2012, those at the 25th percentile of the wage distribution earned about $20 per hour, compared to almost $42 per hour earned by those at the 75th percentile. For workers with graduate degrees, the growth in the wage difference has been even more dramatic – from $16 to $33. Wage disparities among high school graduates are also significant, but the wage gap has remained relatively flat over time. However, wage inequality has actually decreased among workers who have not graduated from high school. In other words, wages are most equal among workers who have not graduated from high school, and are least equal among workers with a graduate degree.

Understanding the determinants of wage inequality for highly educated workers requires more research. We know that college graduates in certain majors (for example, engineering and computer science) earn far more than those in less remunerative majors (for example, education and liberal arts), but other factors are also at work. For example, as more adults earn college degrees, the dispersion of abilities among college graduates could be increasing. Other aspects of the labor market, such as global competition and unionization, could differentially affect low-wage and high-wage workers.


Chart showing gap in wages

Over the past three decades, the gap in wages between the lowest paid college graduates (bottom 25 percent) and the highest paid college gradates (upper 25 percent) has widened substantially, while the pay range for high school graduates has remained constant. Values reflect the dollar difference in hourly wages between workers at the 75th percentile and the 25th percentile of the wage distribution. Sample is restricted to full-time year-round workers ages 25-64 in California.
Source: Authors’ analysis using microdata from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Uniform Extracts of the CPS Outgoing Rotation Group. The CPS does not provide information on two-year degrees or vocational certificates.


At the end of the day, we find that although increases in education will lead to increases in wages, wage and income gaps would remain large. While college degrees are known to increase earnings, there is a significant and growing variation in this wage premium. Getting more students to attend and complete college won’t, on its own, substantially reduce inequality. Improvements in educational outcomes will not eliminate income inequality. Indeed, incomes are more equal among the least educated workers. Of course, equality at low wages is not a desirable outcome.

Marisol Cuellar Mejia is a research associate at the Public Policy Institute of California. Hans Johnson is a Bren Fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the authors. If you would like to submit a commentary for EdSource Today, please contact us.
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Survey finds Californians back both Common Core and new funding formula - by John Fensterwald http://edsource.org/2014/survey-finds-californians-back-both-common-core-and-new-funding-formula/61306 http://edsource.org/2014/survey-finds-californians-back-both-common-core-and-new-funding-formula/61306#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 04:30:23 +0000 http://edsource.org/?p=61306 .errordiv { padding:10px; margin:10px; border: 1px solid #555555;color: #000000;background-color: #f8f8f8; text-align:center; width:360px; }


Resistance to the Common Core State Standards may be spreading in parts of Red State America, but Californians are learning more about  the new math and reading standards and generally like what they have heard, according to a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.

A survey of 1,702 adult Californians found that 69 percent of Californians overall said they favored Common Core after being read a brief description. Support for the new standards, however, dropped with familiarity, with 59 percent of those saying they know a lot about Common Core favoring it. Of those who had said they knew nothing about Common Core, 73 percent expressed support.

Knowledge of the new standards that California and 44 other states have adopted has grown in California, with 56 percent of respondents overall and 65 percent of public school parents now saying they know at least a little about Common Core; that compares with only 45 percent of parents a year ago.

The public’s familiarity with Common Core still far exceeded knowledge of the Local Control Funding Formula, the other sweeping change in California education rolling out this year. Just 27 percent of Californians overall said they know about the new funding formula. However, this year, as with past Public Policy Institute surveys, 70 percent of respondents said they agreed with the funding formula’s key purpose, steering extra dollars to school districts with higher concentrations of low-income students and English learners.

Mark Baldassare, the institute’s president and CEO, said that the results indicate initial widespread good will toward the two landmark education initiatives as well as “a lack of satisfaction with the status quo.” As a result, both Common Core and the new funding formula “will have some breathing room” for what’s expected to take years before they’re fully in place, he said.

That good will  may be important, because those polled already are expressing skepticism about the implementation of both.

Three-quarters of all adults and 80 percent of public school parents said they were very or somewhat concerned that teachers won’t be adequately prepared to teach Common Core, while only 8 percent indicated they weren’t concerned at all. Californians indicated they’re willing to dig a little deeper to help teachers get ready. Told that the state provided $1.25 billion this year to school districts for implementing Common Core, 65 percent of all respondents and 71 percent of public school parents said they’d support adding $1.5 billion next year for Common Core preparation. There is a party split, with 76 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of Independents in favor.

Looking down the road, though, 74 percent of public school parents said they were very or somewhat confident that Common Core would help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills and 71 percent said they believed Common Core would “make students more college or career ready upon graduation.”

The new education funding law requires that school districts involve parents in setting education goals and spending priorities through a Local Control and Accountability Plan. With near unanimity, all groups in the survey agreed that this is important. Most public school parents, in turn,  said they were very (53 percent) or somewhat (38 percent) interested in becoming involved in developing the local accountability plan. (Lower-income parents and those without college degrees expressed the most interest.) But only about half of the public school parents (52%) in the survey said that their child’s school or district has provided information about how to become involved, while 45 percent said they have received no information. More Latino public school parents (61%) than white parents (42%) said they have received information about how to become involved with the plan.

Funding reforms

With regard to the Local Control Funding Formula, two in three Californians said they were optimistic that the additional resources will lead to improved academic achievement for English learners and low-income students (16 percent predicted they would improve a lot, 50 percent somewhat), while 25 percent said academic achievement will not get better. Public school parents were slightly more confident: 71 percent said achievement would improve for those targeted students.

Those polled were less sanguine that flexible spending would lead to wiser spending, however. Only 8 percent of public school parents and 7 percent of all adults said they were very confident that the Local Control Funding Formula, which gives districts more authority over spending decisions, will lead to a wise use of dollars. Forty-nine percent of public school parents and 46 percent of all of those asked said they were somewhat confident this would happen.

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Common Core now the common element in college-preparatory courses - by Michelle Maitre http://edsource.org/2014/common-core-now-the-common-element-in-college-preparatory-courses/61267 http://edsource.org/2014/common-core-now-the-common-element-in-college-preparatory-courses/61267#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 04:00:37 +0000 http://edsource.org/?p=61267 Updated April 24 with additional information. Lesson plans and teacher training programs at the K-12 level aren’t the only things being updated to reflect the new Common Core State Standards.


The classes students need to be eligible for university admission have been updated to reflect the Common Core standards. Photo credit: EdSource file photo

The requirements of the battery of courses – called “a-g” – that students must take to be eligible for California public university admission have also been revised to reflect the new standards.

The change is a reflection of the robustness of the Common Core, educators said, and also heralds a stronger correlation between what’s being taught at California schools and what colleges want students to know.

“It’s very heartening and as far as I know unprecedented,” said Michael Kirst, a retired Stanford University education professor who serves as president of the State Board of Education.

In setting the guidelines for what constituted a “college preparatory” course, the state’s public universities sometimes highlighted different standards than those required at the K-12 level, which led to a disconnect between the two systems.

But aligning the requirements of the a-g courses to the Common Core will provide more commonality between the systems and give districts clarity as they create courses based on the new standards. Common Core, adopted by California and 44 other states, lays out guidelines for skills students need in math and English.

‘Coherent’ relationship

“For the first time in decades, a-g is aligned with the standards of the state in a nice, coherent way,” said Bill Jacob, president of the University of California Academic Senate, whose Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools committee helps develop the criteria for the a-g courses.

The change is also an acknowledgement of the strength of the Common Core standards, Jacob said. The standards, which identify preparing students for college and careers as a main goal, have been praised as stressing hands-on learning, problem solving and critical thinking skills to a deeper extent than past California state standards.

Many of the Common Core standards mirror the skills the college segments outlined as necessary for students in a series of “competency statements” published in past years, Jacob said. Those competency papers were created jointly by members of the Academic Senates of the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges and were intended as guides to the abilities students need to succeed in college.

“Common Core really is a lot closer to what was the vision” for student preparedness, Jacob said.

Shortly after the state adopted Common Core in 2010, university officials began revising the criteria of courses that would be accepted as satisfying the a-g requirements. In order to be considered for freshman admission to UC or CSU, students must complete 15 college-preparatory courses in subject areas including math, English, history, laboratory science and visual arts. The courses are called “a-g” because each letter stands for a subject area – history is “a,” for instance, while English is “b.”

High schools develop the curriculum for the classes they’ll offer, but the course descriptions must be evaluated and approved by UC for the class to count for a-g credit.

The update of the course requirements in math and English requires schools to “explicitly indicate” how the class assignments support the Common Core standards.

“We want schools to focus on those big ideas that teach habits of mind and the overarching skills (students need for college) and not just treat the standards as a check-off list,” Jacob said.

The science requirement has undergone a similar revision, Jacob said, asking schools to show how courses reflect the Next Generation Science Standards, which – like Common Core – call for deeper scientific thinking and analysis than previous standards. The updated science requirements will be posted online in coming weeks.

Campuses are now working to revise their course descriptions for review by UC’s Sept. 15 deadline.

Update: “We anticipate a flood of new course approvals or old course re-approvals,” Jacob said. “We might not even be able to review them in the usual timeframe.”

“But nobody should worry,” Jacob added. “Until courses get re-reviewed, nobody is going to lose their a-g certification.”

Schools may also resubmit their courses for additional review if they are rejected by UC.

Reviewing the courses is a significant undertaking for UC, which last year reviewed 23,150 new course submissions and course revisions, according to figures provided by the UC Office of the President.

In this current cycle, the university had received 1,907 new course submissions, across all subject areas, by April 5.

College ‘seal of approval’

For two of the state’s largest school districts, Los Angeles and Fresno unified, the biggest change has been in reworking math courses to meet Common Core – not specifically because of UC’s requirements, but because the standards changed so dramatically, officials there said.

“The new Common Core State Standards framework is drastically different than what the old framework was,” said Nader Delnavaz, director of college and career education for Los Angeles Unified. “It’s not because the mathematics is different, but it’s the grouping of mathematical domains and ideas and the in-depthness of the materials. Because of that it was very necessary and natural to change (the) courses.”

The Los Angeles district submitted course descriptions for about 10 high school math courses for a-g approval, Delnavaz said. The district will go through a similar process for its science courses.

Fresno Unified reworked high school courses in algebra I and II and geometry and will resubmit the new class descriptions for a-g approval, said Val Hogwood, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction.

The new course alignment has made it easier to match what students are learning in the classroom to the skills colleges are looking for, she said.

“When we get a-g credit,” Hogwood said, “it’s kind of putting the seal of approval that these courses are what’s going to prepare kids.”

Kirst, the state board president, said the alignment to Common Core is a signal of a greater level of alignment between K-12 and post-secondary institutions. Other changes include revamped SAT and ACT exams, which also will more closely align with the Common Core.

“I’m quite confident it will be closer together,” Kirst said. “We’ve turned a corner and established some relationships now.”

Michelle Maitre covers career and college readiness. Contact her and follow her on Twitter @michelle_maitre. Sign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.



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Job skills programs to receive $18 million boost - by Michelle Maitre http://edsource.org/2014/job-skills-programs-to-receive-18-million-boost/61291 http://edsource.org/2014/job-skills-programs-to-receive-18-million-boost/61291#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 22:10:30 +0000 http://edsource.org/?p=61291 JPMorgan Chase will provide $18 million in grants over the next five years to nonprofit groups providing job training in California, with programs for high school and community college students among the first recipients, the financial firm announced this week.

The Sacramento-based Linked Learning Alliance and the Foundation for California Community Colleges will receive $1.2 million this year to promote high school programs that integrate academics with real-world work experience, JPMorgan announced. The money will help the groups develop LaunchPath, an online tool that will connect high school and community college students with employers willing to host internships, said Linked Learning Alliance Executive Director Christopher Cabaldon.

The money was awarded under JP Morgan’s New Skills at Work initiative, a $250 million grant program launched in 2013 to fund efforts to eliminate the nation’s “skills gap” – the gap between the number of jobs available in industries such as health care and advanced manufacturing and the number of workers who are trained in those fields.

JP Morgan chase will make $8 million in grants available in Northern California and $10 million available in Southern California under the effort; the money will be doled out over the next five years.

The first batch of California grant recipients, whose awards totaled about $2.4 million, were unveiled this week.

Nonprofit agencies receiving grants include Year Up Bay Area, which received $200,000 to support its job training programs for low-income adults between 18 and 24; and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, which will use its $333,000 grant to support its science-based Teacher Education Program.

Additional grants will be announced later in the year.

Other recipients of the first round of funding are:

  • San Francisco Foundation, $200,000
  • Bay Area Workforce Funders Collaborative, $100,000
  • LA Chamber Foundation, $300,000
  • YWCA of Greater Los Angeles, $100,000
  • LA Conservation Corps, $200,000
  • LA Business Council Institute, $100,000
  • Los Angeles Urban League Business and Career WorkSource Center, $75,000
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Parent committee questions West Contra Costa school officials about draft accountability plan - by Alex Gronke http://edsource.org/2014/parent-committee-questions-west-contra-costa-school-officials-about-draft-accountability-plan/61268 http://edsource.org/2014/parent-committee-questions-west-contra-costa-school-officials-about-draft-accountability-plan/61268#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:39:08 +0000 http://edsource.org/?p=61268 Parent committee members and school officials review a draft of West Contra Costa Unified's LCAP on Wednesday, April 16 in Richmond. Photo by Alex Gronke

Parent committee members and school officials review a draft of West Contra Costa Unified’s draft LCAP on Wednesday, April 16 in Richmond. Photo by Alex Gronke

At a public meeting in Richmond last week, West Contra Costa Unified officials unveiled their draft proposal for spending about $23 million on “high-needs” students next school year.

Held in the cafeteria of a recently refurbished elementary school, the meeting drew 33 of 36 District Local Control Parent Accountability Committee members, as well as three dozen other parents, teachers, activists and students. As required by the state’s new school funding law, the plan covered the next three years.

It was the second meeting of the committee and the first opportunity for members to quiz district officials about some 30 programs aimed at improving the academic fortunes of high-needs students, defined as low-income children, English language learners and students in foster care.

Among the many questions raised at the meeting was why the draft Local Control Accountability Plan had not been translated into Spanish, although the English version was posted on the district’s website four days before the meeting.

With one-third of West Contra Costa Unified’s pupils deemed English language learners, Yuritzy Gomez, a community organizer with the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, was surprised the district hadn’t taken the time to translate the 17-page document. Gomez, whose first language is Spanish, spent nine hours the day before last week’s meeting doing the job herself. She knew at least two Spanish-speaking members of the parent committee would have trouble comprehending the English version.

The hard part was the acronyms, Gomez said. “You look up the technical education language in the dictionary and it doesn’t make sense,” she said.

Bruce Harter, West Contra Costa Unified’s superintendent, said the English-only draft LCAP was an oversight in the service of saving time. “In the future we will do our best to have translations. We have to start the process earlier,” he said.

But English to Spanish was not the only translation issue in the district’s spending plan. Some community members were surprised to learn that $2.6 million slated for what district officials labeled “Student Safety and Psych Support” was actually payments to local police departments for placing armed officers on high school campuses.

Kate Gillooly, the program director for theY Team Mental Health Program, which runs mental health programs in all of the district’s high schools, middle schools and four elementary schools, said she was dismayed to discover that more than 10 percent of the district’s supplemental and concentration funding — money for low-income students, English language learners and children in foster care —for next school year was for cops on campuses.

“That made no sense to me,” she said. “There needs to be security, but there are other ways of addressing school safety and school climate concerns.”

The meeting began with the members introducing themselves, approval of the minutes from the previous meeting on March 26, and Harter identifying himself as an ex-officio member of the committee.

Harter then directed the committee to split into four smaller groups to go over sections of the draft LCAP with a district official on hand to answer questions.

The draft spending proposal for supplemental and concentration funds in 2014-15 also included $2.6 million directly to schools for “site level decision making,” $2.4 million for teacher development, $1.9 million for college counselors and $1.2 million for a program that aims to reduce bullying on elementary school playgrounds.

Carolyn Day Flowers, a member of the parent advisory committee with two children in Kensington Elementary, said a series of public meetings held in 2013 to craft a strategic plan made clear parents were frustrated with “insufficient communication” on the part of school district leaders. She said the LCAP process has marked a shift to better communication. “When I look at the draft of the LCAP, it certainly looks like they’ve been listening to their stakeholders,” Flowers said.

Still, Flowers would like to know how ideas from six public meetings in January and February about the state’s new funding law helped shape the draft spending plan. “I’ve never seen a summary, a synthesis, or even a data dump of what they heard,” Flowers said.

Several community organizations agree with Flowers on that point, and have more questions they’d like answers to. Last week eight organizations, including the East Bay chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Education Trust-West, Public Advocates and Healthy Richmond sent a letter to Harter asking to make the “LCAP process more inclusive.”

Giorgio Consentino, a former teacher at Richmond High School and a current parent of a student in the district, said in an email that “the LCAP is creating a very public venue for voicing accountability needs and concerns.” Consentino added that the big message from the meeting April 16 was a call for more details.

“Parents want more specifics regarding where exactly the money is going, that general spending categories, such as ‘extracurricular activities’ is not specific enough,” he said. “That seemed to be the theme of the evening – more specifics in writing. Everyone wanted data and metrics.”


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Transitional kindergarten teachers say they need more training - by Lillian Mongeau http://edsource.org/2014/transitional-kindergarten-teachers-say-they-need-more-training/61244 http://edsource.org/2014/transitional-kindergarten-teachers-say-they-need-more-training/61244#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 07:01:05 +0000 http://edsource.org/?p=61244 Ninety-five percent of the first transitional kindergarten teachers in California had previously taught preschool, kindergarten or 1st grade, but said they could have used more training on how to teach 4-year-olds, according to a new report by the American Institutes for Research.

(Click to enlarge.) Source: “California's Transitional Kindergarten Program: Report on the First Year of Implementation,” American Institutes of Research, April 2014

(Click to enlarge.) Source: “California’s Transitional Kindergarten Program: Report on the First Year of Implementation,” American Institutes of Research, April 2014

Transitional kindergarten is a year of public education offered to children who are not eligible for regular kindergarten, but who turn 5 in the first three months of the school year. In the program’s inaugural school year (2012-13), more than half of transitional kindergarten teachers reported receiving no training specifically aimed at this age group.

The report released today is the second in an ongoing study that will track the academic and social progress of California students who attended transitional kindergarten. The study will also continue to examine how schools and districts manage the daily details of running a publicly funded pre-kindergarten program.

When the study began, in 2012, funding for transitional kindergarten was uncertain and only one-twelfth of the then-incoming kindergarten population was to be affected. Now, funding for the program is secure and a quarter of next school year’s incoming kindergartners will be eligible for the program. Moreover, Senate leaders are supporting a bill to expand transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-olds by the 2019-20 school year.

Supporters believe offering transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-olds will reduce the number of children who need special education or who repeat a later grade and will boost graduation rates and college attendance. The report does not directly address the question of making transitional kindergarten universal, but Karen Manship, the study’s lead co-author and a senior researcher at American Institutes of Research, said lawmakers should know that there will be challenges in bringing the fledgling program to scale.

“Legislators should keep in mind the challenges that teachers and district administrators reported (in 2012-13), which inevitably still remain in such a new program,” Manship said in an email. “If (transitional kindergarten) becomes a program for all 4-year-olds, the program’s curricula, guidance, and focus will necessarily need to shift.”

Districts will need to continue to secure funding, find facilities, hire the right teachers, provide additional professional training and select a useful curriculum, among other steps, Manship said.

(Click to enlarge.) Source: “California's Transitional Kindergarten Program: Report on the First Year of Implementation,” American Institutes of Research, April 2014

(Click to enlarge.) Source: “California’s Transitional Kindergarten Program: Report on the First Year of Implementation,” American Institutes of Research, April 2014

Only about half of administrators surveyed in spring 2013 agreed that their districts would have “sufficient resources to effectively implement transitional kindergarten in the next two to three years.” This finding corroborates concerns outlined by Adonai Mack, the legislative advocate for the Association of California School Administrators before the Senate Education Committee earlier in April. Mack said many of his members felt they would not be able to expand transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-olds without more money than the current bill, SB 837, would provide.

Researchers found that transitional kindergarten students closely resemble kindergarten students in terms of gender, ethnicity, eligibility for free or reduced price lunch and English-learner status. Parents surveyed mostly said they were “pleased” with the program and were glad their children were enrolled.

Teachers reported spending less time on reading and math than kindergarten teachers in the same schools and more time on social-emotional skills, child-selected activities and non-tested academic subjects. By comparing time spent on various subject areas over the years, the report’s authors wrote, “California’s (transitional kindergarten) classrooms…looked more like kindergarten looked 15 years earlier with respect to time spent on science, social studies, art, and music.”

Overall, Manship said her research found that most transitional kindergarten programs in the state seem to be different than traditional kindergarten and developmentally appropriate for younger students. She also said she was pleasantly surprised to find that many teachers had been directly involved in developing the new programs.

Still, researchers concluded that there was room for improvement. The report recommends that schools receive more guidance in choosing an appropriate curriculum, supply additional training for teachers and conduct better outreach to enroll more eligible students. The report also stated that securing sufficient funding will be critical to the success of the transitional kindergarten program as it expands.

Lillian Mongeau covers early childhood education. Contact her or follow her @lrmongeau. Subscribe to EdSource’s early learning newsletter, Eyes on the Early Years.

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Three California schools win national Green Ribbon awards - by Lillian Mongeau http://edsource.org/2014/three-california-schools-win-national-green-ribbon-awards/61238 http://edsource.org/2014/three-california-schools-win-national-green-ribbon-awards/61238#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 22:12:35 +0000 http://edsource.org/?p=61238 Three schools and one school district in California were honored today in the U.S. Department of Education’s annual Green Ribbon contest, which recognizes environmentally friendly facilities, outdoor education and healthy living.

Lowell Elementary and Mark Twain Elementary in Long Beach were named 2014 Green Ribbon Schools, as was the private San Domenico School in San Anselmo in Marin County. Encinitas Union School District, near San Diego, also won an award for its districtwide focus on environmental education and stewardship.

“The honored schools and districts have an important role to play in modeling best practices,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when announcing the 48 schools and nine districts awarded a prize in 2014.

The California winners have taken their focus on the environment beyond a basic recycling program or a big Earth Day celebration. Students in these schools are engaged in hands-on learning, often outdoors, throughout the year. Lowell, San Domenico and several school in Encinitas feature school gardens where children can learn how plants grow and pick their own fresh vegetables. Winners have also worked to eliminate waste and minimize energy use on their school campuses through everything from composting bins to solar panels.

No money is associated with the award, which schools and districts are nominated for by state education officials. California schools and districts won five Green Ribbons in 2013 and four in 2012, the inaugural year of the program.

Read more about this year’s winners.








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New education funds in Los Angeles Unified must target highest-needs schools - by Maria Brenes, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and John Kim / commentary http://edsource.org/2014/new-education-funds-in-los-angeles-unified-must-target-highest-needs-schools/61013 http://edsource.org/2014/new-education-funds-in-los-angeles-unified-must-target-highest-needs-schools/61013#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 07:21:19 +0000 http://edsource.org/?p=61013 Maria Brenes

Maria Brenes

More than 300 students, parents and community members from the Eastside of Los Angeles and South Los Angeles demonstrated during the first week of April in front of the Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters to demand that Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) dollars be directed to schools based on a comprehensive set of needs that includes academic outcomes and neighborhood conditions.

Passed by the California Legislature in 2013, the formula provides school districts with additional resources specifically for foster youth, English learners and low-income students. It is an important starting point for closing the achievement and funding gap that has plagued California schools for years. New dollars for high-needs students provide school districts and their respective communities the opportunity to invest wisely.

Advancement Project, in close collaboration with Community Coalition and InnerCity Struggle, has produced a Student Need Index. The index is a rigorous, research-based ranking of the highest-needs schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District that best meet the criteria for additional funding under the new funding formula. For example, in the top 10 highest-needs high schools, 284 students drop out, compared to 17 students at the lowest-needs high schools, according to the Student Need Index. This shows that the needs of schools within the district are vastly different.

Marqueece Harris-Dawson

Marqueece Harris-Dawson

The Student Need Index not only measures how students are doing in the classroom but also takes into account the neighborhood conditions that can negatively impact a student’s academic success. The index measures target student populations specifically highlighted in the new funding formula: foster youth, English learners and low-income students. The Student Need Index also measures neighborhood conditions, such as exposure to violence, access to youth programming and early care and education. Schools are ranked on a scale from lowest to highest need.

The recently released budget proposal by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy is promising but does not target sufficient resources toward the schools with the highest concentration of needs. We propose that the district align with the spirit of the new funding law and adopt the Student Need Index as the principal guide for distributing additional state education funds it will receive. This is a high-stakes moment regarding how to best invest resources on behalf of high-needs students. The LCFF is bringing more than $800 million to the district to close the achievement gap for these students, but the district needs a better approach for how to invest these dollars. By doing so, it would ensure that investments are targeted strategically and are guided by a comprehensive set of objective data.

John Kim

John Kim

Schools in the Eastside of Los Angeles, Northeast Valley and South Los Angeles have historically faced the challenges of being under-resourced and neglected. This has resulted in lack of opportunities for students living in our communities. While LAUSD has many schools with needs, we urge the district to target resources to the highest-needs schools.

Our Student Need Index identifies 242 schools with greater needs, thus providing an innovative framework for targeting resources for higher impact. These schools are burdened by unjust and unequal conditions that must be addressed if we expect to dramatically close the achievement gap. For example, these schools:

  • Have about three times the number of students who are classified as English learners;
  • Have more than three times the number of students that are being expelled or suspended;
  • Have 3.5 times the number of students that are in foster care; and
  • Are almost five times as likely to be exposed to gun violence.

In recent years, the district has focused on school transformation efforts that have led to progress. Graduation rates are on the rise, suspension rates are declining, students are now required to complete the college course requirements and overcrowding has been alleviated. These gains are due to years of the community demanding justice and insisting that our neighborhoods are prioritized. The district can further improve the odds for students by using state education funds to hire additional counselors, increase school-based health services, add sufficient “restorative justice” coordinators to help reduce suspension and expulsion rates, and strengthen parent engagement for the highest-needs schools.

As the largest school district in California, LAUSD has the opportunity to dramatically move the needle on equity for the highest-needs schools within its boundaries. We call upon our district leadership to adopt this index as a decision-making tool and direct funds to the schools that need them most for the programs and services that will make a real difference. That is what is needed to close the achievement gap and fulfill the promise of offering a quality education to every Los Angeles student, regardless of where they live.


Marqueece Harris-Dawson is president of Community Coalition, John Kim is co-director of Advancement Project, and Maria Brenes is executive director of InnerCity Struggle.  All three organizations are based in Los Angeles.

EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the authors. If you would like to submit a commentary for EdSource Today, please contact us.
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