With districts working this fall to put into action their first locally created school accountability plans, the California Department of Education rolled out a new online resource center on Thursday designed to help schools change.
Known as the Quality Schooling Framework, the site is intended to guide administrators through the process of identifying priorities, gathering data, building support and implementing and assessing new programs. The framework includes videos on Developing Effective School and District Plans, Analyzing Data and Assessing Local Needs, Leading Change and Engaging Stakeholders.
The framework pays a lot of attention to school culture and climate, and notes that “the school environment, like family and community environments, has either a powerful positive or negative effect on whether students learn and thrive.”
The mood on campus, the framework said, affects how students and staff think, feel and act; “whether students are motivated to learn and stay in school; and whether teachers are satisfied with, and engaged in their work.”
The tips, links to research and definitions of concepts such as school climate are presented as “universal features of quality schooling” that can help administrators move forward on many initiatives, including meeting school program improvement goals set by the state, as well as fulfilling the budget and accountability plans – known as Local Control and Accountability Plans – that districts created for the first time in June.
The depth of information on topics varies widely; the site barely mentions the Common Core State Standards and the new standardized tests created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
But during this time of major changes in California education, new tools and resources are valuable, said Samantha Tran, senior director of education policy at Children Now, an Oakland-based nonprofit organization. “This is all new for educators,” she said.
Now that local plans have been approved, Tran said, the challenge for the district is to turn those plans into action steps and milestones, and to put people in charge of execution.
“You’ve linked programs to the goals you’re trying to achieve, but who owns that in the district? How does that manifest in the day-to-day work in the district?” Tran asked.
Earlier this week, Tran presented information on those topics at a “Leveraging LCAPs to Drive Effective Change” webinar co-hosted by Children Now and Pivot Learning Partners. The new local control process is cyclical, she said, and districts are already looking ahead to how they will reach out to community members, measure results and update their plans next spring.