Members of the State Board of Education are encouraging school districts to use executive summaries, infographics and other ways to make districts’ burgeoning Local Control and Accountability Plans more reader-friendly to parents and community members.
But the board took no action on the issue at its bimonthly meeting in Sacramento this week and has no plans to require new features or, at this point, to modify the template that districts must use to draw up the accountability and budget documents, known as LCAPs, that every district and charter school must write every three years and update annually.
State board president Michael Kirst expressed concerns that requiring an executive summary could make the LCAP even more unwieldy. “It would end up as a 100-page executive summary,” he quipped.
Board member Patricia Rucker said a better strategy would be for districts to focus on improving the quality of the core LCAP itself, rather than mandating new features. She pointed out that districts already have the right to add any materials they would like.
Board member Trish Williams also did not favor imposing additional requirements, but said that rather an executive summary, which would have the difficult task of summarizing an entire LCAP, the focus should be on coming up with a “user friendly” document that parents could more easily understand.
An EdSource review of the state’s 30 largest districts published last week found that LCAPS mushroomed in size and complexity in the second year, often to hundreds of pages.
Materials presented to the board by the California Department of Education listed examples of innovative ways that districts have used to summarize their LCAPs. These include infographics, blogs, and data “dashboards.” The department also referred to an Educational Policy Improvement Center report that includes promising LCAP practices and creative ways to communicate key information to the public.
The Legislature required districts to write LCAPs in exchange for gaining more flexibility in deciding how to spend state funding. LCAPs must spell out district improvement goals, along with actions and expenditures to achieve them, for all students and for student subgroups, with special attention to English learners, and low-income, homeless and foster children who draw additional dollars.
Board member Sue Burr acknowledged that the LCAP, which in the two years it has been mandated is emerging as a comprehensive and often dense planning document for the district, “may not be a helpful a communication tool for parents.”
“So the question is whether you need an infographic or some other mechanism,” Burr said. Another option is to convert or somehow adapt an existing document that every school must compile annually, the School Accountability Report Card or SARC, into a document that is more useful to parents. The state Department of Education plans to revise the SARC so that it more closely aligns with the LCAP.
Nearly 50 districts and county offices of education across the state have hired a San Bernardino County firm, goboinfographics.com, to design infographics that supplement their LCAP template, at a cost of $2,500 a year. The firm’s owner is Randall Putz, a graphic designer and former member of the Bear Valley Unified School District’s board of trustees. He said he came up with the idea for LCAP infographics two years ago as a way to get parents and other stakeholders involved in the process.
Below are some approaches to summarizing the LCAP, identified by EdSource and the California Department of Education:
- Bear Valley Unified (San Bernardino County) — 10-page infographic
- Fremont Unified (Alameda County) — 12-page infographic
- Corona-Norco Unifed (Riverside County) — 15-page infographic
- Berkeley Unified (Alameda County) — Two-page overview
- Orange Unified (Orange County) — Four-page summary memo
- Santee School District (San Diego County) — 12-page executive summary
- Red Bluff Joint Union High School (Butte County) — Two-page executive summary
- Madera Unified (Madera County) — Data dashboard
- West Contra Costa Unified (Contra Costa County) — Data dashboard
- Huntington Beach Union High School District (Orange County) — Infographic in Vietnamese
- San Diego Unified School District (San Diego County) — Executive summary
Have you seen innovative ways to summarize an LCAP that we should add to this list? Please send them to us at email@example.com, with “LCAP Summary” in the subject line.
To get more reports like this one, click here to sign up for EdSource’s no-cost daily email on latest developments in education.
We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.
Dawn Urbanek 8 years ago8 years ago
The Orange County Department of Education accepted an LCAP and LCAP Annual Review that stated that the Capistrano Unified School District was spending $4,937 million on Certificated Personnel Salaries to reduce class sizes in 2014 – 15. The OCDE also accepted a teachers contract that clearly stated Class sizes were not reduced in 2013-14 and 2014 -15 and wrote a letter to the District documenting that. What kind of accountability is that? see: http://peopleforstudentrights.com/index.php/lcap/lcap-goal-1/measurable-outcome-3
Gary Ravani 8 years ago8 years ago
Running a school district is a complex affair and putting those complexities into written form will inevitably result in a complex document. The other alternative is to have school districts focus more on simplification rather than the realities of school management.
smf 8 years ago8 years ago
I always worry about the intent of making something "more reader-friendly to parents and community members" ...there is a fine line between making something "accessible to the public" and "dumbing it down." The truth is that Local Control Accountability Plans should have been authored with+by (not for) parents and community members - and in may cases I remain unconvinced that the legislative intent that the community be engaged in the planning process is being adhered … Read More
I always worry about the intent of making something “more reader-friendly to parents and community members” …there is a fine line between making something “accessible to the public” and “dumbing it down.”
The truth is that Local Control Accountability Plans should have been authored with+by (not for) parents and community members – and in may cases I remain unconvinced that the legislative intent that the community be engaged in the planning process is being adhered to beyond minimal compliance.
Check the box. Initial here.
I suspect that many LCAPs are the usual district budget, prepared by the usual budgeteers, on a different template.
Rather than go out of our way with executive summaries and infographics and dashboards to be parent friendly let’s go out of our way to create LCAP’s that are student-friendly to socioeconomically challenged kids, English language learners and foster kids.
Leave the public relations spin to the Mad Men. We are not creating plans to fill binders on shelves …or slick mailers to parents; we are creating policy to better educate children. And the State Board of Ed and the County Offices of Ed should be evaluating LCAP’s on how well they do that.
Dawn Urbanek 8 years ago8 years ago
Here is one example of why the LCAP cannot work as an "accountability tool" From the Capistrano Unified School Districts "Annual LCAP Review" see: http://www.peopleforstudentrights.com/index.php/lcap/lcap-goal-3/measurable-outcome-1 Measurable Outcome #1: The number of students completing A- G requirements will increase by 3% A-G completion rate: 2012-13: 53.1% Goal for 2013-14 = 53.1% + 3% = 56.1% A-G completion rate 2013-14: 52.5% Thus the district's goal was not met, according to information on Data Quest. The reality is that if only 1/2 of … Read More
Here is one example of why the LCAP cannot work as an “accountability tool”
From the Capistrano Unified School Districts “Annual LCAP Review” see: http://www.peopleforstudentrights.com/index.php/lcap/lcap-goal-3/measurable-outcome-1
Measurable Outcome #1: The number of students completing A- G requirements will increase by 3%
A-G completion rate: 2012-13: 53.1%
Goal for 2013-14 = 53.1% + 3% = 56.1%
A-G completion rate 2013-14: 52.5%
Thus the district’s goal was not met, according to information on Data Quest.
The reality is that if only 1/2 of our students are qualified for college then California’s public education system needs to do more to prepare students for the military or non-college oriented careers.
The problem with the LCAP as a transparency tool:
The LCAP annual review was approved by the Board June 24, 2015. However most of the data needed to prove whether annual measurable outcomes were met was not available at the time the LCAP Annual Review was approved by the Board and sent to the county office of education for review. That makes the data totally meaningless. Unless the LCAP is amended, and a new “approved” LCAP is sent to the county office of education after the 2013-14 data was made available, there will be incorrect numbers on the LCAP from one year to the next. That places an onerous burden on taxpayers to read long LCAP, check data,attend a Board meeting to ask for a correction, then check and make sure the correction was made. In the meantime, the next year’s LCAP has been generated with incorrect data, so the process is a never-ending burden on the public.