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 firstname.lastname@example.org, with “LCAP Summary” in the subject line.