The State Board of Education on Wednesday approved a new version of the school improvement plan that districts must create or update annually.
Board members praised the revision of the Local Control and Accountability Plan (see draft template starting page 7) as a significant advance in making an opaque and dense document more usable and readable. Representatives of school districts and advocates for parents and students, who had loudly criticized previous versions of the plan, generally agreed with board members in public comments.
The LCAP serves as a district’s comprehensive budget and policy plan that’s supposed to address weaknesses in performance, disparities in student achievement and inequities in resources. The Legislature, in requiring it, said it should also reflect community priorities.
But two earlier versions of the three-year planning document had been widely panned. District officials complained about the length and organization. Parents and advocates for low-income students called for tighter controls to track supplemental money that districts receive under the Local Control Funding Formula for high-needs students – English learners, low-income students and foster youth.
While not totally satisfied with the new template, several dozen speakers acknowledged that they got some of what they sought. The new LCAP includes a three-page summary that asks districts to cite significant areas of progress and greatest needs for improvement. It also requires listing two to three significant ways it will improve or increase services for student groups who receive supplemental dollars.
A district must estimate how many extra dollars it will receive under the funding formula for high-needs students and the actions it’s taking on their behalf. In annual updates, the district must explain why it didn’t spend money in areas it had budgeted the year before.
These are improvements, but still don’t go far enough in requiring districts to spend all of what they get for high-needs students, said John Affeldt, managing attorney for the nonprofit law group Public Advocates.
Teri Burns, a legislative advocate for the California School Boards Association, said the LCAP changes will result in more “transparency, simplicity and clarity” in planning, but cautioned that districts, particularly those with small staffs, may continue to find the requirements overwhelming.
The new version will require districts to make it a priority to address weaknesses that data from the state’s new accountability system will identify. That system, which will go into effect next year, requires that districts focus on not only standardized test scores, but also school climate, parent engagement, measures of college and career readiness and the progress of English learners in learning English.
Problems that have been ignored must now be addressed, said board member Patricia Rucker. “Districts will no longer get a pass on what they will pay attention to, because they will now have rubrics and data providing evidence about performance,” she said.
The LCAP will serve as the link between state and local priorities. Board member Ting Sun, an executive director of a Sacramento-based charter school who is involved in writing LCAPs, called it an important piece of a new accountability system that “is making me and my school more transparent than it has ever been.”