Alison Yin / EdSource
First graders at Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland, Calif.

LA Chamber of Commerce

Gary Toebben

California is about to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education to satisfy the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The plan in its draft form outlines an approach to managing $2.6 billion in federal funds for low-income students and meets federal requirements. At the same time, the plan ensures California maximum flexibility to continue its ground-breaking educational reforms that began with 2013’s landmark Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). We believe this is the right balance.

The State Board of Education is expected to approve the plan Wednesday at its meeting in Sacramento. The board has come under come under pressure from a range of quarters to make the plan more prescriptive and more detailed.

However, we support the plan in its current form, as do many of our partners in the business world. Recently, the Regional Economic Association Leaders (R.E.A.L.) Coalition, an association of California’s most influential business and economic development entities, representing 20 member organizations and up to 15,000 employers who collectively provide up to 3.9 million California jobs, wrote a letter of support to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst.

Signed by Gov. Brown more than two years before Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, the state’s new funding formula provides extra funding to schools that serve students needing extra help — $10.1 billion annually when fully implemented. LCFF also moves California’s educational system away from top-down directives from Sacramento by empowering local communities to make spending decisions based on local needs.

In exchange for this flexibility, school districts are required to increase transparency in decision-making, improve community engagement efforts, and focus resources on improving student learning. We believe this model will help create positive leadership and performance cultures throughout California’s 1,000-plus school districts. Revitalized school cultures will then help our schools attract, retain and support effective teachers — so critical in easing the current teacher shortage.

Through the Local Control Funding Formula, California has developed a robust and meaningful set of student performance indicators to help local communities see progress and address learning gaps among student groups. These indicators, which also include graduation rates, suspension rates, English learner progress and college and career readiness, will help communities better understand the complexities of education in a way systems based solely on test scores cannot.

The state’s ESSA plan — essentially a grant application — is designed to retain California’s flexibility to adjust what’s working and what isn’t with its reforms based on feedback from parents, students, teachers and others. California hasn’t yet completed its exhaustive work to overhaul public education. The state’s new system of providing support and assistance to struggling school districts has yet to come online. With more to be done, it makes sense to craft an ESSA plan that allows for innovation and improvements.

We stand ready to work with state education leaders to develop a future workforce that will support a strong, economically competitive California. My colleagues and I believe California’s public school classrooms must foster critical thinking, complex problem solving, effective communication, teamwork, and independence for students to thrive in today’s rapidly changing work environments.

California is on the right track toward achieving those goals, although it still has a way to go. The ESSA plan will help California stay the course.

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Gary Toebben is President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the author. EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. If you would like to submit a commentary, please review our guidelines and contact us.

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  1. ann 7 days ago7 days ago

    Groundbreaking? Where, what, when? We are on track to produce one of the least prepared generations ever. The increases in graduation rates are a sham and everyone in education knows this is true. There has been no closing of the ‘gap’. There is no cohesion, consistency, or sense of mission in this state. Just a plethora of interests groups, including the one this gentlemen represents.

  2. FloydThursby 1 week ago1 week ago

    Hmmm .... suspicious. I see nothing groundbreaking or game-changing in this. Anyone wanna bet me $1,000 we won't see more than 10% of the achievement gap disappear over the next 10 years or see us improve compared to Shanghai, with a far lower average income? This doesn't focus on student effort, teacher quality, tutoring services or universal reading ability starting kindergarten, or parent education. It doesn't focus on adding charters. I … Read More

    Hmmm …. suspicious. I see nothing groundbreaking or game-changing in this. Anyone wanna bet me $1,000 we won’t see more than 10% of the achievement gap disappear over the next 10 years or see us improve compared to Shanghai, with a far lower average income? This doesn’t focus on student effort, teacher quality, tutoring services or universal reading ability starting kindergarten, or parent education. It doesn’t focus on adding charters. I don’t see how this is groundbreaking. No one remembers these big predictions in 10 years. Can EdSource pledge to write a follow up article on this 10 years from today reporting on the change on measurable statistics 10 years from now?