SBE moves to better align LCAP with feds

SBE moves to better align LCAP with feds

(Calif.) The California State Board of Education approved the addition of a new section to the Local Control Accountability Plans in which districts must identify what actions they will or are taking to improve their lowest performing schools.

In what will be one of the final actions made by outgoing members of the SBE, the vote also brought the state’s school accountability system closer into alignment to accountability requirements called for under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Board member Sue Burr said during Wednesday’s meeting that this step is part of an ongoing process to ensure local education agencies understand that the LCAP is meant to be a strategic plan laying out how they intend to improve their schools, rather than another compliance document with boxes to check off.

“This does a good job of navigating what we’re required to do under federal law while still retaining the very clear message that it’s the LEAs responsibility to provide the and services to schools that are struggling,” Burr said. “It’s not the state’s [role] to reach down and try to deal with individual schools.”

When it was adopted in 2013, California’s Local Control Funding Formula gave local school officials authority over how to spend billions of dollars in state education money.

One condition, however, is that school districts adopt and annually update their LCAP—a document where officials must detail how they will use state funds to support at-risk students directed by the eight priorities, including academic outcomes, school climate, and student and family engagement.

In California, school districts are identified as low performing–or in need of additional support–if they continuously come up short on any of the eight state priorities with various student subgroups.

So, for instance, if a district has high rites of chronic absenteeism two years in a row among English learners, or low graduation rates among low-income youth, they would be flagged as being in need of improvement.

Under federal law, however, states are required to identify the 300 lowest performing schools–not districts. Though seemingly a minor distinction, it was a major point of contention last year between California’s education leaders and the U.S. Department of Education when it came time for the feds to grant approval of the state’s ESSA plan.

The state board essentially approved of a compromise Wednesday, by ensuring that the districts, in which any of the 300 lowest performing schools are located, outline on their LCAPs how they will help those specific sites improve.

Board member Feliza Ortiz-Licon expressed concern that parents reading the LCAP documents could only see what districts were doing to improve their schools that had been identified as needing improvement, but would have no idea why the schools were identified in the first place, and if the steps being taken even aligned to those problems.

Board member Patricia Rucker agreed that districts should ensure stakeholders understand the problems being address, but also noted that folks tend to get stuck in the minutia with highly technical and detailed topics like this.

Rucker recommended that guidance be released with the latest change adopted Wednesday explaining that expectation of LEAs when crafting their LCAPs.

“At the 5,000 foot level what we’ve attempted to do is both streamline and align the multiple types of planning activities that the districts and school sites are tasked with doing,” Rucker said during Wednesday’s meeting. “But we do need to make sure that we are clear and purposeful making sure that districts not only clearly articulate the reason for identification [for improvement], but that there’s a clear alignment between the support plan and the reasons for the identification of those schools.”

Ilene Straus, board vice president, said members were moving in the right direction, but that there was still more work to do to streamline and improve the LCAP documents and process.

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