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Local Control Funding Formula and Common Core State Standards represent significant changes to funding and curriculum

This school year, all public K12 schools in California are tackling two of the greatest changes to public education to impact the state in over 30 years. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), signed into law by the Governor in July, fundamentally changes how our schools will be funded. And, in August 2010, California joined 46 other states in adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English and Math committing to begin implementation this school year. We begin with a brief overview of the funding formula and standards. More detailed and localized coverage will follow as Santa Cruz City Schools undertakes the transition to this new funding formula and curriculum.

LCFF: Flexibility and Accountability

CSBA

The twin features of LCFF are local decision making and increased financial support to serve high needs students – specifically low income, English language learners and foster children. The Governor, putting forward the principal of “subsidiarity“, intends for school districts to have flexibility to determine how to best serve their students. Along with that flexibility and additional funding for high needs students will come a new form of accountability. The State Board of Education (SBE) is currently drafting regulations for the new Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs). While more detail will become clear in January after the next SBE meeting, it is expected that school districts like ours will appoint an advisory council of parents that will include representation from all stakeholders, including the families of our English language learners, low income and foster students. It is a significant and sweeping change that requires school districts to authentically engage parents and community members in core decisions regarding budgets and programs that will meet the needs of our students. The legislature has made it clear that the intent is for parents to have a seat at the decision making table.

The first gathering of these parents in Santa Cruz City Schools will take place in early December and will include delegates from School Site Councils, the District English Language Advisory Council and other parent groups. Future meetings and final composition of the group have yet to be finalized.

The LCFF approach does away with decades of convoluted funding priorities known as “categoricals,” with restrictions that school leaders were bound to, even if the programs did not well meet the needs of their particular students. Under LCFF, districts will receive base funding for all students and supplemental funds for students with additional needs. School districts with high populations of low income, English language learners and/or foster children will also receive concentration funds to create programs targeted to serve their specific needs. LCFF funds will not be disbursed immediately; the formula calls for a graduated increase over the next 8 years. Few districts, if any, will see additional dollars this school year. Districts who do not have significant numbers of high needs students may receive less money for each student than under the previous “revenue limit” funding model in place for the past 40 years. Our school district is unique in that it is actually two districts with a common administration, but two different funding models. Our elementary schools will remain what is called “Basic Aid“, receiving a set allocation from local property taxes (not based on the number of students enrolled). In our high schools, we can expect a slight increase over time in base funding and some supplemental funds, but we will not qualify for the concentration increase.

The Santa Cruz City Schools district will begin to hold hearings in March 2014 to share plans for how we will apply the new formula to our elementary, middle and high schools. The new budget will be adopted in June and, in a neat turn of circumstance, the district will find out how much money they actually received for the 2013-14 school year in July, after the school year ends.

Stay tuned for updates regarding opportunities for community input into the local decision making process.

LCFF Resources

Common Core: New Curriculum

California is committed to a full implementation of the Common Core State Standards in the 2014-2105 school year, with transition beginning now in all districts. Initiated by the the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association in 2008, the goal was to implement rigorous standards that are fairly uniform from state to state, with a focus on ensuring that American students are prepared for college, career and competition in a global marketplace. There is some controversy surrounding the state standards, with opposition rising from conservatives suspicious of what some see as a national curriculum subjugating states’ rights and also from progressives concerned about the content and associated high stakes testing. In general, teachers find positive aspects in the depth of the curriculum, integration of disciplines and the potential for inquiry and collaboration. This year our teachers are receiving training in the new standards and are beginning to discuss how they will implement them in their classrooms.

Alongside the CCSS emphasis on critical thinking, analysis and problem solving, the other most noticeable changes will occur in English and Math courses. The standards also call for integration across the disciplines, adding, for example, new emphasis on writing and presentation to science courses. Santa Cruz City Schools leaders and teachers have hosted several parent information nights to provide an overview of what to expect in the year – and years –  ahead. Watch for more information at parent-teacher conferences and open houses to learn more about how the new standards will roll out in your child’s classroom.

Common Core: Online Testing

Of the 46 states signed on to CCSS, California has taken its own approach to the introduction of new standardized tests. In October, the Governor approved AB 484, a law that suspends the familiar STAR tests and the Academic Performance Index (API) while we field test the new assessments tied to the CCSS. This spring, students in selected grades will take what are essentially practice tests in English and Math. Their scores, as usual, do not affect their academic progress. What is different this year is that the scores will not be used to measure teacher, school or district performance – data is that is used to compare schools using the API. This puts California at odds with the federal Education Department and the regulations of the current education act, No Child Left Behind. State and federal leaders are negotiating over potential sanctions.

This Spring, students in our schools will take tests developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. A significant departure from the days of number 2 pencils and fill in the bubble multiple choice tests, the new tests are taken online, and are expected to be adaptive, adjusting difficulty of the question in response to the students’ answers. In our schools, students will likely take these tests in their classrooms using carts of portable computers. Our school district is making significant investments in data infrastructure and computing hardware to meet the timeline and requirements of the new Common Core assessments. Details regarding the testing time frame, the technology required and how the tests will be taken are being discussed now by our school district leaders and principals.

Common Core Resources

Stay tuned for more information about how the new funding formula and curriculum will affect our neighborhood schools.