Last minute moves support student discipline, Adult ed

Last minute moves support student discipline, Adult ed

(Calif.) A multi-million dollar grant to help schools address student behavior; parameters for the revamped Adult Education program, and a deadline extension for adopting new school performance metrics were among the flurry of budget moves approved in Sacramento late last week.

The Legislature technically adopted its $115.4 billion overall spending plan by the June 15 deadline but language containing specific details for hundreds of programs follow in what are known as budget trailer bills.

K-14 education is the big winner in the 2015-16 budget thanks to a voter-approved constitutional amendment that guarantees schools nearly half of all new revenues each year. This year’s $68.4 billion Prop. 98 allocation represents a 12.3 percent increase over the $60.9 billion schools received last year.   

While the final budget carves out much larger allocations for teacher training and career-technical education, the $10 million grant for student services sets in motion the state’s plan for bringing multi-tiered support systems to every public school classroom.

The move toward behavior modification programs that keep kids in the regular classroom as much as possible began picking up speed following the release in 2012 of reports and data showing that not only did California have one of the highest rates of suspension in the nation but that minority students in many of the state's schools are disproportionately subject to the disciplinary practice.

In the 2009-10 school year alone, almost 751,000 suspensions were reported statewide. Research also shows that students with frequent suspensions are at greater risk of becoming involved in gangs, dropping out of school and becoming a part of the juvenile justice system.

Efforts undertaken in several California districts, including the Los Angeles, San Francisco and Alhambra unified school districts – as well as in other states – are have shown the positive results of less punitive measures, such as those that emphasize restorative justice (reflections of one's behavior), counseling, referrals to drug treatment and other social services within the school setting.

AB 104, the trailer bill approving the one-time award, calls for the California Department of Education to select from those that apply a county office of education to develop a program that provides resources – including funding – and technical assistance to help districts and charter schools establish “schoolwide, data-driven systems of learning and behavioral supports for the purpose of meeting the needs of California’s diverse learners in the most inclusive environments possible.”

The information available from the COE would include options for collaborating with multiple school and community offices, including local mental health agencies to provide school-based services.

Other requirements include services that can reduce the need for a pupil’s referral to special education, and incorporating an LEA’s efforts into its Local Control Accountability Plan.

AB 104 also extends by a year the deadline for the California State Board of Education to adopt a set of rubrics which county offices of education will use to evaluate those LCAPs, designed to show how well schools are using new state money to educate students.

Under current statute, the board has until Oct. 1 to adopt the evaluation tool, a data matrix intended to measure district success in meeting the state’s eight education priorities, adopted as part of the Local Control Funding Formula and the associated LCAPs.

The state has been bogged down the last few years in the complex transition to new Common Core education standards, development of new computerized assessments aligned to those standards as well as the switch to LCFF and development of LCAP priorities. Along with these tasks, officials have been struggling to develop a new system for measuring school performance and student achievement.

Work on the rubrics is underway, and a broad outline of what could be included in them has been presented to the SBE. The new legislation gives members until Oct. 1, 2016 to adopt the final rubrics.

The list of courses that Adult Education programs may offer is laid out in the final trailer bill language and they include classes for older adults, as has always been the case.

In a major restructuring of how the programs are overseen and funded, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed removing some of the less “academic” type courses often available through Adult Education, including classes for the elderly and some non-credit classes. It appears as though advocates for those groups won out.

For some 150 years, adult education in California has served as a core service to integrating new immigrants into U.S. society as well as a reentry point for high school dropouts and older students who wanted a chance at higher education.

The national recession devastated adult programs, as the state was forced to move money traditionally earmarked for those services to general educational uses. According to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, which shares jurisdiction over adult education with K-12 schools, overall participation fell by more than 800,000 students between 2008 and 2013.

The budget offers $500 million for adult education that would be distributed based on regional needs by the Community College Chancellor, the state superintendent and the California State Board of Education.

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