New entity to oversee, support LCFF accountability

New entity to oversee, support LCFF accountability

CLARIFICATION: The State Superintendent of Public Instruction has yet to appoint a lead for implementing the work of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence on behalf of the California Department of Education, and until that appointment is made, Erin Gabel is serving as a liaison with the State Board of Education, the Legislature, and external stakeholders on CCEE planning.

 

(Calif.) Support, not punishment, is the guiding mantra for state education officials in the early stages of planning an entity that will ultimately be responsible for helping districts meet new goals under Gov. Jerry Brown’s sweeping school finance reform.

Sitting in the shadows of the regulatory work currently underway around the Local Control Funding Formula and its associated accountability plans is the mandate to create the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence – a governmental body envisioned to provide comprehensive technical assistance to districts tasked with meeting new student accountability goals.

“Folks see this as an opportunity not to create another compliance arm; not to create another top-down bureaucracy in California but to instead think about how we can facilitate improvement at the local level and provide state leveraging and technical assistance – that is something that everyone has shared opinions about,” said Erin Gabel, director of government affairs at the California Department of Education and the person representing schools chief Tom Torlakson in early discussions about the CCEE.

“The consensus so far is that it be a different role for the state than California has had,” Gabel said. “Our hope is to draw from best practices we’ve seen throughout the country and globally – something more like models we’ve seen in Massachusetts or in the Ontario providence in Canada where you have a role that the state provides purely for technical assistance’s sake.”

The plan comes forward as districts throughout California – and to some degrees other states as well – undergo a massive transition.

Some 45 states, including California, are at various stages of implementing new curriculum based on the Common Core standards, adopted by most of them in 2010. The transformation includes an entirely new system of assessments, requiring some states – again including California – to complete massive school technology upgrades for those moving to computer testing.

California schools also face the transition to Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula, which alters the state/K-12 fiscal relationship by simplifying what had become an overly complex distribution system, and by returning spending authority to local district boards.

Under LCFF law, however, districts must still comply with a number of new mandates, including development of a Local Control Accountability Plan spelling out how extra funds provided for higher populations of disadvantaged learners are used to improve their educational outcomes.

The law also calls for the creation of the Community Collaborative for Educational Excellence, intended as the final arbiter if districts fail to meet their performance targets under their accountability plans. But SB 97 also authorizes the state superintendent to direct the CCEE to “advise and assist” school districts, county superintendents or charter schools.

“They will be advising what happens in terms of compliance down the road,” Gabel said. “There’s a relationship in statute between school districts who are not achieving what’s expected of them vis-à-vis their LCAP, and advice is provided by the collaborative on how to improve that achievement.”

Department administrators, said Gabel, are also cognizant of the fact that whatever role the CCEE plays, it should not be duplicative of that of county offices of education.

Language in SB 97 outlines the CCEE as being governed by a five-member board consisting of the state superintendent and board of education president, or their so-named designees; one county superintendent appointed by the Senate Rules Committee, one teacher appointed by speaker of the Assembly and one district superintendent appointed by the governor. The bill also directs the state superintendent, with approval of the state board, to contract with a district or county or a consortium of educational agencies to serve as the fiscal agent for the CCEE.

This year’s budget includes a $10 million appropriation to get the collaborative up and running.

The conversation has yet to begin in earnest, said Gabel, about what form the collaborative will take and how it will accomplish those legislative goals. But a few early internal planning discussions between state staff and some key stakeholders have revealed widespread consensus that the CCEE can – and should – be more than just another layer of bureaucracy focused on administrative oversight.

In addition to being shaped by new LCFF regulations set to be adopted by the state board in January, work around creating the CCEE, Gabel said, will involve “taking a broad look at what types of technical assistance will help school districts, grappling with enormous decisions and new flexibility – and many of whom themselves are those shining lighthouses of best practices that we need to be leveraging.”

Look for stakeholder meetings and formal hearings starting in the next few months, Gabel said.