California Collaborative Releases a New Report on Improving Teacher Quality
Teachers matter. Educators, policymakers, and the general public alike agree that great teachers are vital to a thriving K-12 education system, yet the pathways to assembling a high quality teaching force remain elusive. This case study of Garden Grove Unified School District, winner of the 2004 Broad Prize for Urban Education, demonstrates what a comprehensive approach to maximizing teacher quality can look like in practice. The report examines the strategies behind the district’s two key levers for improvement: (1) getting the best teachers and (2) building the capacity of the teachers it has. The story of Garden Grove is less about what it does, however, than how the district approaches its work. The report therefore explores the district culture and commitment to continuous improvement that produce effective practices of human capital development and enable these practices to achieve success.
California Collaborative Convenes to Address Special Education
The California Collaborative on District Reform convened on June 27 and 28 in San Francisco for a two-day meeting, Roots, Reality, and Reboot: Transforming (Special) Education to Advance Equity and Learning. The meeting explored the historical roots of special education in the United States, as well as current practices of identification and instruction that disproportionately funnel students of color and English learners into special education services and inferior educational opportunities. Meeting participants then had an opportunity to explore the ways in which school systems can establish the conditions for more equitable educational opportunity, including instructional approaches that can meet the needs of a wide range of learners in inclusive settings. All meeting participants received a briefing book of resources and literature on the history of special education, patterns of disproportionality, cutting edge instructional practices (including the Universal Design for Learning framework), and special education policy in California. These resources are available on the Meeting 22 page.
California Collaborative Co-Sponsors Symposium on Common Core Implementation
The California Collaborative on District Reform co-sponsored a symposium on June 25 and 26 in Los Angeles called Moving Forward: Common Core State Standards Implementation and Assessment. The event, which brought together district leaders and other stakeholders from across the state, used a combination of presentations and breakout sessions to examine the instructional shifts called for in the Common Core, emerging practices for effective implementation, and opportunities for collaboration that can facilitate a successful transition to the Common Core. The symposium featured contributions from Collaborative members, including a keynote address from Jonathan Raymond, Superintendent of Sacramento City Unified School District, and a presentation from Rose Owens-West, Director of the Region IX Equity Assistance Center at WestEd, about key considerations to ensure that educators meet the needs of all learners as the Common Core are implemented. In addition, Joel Knudson, Deputy Director of the Collaborative, presented findings from the Collaborative’s recent brief, Learning from the Past: Exploring California’s CLAS Experience to Inform Assessment of the Common Core. REL West and California Education Partners partnered with the Collaborative to co-sponsor the event. These organizations co-sponsored a similar symposium in August 2012 in Northern California.
Events Addressing Assessment and the Common Core Feature the Collaborative’s Learning from the Past Brief
Three recent events addressing assessment and the Common Core featured one of the Collaborative’s recent briefs, Learning from the Past: Exploring California’s CLAS Experience to Inform Assessment of the Common Core. Student assessment is a high priority for school districts as they transition to the Common Core State Standards, but this is not the first time that California has embraced an effort to use more authentic means to assess student learning. Joel Knudson, Deputy Director of the Collaborative, led sessions at two events to identify key lessons learned from assessment experiences of the early 1990s: a joint meeting of the California Department of Education and the California Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee and a symposium on Common Core implementation and assessment gave educators from the county and district levels an opportunity to identify ways in which the CLAS experience can inform their current implementation efforts. Joel also contributed to a webinar hosted by the Regional Educational Laboratory-West that featured the Collaborative’s work around CLAS as well as efforts currently underway in California Office to Reform Education (CORE) participating districts to develop and pilot classroom-level assessment modules. Ben Sanders, the Director of Standards, Instruction, and Assessment at CORE, shared a systemic approach to developing these assessment modules, followed by a panel of teachers who described the ways in which these efforts have informed their classroom practice.
California Collaborative Convenes to Address a Systemic Approach to Creating Community Schools
The California Collaborative on District Reform convened on April 11 and 12 in Oakland for a two-day meeting, Creating a Quality Community Schools District: Each Child College, Career, and Community Ready. The meeting used the Oakland Unified School District as a lens to explore the relationship between school districts and their communities and the ways in which systems address the needs of the whole child. Meeting participants also engaged in conversation about comprehensive school reviews that can provide evidence of quality to schools and their surrounding communities while motivating concentrated efforts at improvement. All meeting participants received a briefing book of resources and literature on community schools, measurements of school quality, restorative justice practices, and a proposal from the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) for a new approach to achieving quality and accountability. These resources are available on the Meeting 21 page.
Collaborative Members Support Local Control Funding Formula
Eight superintendents on the California Collaborative on District Reform, as well as the chair of the group, wrote a letter urging Joan Buchanan, the chair of the Assembly Education Committee, to pass the the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in the budget this year. They argue that the current accountability system is undermined with over-regulation and cumbersome bureaucracy that impedes districts’ ability to develop coherent educational approaches. Under LCFF, all students would receive equal access to a base level of funding, with special attention paid to how we fund low-income students, English learners, and students in foster care. The letter argues that LCFF will create an education finance system with increased local flexibility and transparency so that district and school staff can focus directly on improving education outcomes and ensure that students drive the allocation of resources.
California and the Common Core State Standards: Early Steps, Early Opportunities
This brief stems from the symposium Collaborating for Success: Implementing the Common Core State Standards in California co-hosted by the California Collaborative in August 2012. It provides an overview of the promises and challenges of implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as discussed at the symposium by several national experts. In particular, California Collaborative member, Kenji Hakuta, emphasized the importance of linking English language development with content. The brief presents themes which emerged from conversations among district leaders about their strategies for and experiences with implementing the CCSS. Themes include strategies for communicating the CCSS vision to various audiences, aligning resources, tools, policies, and practices to support CCSS implementation, and building partnerships with community organizations such as afterschool providers. The report concludes with a discussion of next steps in California’s transition to the CCSS including the need to ensure equity and access for all students as well as navigating the state's upcoming transition to a new accountability system.
California Collaborative Convenes to Address 21st Century Learning for All: Closing Opportunity Gaps
On January 10-11th the California Collaborative convened to hear about San Jose Unified School District’s work to foster 21st Century learning and close opportunity gaps, as laid out in the district’s new strategic plan and key performance measures. The meeting provided an opportunity to examine exactly what 21st Century skills are and how educators can best foster them and capture evidence of student mastery. Attendees grounded discussion around identifying and measuring opportunity gaps in opportunity- to- learn artifacts submitted by our member districts. In addition to this discussion of district-level strategies, the convening explored two critical issues of state policy: potential indicators that could be incorporated into a revised state accountability system and the move toward a revised school finance system in California. Additional resources on these topics are available on the meeting 20 page.
Collaborative Members Join Governor’s Working Group on School Finance Reform
In November of 2012, members of the California Collaborative on District Reform (CCDR) joined many district officials from urban, suburban and rural areas and statewide advocacy groups in an invitation-only series of working group sessions on the weighted pupil formula. Representatives from the Department of Finance, State Board of Education, and the California Department of Education hosted the working group to gather feedback from stakeholders on key WPF design and implementation issues and on what changes, if any, need to be made to the accountability system to shift from a compliance-oriented system to one focused on ensuring all kids are college and career ready.
Nine of ten districts in the Collaborative participated as key stakeholders, providing invaluable examples to inform the resource allocation and accountability discussions. Representatives from Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) shared their vision of an accountability system that focused on better measures of student performance in accountability, such as college-and-career readiness measured for students in upper grades. FUSD currently has a metric for college-and-career readiness at the upper grade levels that informs how they target resources and interventions for students in the upper grades that are falling behind. CCDR representatives, Jennifer O’Day, Jeimee Estrada and Joel Knudson attended the working group sessions as part of the Collaborative’s efforts to work with district leaders to gather examples of funding allocation practices at the local level and guiding principles for the state to consider as state representatives seek to overhaul the school funding system.
The following CCDR members were invited and/or participated:
Jennifer O’Day, Chair
California Collaborative on District Reform
Mike Hanson, Superintendent and Ruth Looney, Chief Financial Officer
Fresno Unified School District
John Deasy, Superintendent; Matt Hill, ; and Megan Reilly, Chief Budget Officer
Los Angeles Unified School District
Jonathan Raymond, Superintendent
Sacramento City Unified School District
Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, Superintendent and Michael Bishop, Chief Financial Officer
Santa Ana Unified School District
Tony Smith, Superintendent and Vernon Hall, Deputy Superintendent of Business and Operations
Oakland Unified School District
Christopher Steinhauser, Superintendent and Jim Novak, Chief Financial Officer
Long Beach Unified School District
Marc Johnson and Eduardo Martinez, Chief Budget Officer
Sanger Unified School District
Vince Matthews, Superintendent
San Jose Unified School District
Richard Carranza, Superintendent
San Francisco Unified School District
Dirk & Charlene Kabcenell Foundation
Arun Ramananthan, Executive Director
California Collaborative Work Presented at CERA highlighted work done by the California Collaborative.
Presentations at the California Educational Research Association conference on November 29th and 30th highlighted work done by the California Collaborative. Over the past four years, the Collaborative has documented a learning partnership between Fresno and Long Beach Unified School Districts and is beginning a study of an emerging mentoring relationship between Garden Grove and Oakland Unified School Districts. Stephanie Hannan of the American Institutes for Research presented findings from the documentation of the Fresno-Long Beach Learning Partnership and Joel Knudson, Deputy Director of the Collaborative, discussed lessons from the Garden Grove and Oakland relationship. Soung Bae, Director of Research and Learning at California Education Partners, discussed the California Office to Reform Education (CORE). CORE is an organization which seeks to raise student achievement by promoting collaboration and learning between its eight member districts, seven of whom are also members of the Collaborative. Helen Duffy, task leader of the documentation of the Fresno-Long Beach Learning Partnership, synthesized lessons across these three instances of district collaboration.
Learning from the Past: Drawing on California’s CLAS Experience to Inform Assessment of the Common Core
As California approaches a new system of academic standards, instruction, and assessment, it enters familiar territory. The use of multiple modes of assessment, tight alignment between assessments and expectations for student learning, and a focus on assessment for formative (as well as summative) purposes—all with an emphasis on students’ understanding and ability to apply their learning—mirror the state’s priorities as it transitioned to the California Learning Assessment System (CLAS) in the early 1990s. This policy and practice brief examines the CLAS experience to identify lessons for districts as they implement the Common Core today. Through these lessons, districts across the state might build on promising practices from two decades ago while avoiding some of the pitfalls that undermined the CLAS effort.
California Collaborative Co-Sponsors Symposium on Common Core Implementation
The California Collaborative on District Reform co-sponsored a symposium on August 14 and 15 called Collaborating for Success: Implementing the Common Core State Standards in California. The event, which brought together district leaders and other stakeholders from across the state (including 32 California school districts), used a combination of addresses and breakout sessions to examine the instructional shifts called for in the Common Core, emerging practices for effective implementation, and opportunities for collaboration that can facilitate a successful transition to the Common Core. The symposium also featured contributions from several Collaborative members, including a panel of early implementers that included Long Beach USD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser, remarks from San Francisco USD Superintendent Richard Carranza and Stanford professor Kenji Hakuta about the ways in which the Common Core addresses language demands for English learners, and closing observations from State Board of Education President Mike Kirst. REL West, the California Comprehensive Center at WestEd, and California Education Partners partnered with the Collaborative to co-sponsor the event.
California Collaborative Convenes to Address School and District Leadership
The California Collaborative on District reform convened on June 28 and 29 in Fresno for a two-day meeting, Leadership for Change: Finding & Developing 21st Century School Leaders. In the context of changing expectations for students and the education systems that serve them, the meeting addressed the demands these changes introduce for district- and site-based leadership. Participants engaged in conversation to better articulate the skills that 21st century school leaders need, as well as to explore the challenges of building leadership capacity through recruitment, development, and succession planning. All meeting participants received a briefing book of resources and literature on leadership skills and traits, leadership development, leadership recruitment and succession, assessing leadership performance, and specific contextual information and problems of practice through which Collaborative districts are approaching the challenge of expanding leadership capacity. These resources are available on the Meeting 19 page.
Building District Capacity for Data Informed Leadership
This fourth and final brief about the Fresno-Long Beach Learning Partnership looks at the ways that two districts push one another to deepen the culture of data use within and across districts, address infrastructure challenges and provide support as they navigate public conversations about student outcomes. This example of collaboration can inform schools and districts across the country as they develop tools and processes to access and use data for decision making. The brief demonstrates how two districts are building their collective capacity to look at student outcomes and leading indicators such as course transcripts and formative assessment scores to uncover root causes for achievement patterns and develop solutions to common challenges.
This brief concludes the series documenting the Fresno-Long Beach Learning Partnership. For an overview of the series and a summary of key themes and implications, please visit the link below.
California Collaborative Urges State to Move Forward with a Thoughtful Weighted Pupil Formula Policy
The California Collaborative on District Reform, led by 10 district leaders from across the state, issued a letter to the Governor urging the state to move forward with a weighted pupil formula (WPF) to improve our state’s ability to educate children to their fullest potential. Arguing that now is the time to make the long-standing collective cry for a dramatic change to California’s state funding system for education a reality, the Collaborative drew on member districts’ direct experience with navigating the allocation of funding to meet student needs to outline four key considerations for enacting a WPF in a way that translates to improved student learning opportunities—including the need for a continued focus on an adequate amount of funding for all districts regardless of the funding formula.
California Collaborative Convenes to Address Workforce Preparation
The California Collaborative on District reform convened on March 26 and 27 in Menlo Park for a two-day meeting, Looking Forward: Preparing Our Students for a New Workforce. The meeting expanded on a recent focus on college and career readiness to explore labor market trends, the skills that future careers will demand, and avenues for preparing students to meet those demands. Among the avenues to improve student preparation, participants addressed the roles of K-12 education, California community colleges, and the Pathways to Prosperity initiative. All meeting participants received a briefing book of resources and literature on workforce projections at the national, state, and local level; definitions of college and career readiness; the role that community colleges play in workforce preparation; and pathways to careers. These resources are available on the Meeting 18 page.