Publications: Briefs

The California Collaborative on District Reform periodically releases publications to document the work of California districts and to inform discussion around important policy issues.

Fostering Innovation: How User-Centered Design Can Help Us Get the Local Control Funding Formula Right
July 2017

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) has introduced positive and much-needed change to California’s approach to K-12 education funding by allocating resources according to student need and freeing districts to make decisions that address local priorities. For all of LCFF’s advantages, however, the Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) in which districts articulate their programmatic and spending decisions have received criticism for being archaic, cumbersome, difficult to complete, opaque, and incoherent. This brief, written in partnership with Pivot Learning, is the fifth in a series from the California Collaborative exploring key issues of LCFF implementation, and it describes an alternative approach to solving policy problems. The brief shares four prototypes that emerged from a November 2016 design sprint as new approaches to achieving LCFF goals. By embracing user-centered design, California’s education leaders have an opportunity to overcome flaws in the LCAP, fulfill the potential of LCFF, and preserve the funding system through the upcoming statewide elections and into the future.

For more information about LCFF, please view the resources on the Meeting 29 and LCFF pages of the California Collaborative website.

Implementing LCFF: Communicating About District Plans
July 2016

As they continue to implement the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), California educators find themselves struggling to communicate district plans to parents, teachers, and other members of the school community. To help inform the community about districts’ plans and results, many districts voluntarily produced supplementary materials to accompany their 2015 Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). Following suit, the State Board of Education is considering “executive summaries” as one solution to effectively inform the public. But what does a good executive summary or other outreach approach look like? This brief, the fourth in a series from the California Collaborative exploring key issues of LCFF implementation, identifies some guidelines for district leaders to make their plans more accessible.
For more information about LCFF, please view the resources on the Meeting 29 and LCFF pages of the California Collaborative website.

Implementing LCFF: Possible Solutions to Emergent LCAP Challenges
January 2016

The Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), a state-required document in which districts describe their goals, their strategies to achieve these goals, and the resources allocated to support these strategies, is a central component of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Having completed two rounds LCAP submissions, district leaders and others around the state have learned much about what the process entails, where it has created the conditions for improved practices and outcomes, and where obstacles remain. This brief, the third in a series from the California Collaborative exploring key issues of LCFF implementation, outlines the key challenges undercutting the LCAP’s effectiveness and offers short term and long term solutions to these identified challenges.
For more information about LCFF, please view the resources on the Meeting 29 and LCFF page of the California Collaborative website.

Learning from the Past: Drawing on California’s CLAS Experience to Inform Assessment of the Common Core
March 2015

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. These policy and practice briefs examine 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. These briefs were an outcome of the California Collaborative meeting Digging Into the Standards: Assessment and the Common Core.

LCFF Implementation: Building Capacity to Realize the Promises of California’s New Funding System
Implementing LCFF: Building Capacity to Realize the Promises of California’s New Funding System
November 2014

California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) has introduced changes that alter the conditions under which educators, administrators, and community leaders approach their roles in the K-12 education system. Consequently, leaders at all levels may need to build the capacity—both the knowledge and skills and the resources—that they need to fulfill the potential of the new funding formula. This brief, the second in a series from the California Collaborative exploring LCFF implementation issues, highlights some of those capacity needs. Recognizing and addressing the demands for improved capacity at all levels of the system will be essential for achieving success with the new funding system.

LCFF Implementation: Early Lessons from the Field
Implementing LCFF: Early Lessons From the Field
July 2014

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) represents a fundamental transformation of the way California allocates state funds to school districts and the ways the state expects districts to make decisions about (and report on) the use of these funds. This brief identifies some early lessons about how best to use the new system to meet student needs, especially the traditionally underserved. It highlights key areas that merit attention from California education stakeholders, as well as issues of communication around priorities and expectations that can help support the successful enactment of the new funding policy.


Units of Study Practice Brief
Common Core Implementation: Units of Study in Sacramento City
March 2014

As district leaders search for the best ways to improve student learning with the Common Core State Standards, some early implementers are giving us an opportunity to learn from their experience. This brief describes Sacramento City Unified School District’s approach to developing units of study that guide teachers’ classroom practice. The units provide a valuable tool for designing curriculum and instructional materials, but just as importantly, they have driven teacher capacity building and engagement teachers in the implementation of the new standards. The brief examines the units of study strategy as it has unfolded in Sacramento, identifies some of the key points of evolution since the district began its work three years ago, and discusses some of the challenges and tensions facing districts that might employ a similar approach.

For more information about SCUSD and Common Core implementation, please view the resources on the Meeting 23 and Common Core pages of the California Collaborative website.

CCSS brief
California and the Common Core State Standards: Early Steps, Early Opportunities
February 2013

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 report 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 statess upcoming transition to a new accountability system.

Beyond the School: Exploring a Systemic Approach to School Turnaround
Beyond the School: Exploring a Systemic Approach to School Turnaround
February 2011

Recent attention to school turnaround often situates the causes for (and solutions to) persistent low performance at the school level. This policy and practice brief draws on the experience of eight California school districts to suggest a more systemic approach to school improvement. By looking at common approaches across all eight districts and by sharing three districts stories more in-depth, the brief demonstrates the ways that districts can leverage their capacity and resources to more effectively achieve growth in struggling schools. Based on this work, the brief concludes with a set of considerations for how the federal government can promote a more systemic and customized approach to intervention in our lowest-performing schools through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Raising Expectations for Mathematics Instruction in California: Algebra and Beyond
March 2010

This policy and practice brief builds on dialogue that began in response to the California State Board of Education’s July 2008 motion to make Algebra 1 the test of record for California’s eighth grade students. While this decision has since been overturned, districts need to continue to think of ways to help all students meet high standards in mathematics, recognizing the gateway that algebra provides to higher mathematics and college access. To this end, the brief discusses ways in which districts can approach the creation of strong K-12 mathematics curriculum, appropriate placement of students in mathematics courses, enhancement of instructional capacity, and provision of supports for struggling students given the current fiscal and political context in California. The brief concludes with a set of policy recommendations.