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Supporting Continuous Improvement in California’s Education System (LCFF)
District Leadership

PACE Report  |  January 2015  |  Authors: Linda Darling-Hammond & David Plank

This January 2015 report from Policy Analysis for California (PACE) provides a detailed outline of how California should establish a new accountability system under LCFF. This new accountability system underscores the need to go beyond a single indicator —for example the API — to more robust and comprehensive indicators that provide in-depth information about a school. The new accountability system stems from the dramatic decentralization of control and authority from Sacramento redistributed to local schools and their communities that was brought about by the 2013 Legislature’s adoption of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).

Goals for California schools, according to the PACE report are:

  • To pursue meaningful learning for students – through the adoption of new standards and curriculum frameworks more focused on higher order thinking and performance abilities.
  • To give schools and districts the resources and flexibility they need to serve their communities effectively – through the new LCFF, which allocates funds based on student needs and allows communities to determine where the funds should be spent to achieve the best results.
  • To provide professional learning and supports for teachers and administrators – through stronger preparation and ongoing professional development. 

The role of the newly legislated California Collaborative for Excellence in Education (CCEE) will be to oversee successful implementation of LCFF as a mechanism for establishing a system of continual improvement in California. The report suggests that the CCEE establish a system of School Quality Review (SQR) and identifies key features of an approach that would replace the API and SARC.
 
Examples in other states and other countries are cited as approaches California might emulate, including the British School Inspectorate approach, adopted and used extensively in New York and Rhode Island. Effective educational system strategies utilized in England, Ontario and Shanghai include the following:

  • Creating an empowered-management program that works together on individual and collective professional development for teachers and leaders, research and lesson study, and developing stronger curriculum resources with the key goal to develop a strong leadership team among a management team of administrators and teachers who can help develop other teachers and practices within the school.
  • Providing teachers time and support for studying and evaluating their own teaching strategies and school programs, sharing their findings with their colleagues, participating in conferences, and preparing publications in school-to-school networks.
  • Giving schools a practitioner-generated list of strategies that had produced short, medium, and long-range improvements.

Further, the report proposes that California should develop a coherent approach that places the state’s eight priorities at the heart of a unified accountability system, augmented with local measures that reflect additional community goals and priorities. The recommendation is that the state should replace the Academic Performance Index (API) and School Accountability Report Card (SARC), and the current online reporting system with a dashboard of measures that reports progress on the state’s priorities. Local schools and districts could draw from this tool and add their own indicators and data for priority areas where performance data are not readily compared, or for areas where local goals have been defined. While the first line of technical assistance will be County Offices of Education, the ultimate responsibility will rest with the CCEE. A sample Education Priorities Report (Appendix B) lists multiple measures that districts might use in assessing progress on the eight state priorities.
 
Regarding the goals of LCAP, the report poignantly states: “The LCAP is intended to guide how funds are allocated to achieve results. It is critically important that the LCAP not become a checklist that ticks off whether districts put money in every category defined by the state priorities. That is not the hope or expectation of the LCAP process. Local districts can be accountable for results only if they can use their best judgment about how to achieve them.”

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