When you think about your child’s school and the forces that shape it, you might consider the teachers, the principal, the district.
But there’s a powerful group of decision-makers who create the rules that guide educators and administrators, and their choices help mold the public school experience in California.
The 10-member California State Board of Education is meeting Wednesday and Thursday. The group is at the forefront of major changes heading to your public schools as school ratings are updated to reflect more than just test scores.
Over the course of this month’s meeting, we’ll be keeping a close eye on a few decisions.
The board will vote on an updated Local Control and Accountability Plan template. This is the document that school districts use to communicate their overall goals and progress to the families they serve.
The template is part of the Local Control Funding Formula, the 2013 school funding law that allots a certain amount of money for each child, plus extra if that child has special needs. The districts describe their plans and plug information into the templates to show that they are spending those dollars appropriately.
The updated template has been designed to be easier to read, but some advocates say it’s not transparent enough. If approved, the new template will go into effect immediately — districts must submit their plans in June.
As you might have seen, the state also is moving toward grading schools using a color-coded system instead of numbers. Green will be good. Red will be bad. The board is set to vote on how well a school must perform to earn the various color ratings.
The plan the board will vote on would code a school green for academic performance if 51% or more students are proficient in math, and 60% or more are passing muster in English/language arts — and they maintain at least that level from one year to the next.
Board members will also consider how much money to withhold from Educational Testing Service, the contractor that built the state’s new standardized tests. The California Department of Education has recommended keeping back $271,952.56 — out of $86,419,128 — because of issues with technology and score reporting.
There also will be a vote on how to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind. One proposal is to determine whether an audit of state standardized tests is necessary. But the stickiest and most contentious part of compliance — school accountability — will be decided after the presidential election.
On Thursday, the board is expected to approve a new science framework, aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. The standards, which have been adopted by numerous states, require teachers to have students engage in hands-on science, instead of just regurgitating information on tests. The framework guides districts on how to teach to the standards and will kick off the process of acquiring appropriate textbooks.
The science framework gives districts different options for how they can arrange the science curriculum. They could keep the traditional structure, with biology, physical and earth sciences as separate subjects, or move toward an “integrated model” in which students simultaneously learn concepts across these disciplines.
The new science framework also includes engineering, introduced in transitional kindergarten.
What does engineering mean for a young student? One example would have them experiment with different mixtures and cooking times to create the fluffiest pancakes.