Saturday, March 28, 2015

CHILDREN SPEND SIX HOURS OR MORE A DAY ON SCREENS

By Jane Wakefield, Technology reporter, BBC News (UK) | http://bbc.in/1BFTj6r

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Children are spending far more time watching a screen, even though traditional TV viewing has dropped

_______1569760_orig[1] 27 March 2015  ::  The amount of time children spend glued to a screen has risen dramatically in the last 20 years, a new report suggests.

Children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared with around three hours in 1995, according to market research firm Childwise.

Teenaged boys spend the longest, with an average of eight hours.

Eight-year-old girls spend the least - three-and-a-half hours, according to the study.

Screen time is made up of time spent watching TV, playing games consoles, using a mobile, computer or tablet.

Changing times

The Connected Kids report, compiled by market researcher Childwise, has collated data from 1995 to the present day to create a comprehensive picture of children's media habits.

Each year, its report, which is not available online, surveys around 2,000 children, aged five to 16.

It finds that teenaged girls now spend an average of seven-and-a-half- hours watching screens, compared with 3.5 hours of TV viewing in 1995.

Younger children fare slightly better - in 1995, five to 10-year-olds averaged around two-and-a-half-hours of TV.

Fast-forward to 2014 and screen time has risen to four-and-a-half hours.

Children are also now multi-screening - using more than one device at the same time, for example, watching TV while surfing the internet on a tablet or mobile so some of the screen time will be concurrent.

"The main difference from the 1990s is that then TV and magazines were the main ways for connecting kids to the media and now they have different devices from tablets, mobiles, games consoles and they have a much higher screen time," said research executive Matthew Nevard.

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Back in 1995 children's main interaction with the media was via TV or comics like The Beano

Children's TV viewing habits have changed dramatically, with the majority now watching television via catch-up services and YouTube rather than the traditional TV set, according to the report.

YouTube is the most popular on-demand service with more than half of respondents accessing TV and video via the site since 2013.

Paid-for on-demand services, such as Netflix, have also risen rapidly in recent years and are expected to continue to grow in popularity.

It is not great news for the terrestrial channels - BBC One has seen its audience of seven to 16-year-olds drop from over 80% in 1995 to just over 40% in 2014. ITV's audience follows a similar trajectory.

The transition to digital, coupled with dedicated children's channels, is another reason for the the drop in children's viewing of the main channels with children now watching more content on dedicated channels such as CBBC, CITV, Nickelodeon and Disney.

Demanding connectivity

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Children growing up now have never known a time without the internet

The study also looks at how the internet has changed the way children engage with information.

"The internet is pivotal to their lives and they are now able to access a wealth of content," said Mr Nevard.

The internet has given children more freedom to explore their own interests rather than being tied into the content offered to them from the TV schedules or magazines.

"They can find the content that they want," he said.

The study describes connectivity as "a fundamental need for young people now".

"Children now don't remember a time before the internet," said Mr Nevard.

Ubiquitous online access is also likely to influence the way children interact with their families and "their willingness to participate in family holidays and trips out", the report finds.

Image culture

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Will all children own a virtual reality headset?

For the last 10 years, Childwise has charted the most popular websites for young people.

YouTube has remained in the top three since 2007 while Facebook has seen its appeal dip in recent years, as children turn to newer services such as Snapchat.

Children enjoy the privacy of WhatsApp and Snapchat, according to the survey, and the use of such services is also changing how they communicate.

"It reflects the image culture which has emerged, where pictures are utilised to give a better representation of current moods and or activities," the survey said.

Google is one of the few sites to remain popular across 10 years of data with sites.

Wearable tech

The report also attempts a bit of future-gazing and predicts that in the next 10 years, children growing up will have little understanding of a world without the internet.

The internet of things - where household objects communicate and share data - will be regarded as normal, it suggests.

"Having appliances which cannot be controlled using a smartphone or some kind of online dashboard may be seen as outdated, or at least increasingly rare," the report concludes.

It also thinks that most children will have some form of wearable technology, be it a smart watch, smart glasses or a virtual reality headset.

 

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FROM CHILDWISE | http://www.childwise.co.uk/

Our latest Special Report - Connected Kids, highlights the progressions of the last 20 years, using past data to make predictions of how children will interact with technology in the future.
A trends analysis shows the adoption and usage of technology and the internet, projected to predict how ownership and usage will change over the next few years.
The report profiles the main technologies of the period, beginning with the dominance of television in the 1990s, through to the growth of the internet, widespread adoption of mobile phones, development of tablets and potential future technologies which are likely to enter the market in the next few years.

Don’t get excited, the report is  £595.

2 stories: DESPITE STATE MEDIATOR, LAUSD AND UTLA STILL $774 MILLION (…and an evaluation system) APART +smf’s 2¢

By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/1GAkEfT

3/26/15, 8:59 PM PDT  ::  A referee from California’s top labor authority proved little help Thursday in the fray between Los Angeles’ school district and teachers union.

The two sides remain divided by more than $774 million per year and at odds over teacher evaluations, Los Angeles Unified School District Chief Labor Negotiator Vivian Ekchian said in a written statement.

A key issue for district officials is $171 million in federal dollars that could be lost if teachers don’t agree to an evaluation system that groups them into one of three categories based, in part, on student performance.

“The union has not yet agreed to this proposal, leaving at risk these vital school-site services to students,” Ekchian said.

Thursday’s meeting in front of a mediator appointed by California’s Public Employment Relations Board was the first of three legally mandated gatherings, with additional dates set for April 6 and 15. Should mediation fail, a fact-finding panel will be formed, before United Teachers Los Angeles can strike.

The teachers union is demanding an 8.5 percent pay raise after more than seven years without an across-the-board increase. UTLA also wants LAUSD to hire an estimated 5,081 additional counselors, nurses and librarians, according to LAUSD’s estimates.

District officials have countered with a 5 percent bump and offered to spend $26 million on hiring new teachers – enough for just 277 of the 5,081 educators being sought by union leaders.

LAUSD also wants the teachers union to accept a new evaluation system that has been rejected by the union, which won a legal battle to repeal.

District administrators say $171 million will be lost over the next three years if UTLA fails to accept a performance rating that distinguishes the best and worst teachers under the federal program that aims to improve schools.

While the state of California declined to accept those federal demands for an evaluation system — causing its application to be rejected — Los Angeles Unified is one of nine districts that went directly to the U.S. Department of Education two years ago.

In September, all seven of the remaining school districts were placed in a “high-risk” category and informed they might not receive another year, according to a Sept. 12, 2014, letter from U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle.

Among the key issues were failures to create a new system for rating schools along with an evaluation system to “meaningfully differentiate performance using at least three performance levels,” Delisle wrote. The school district has until June 1 to submit its final guidelines for evaluating teachers.

But even the evaluation system LAUSD is trying to save through a legal appeal only has two levels of ratings, “meets” or “below” standards. Teachers worry a third level will lead to performance-based pay, as determined by the whims of administrators or test scores of their students.

 

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Divisions remain after UTLA, LAUSD meeting with state mediator

by Craig Clough | LA School Report | http://bit.ly/1Noro0w

(Photo: UTLA Facebook page)

(Photo: UTLA Facebook page)

Posted on March 27, 2015 10:14 am  ::  A mediator from the state’s labor board met for the first time yesterday with negotiators from LA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA, to move contract negotiations forward. But the result was a gulf between the sides that remains wide as ever.

How wide?

“At this time, the union’s economic demands remain $774 million dollars higher than the District’s offer,” LA Unified’s chief negotiator, Vivian Ekchian, said in a statement.

Also at issue is the fate of $171 million in federal revenue from a California Office to Reform Education (CORE) Waiver, which requires that the two sides agree on a teacher evaluation system by March 31 that includes a minimum of three rankings. Without an agreement with UTLA, the district may be disqualified from receiving the money.

“The funds will be used to pay teachers to provide summer school instruction, after-school tutoring programs and other intervention services to students for the next three years. The union has not yet agreed to this proposal, leaving at-risk these vital school-site services to students,” Ekchian said.

ULTA has not yet issued any pubic statement about yesterday’s meeting and did not respond to a request for comment.

Yesterday’s meeting was the first of three legally mandated sessions with the mediator from the Public Employee Relations Board. The next two are scheduled for April 6 and April 15. They could be extended, and only the mediator can determine that the two sides are unable to reach a resolution.

Before an impasse was declared on Feb. 17, negotiations between the district and UTLA dragged on for seven months. While both sides have given ground, they still remain far apart on such key issues as teacher salary and class size.

The district’s last offer before the impasse was for a 5 percent raise. UTLA, which hasn’t received a raise for its teachers in over seven years, is asking for 8.5 percent, along with an agreement that the district will make major reductions in class size and hire thousands more school counselors, nurses and librarians.

At stake is nothing less than a full strike of UTLA’s 35,000 educators, which the union has been threatening to do as it has carried out a series of “escalating actions” over the last six months. Those efforts included a rally at Grand Park that was attended by thousands, and the recent boycott of faculty meetings.

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smf 2cents O.K., I wasn’t there – and if I had been I would be expected to keep my mouth shut – and not put in my 2¢ worth.

Mediation is a process where the parties talk – and not necessarily (and usually not initially)  with each other – and the mediator attempts to …uh …ya know: mediate?

I have it on good information that Vivian Ekchian’s statement – quoted from in both stories above – was in reference to previous negotiations – not the mediation.

Mediation is a drawn out boring process. There was very little chance that accord was going to be found in the first session. About as much chance as the mediator opening up the the drawer in some forgotten conference room desk and exclaiming: “Oh look, $774 million – just what we were looking for!”

All I am saying is give peace a chance.

Friday, March 27, 2015

LAWMAKERS OPTIMISTIC ON ESEA/NCLB REUTHORIZATION DESPITE HICCUPS

from the  Brustein & Manasevit - Federal Update | by email

Friday, March 27, 2015 1:15 PM  ::  In speeches to Council of Chief State School Officers conference attendees Tuesday, members of Congress insisted that the drive to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was still alive and that leadership in both the House and Senate is actively working on passing a bill.

Representative John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said that the House only needs a “handful” more votes before it can pass legislation that would reauthorize the law.  The House bill, H.R. 5, was originally scheduled for a vote at the end of February but pulled from consideration at the last minute when several conservative advocacy organizations and lawmakers announced their intent to oppose it.  Kline claimed that part of the opposition was based on confusion, and that he had to “educate” several lawmakers who did not realize that No Child Left Behind – and the current ESEA waivers – would remain in effect if they did not affirmatively act to change the law.  Still, Kline admitted, he was surprised by the opposition to the legislation when a nearly identical bill had passed easily in the last Congress.  “I thought it would sail through,” he said.  “It didn't.”

Democrats were also less than enthusiastic about the legislation.  Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) said he would continue to oppose the legislation, regardless of whether that meant sticking with current law.  “No bill is better than a bad bill,” he told the chiefs.  But Kline said that he doesn’t think the House bill is the last word on the subject.  “I know absolutely that the Student Success Act is not the legislation that will go to the president’s desk,” he said. “It’s going to take compromise.  That’s a pejorative word around here, but that’s what you have to do.”  Kline said he hoped to bring the bill to a final vote after Congress’ two-week Easter recess.

Meanwhile, Senate committee leaders said they would continue working on a compromise bill, which they expect to discuss in committee the week of April 13th.  Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, also said the final bill will represent a compromise.  “Hopefully, the House will pass its version and we’ll go to conference, and the President and [Secretary of Education] Arne Duncan will have their say, and we’ll get a bill that can be signed in a bipartisan process through and through,” he said.

While Alexander said that issues like testing frequency had yet to be resolved in the Senate discussions, both he and Kline insisted that early education would not be part of a comprehensive ESEA re-write.  Though Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Committee’s top-ranking Democrat, and Secretary Duncan have said they want to include early childhood education in the bill, Alexander expressed some concerns.  First, he said, he thought Congress should examine the success of existing early education programs like Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant before creating new programs.  Second, he said that fixing the current law was “hard enough” without adding another element to the process.  Kline echoed Alexander’s comments, saying that while there is “strong evidence” surrounding the importance of early education, ESEA reauthorization is not the right vehicle for expanding it.

ADDITIONALY:  re: HR 2: the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015  provides the Doctor Fix to Medicare and an extension of the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIPS).  The bill was voted off the House floor last night and the Senate will take up when they return from spring recess in 2 weeks.  The President has said he will sign the bill.


Resources:
Lyndsey Layton, “GOP Lawmaker: I’m Short Votes for No Child Left Behind Rewrite,” The Washington Post, March 24, 2015.
Lauren Camera, “Slim Changes for Early Ed. in NCLB Rewrite, Says Sen. Lamar Alexander,” Education Week: Politics K-12, March 24, 2015.
Lauren Camera, “Rep. John Kline Hopeful for Vote on NCLB Rewrite After Easter Recess,” Education Week: Politics K-12, March 24, 2015.
Author: JCM

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Psychological First Aid: THE STARK REALITY OF STUDENT TRAUMA

 

by Pia Escudero, Director, LAUSD School Mental Health, from the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Weekly Update | week of April 30 | http://bit.ly/1HQtWTj

26 April 2015  ::   Administrators are responsible for a multitude of complex and interrelated systems including those that address barriers to learning. One barrier that significantly impacts a student’s ability to learn and a teacher’s capacity to provide quality instruction is trauma. The impact of these exceptionally distressing experiences can cause severe emotional shock that affects students differently and manifests itself in a variety of ways such as unwillingness to participate, negative behaviors, substance abuse, withdrawal, depression and anxiety.

During the 2014-15 school year, 800 students from multiple school sites and Wellness Centers were screened. These students (98%) reported experiencing one or more stressful or traumatic life events in the past twelve months. The same data identified at least half of the students with moderate to severe symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This includes symptoms such as feeling future events will not come true (57%), not wanting to do things (57%), feeling irritable/fits of anger (49%), trouble sleeping (49%) and trouble concentrating (45%).

As adults, we rely on years of life experiences to carry-on in the aftermath of a stressful event. Our ability to cope is a learned trait that improves with time. Children, on the other hand, are in the process of developing their ability to cope with life stressors. Students who experience traumatic events often face circumstances which impede their coping skills development and/or contribute to developing unhealthy coping strategies. School administrators, teachers and support staff must understand the complexity of trauma and its effects on learning, as well as, how they can support students during traumatic experiences, help to build resiliency and to learn appropriate coping skills.

By now, you may have supported a student mourning the death of a parent or sibling; or have comforted a classroom of students that witnessed a violent incident in their community; or have visited a student in the hospital due to a life-threatening illness. In these instances, perhaps without you knowing, you likely applied elements of Psychological First Aid (PFA):

  • listen,
  • protect,
  • connect,
  • model
  • and teach.

The PFA model is a tool for all school personnel to use when responding to a student in the aftermath of a stressful incident. The purpose of PFA is to promote long-term resilience and coping skills in children. See below or http://bit.ly/1BsXTUP to access a copy of LAUSD PFA.

Each of us can help when someone is in crisis, simply by our presence. One does not need to be a mental health professional or have specific training; showing empathy, genuine concern and a willingness to listen is enough. It is important to remember to be aware of your thoughts, feelings and reactions. Do not share your personal experiences with students in crisis. Model calm and optimistic behavior.

There is also support available to assist in addressing crisis and issues requiring professional counseling. Under the Division of Student Health and Human Services (SHHS), there are trained professionals such as psychiatric social workers, pupil services and attendance counselors and school nurses, as well as, Healthy Start navigators to help connect administrators with Wellness Centers and Mental Health Clinics. Additionally, schools may have academic counselors and other support services that can be of assistance.

The SHHS’s School Mental Health (SMH) department is a national leader in addressing the mental health needs of students. SMH can provide assistance when needed. ESCs also have mental health consultants who are available to support and train school-site staff. SMH is available to provide universal, targeted and intensive services to students across LAUSD. See Below or http://bit.ly/1EZcb3Z for a thorough description of services.

 

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INEQUALITY FOUND IN LOCAL CONTROL FUNDING FORMULA

 

from the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Weekly Update | week of April 30 | http://bit.ly/1HQtWTj

26 April 2015  ::  Researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California have identified a quirk in the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that may actually deprive the students it is intended to help. The LCFF was structured to provide extra funding to districts with high-need studentslow income, English learners and foster youth. However, a report from Dr. Laura Hill and Iwunze Ugo found that if these same students happened to be in a wealthy district, they were likely to receive less funding than if they were in a poor district.

Districts receive a 20 percent supplement on their funding for each high-need student; but if a district is composed of at least 55 percent of these students, it will receive an additional concentration of funding. As a result, those students who may, by definition, be high-need but attend school in a largely middle class or wealthy district will not get the additional funding. Capistrano Unified in Orange County and Carmel Unified in Northern California are examples. Each district has one or two schools with a large percentage of high-need students, but just 24 and 17 percent in the district overall, respectively. A simple resolution would be to provide funding for the students by school, not district, but that would be cost prohibitive or would have raised the threshold to qualify for extra dollars, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.

The state has added a requirement that the money should be narrowly targeted to meet the needs of the identified students when there are low numbers in the district. Starting this year, these districts must provide research to justify using their supplemental funds for districtwide programs. In addition, the Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP) are supposed to detail specifically and proportionately how the funds are being used to improve programs and services for high-need students. This study, by the Public Policy Institute, as well as one by Education Trust-West, has found that the first round of LCAPs were lacking in details and concluded, “…the action and budget sections of many plans were only marginally effective at outlining strategies for improving the quality of education.”

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Implementing California’s School Funding Formula: Will High-Need Students Benefit?

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Laura Hill and Iwunze Ugo,  Public Policy Institute of California | http://bit.ly/19VL8wa

Supported with funding from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund and the Silver Giving Foundation.

The authors: staffphoto-hill.jpg
Laura Hill
Senior Fellow

staffphoto-ugo.jpg

Iwunze Ugo
Research Associate

Summary

March 2015  ::  The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) reformed California’s K–12 school finance system. It replaced a patchwork of formulas and specific (or "categorical”) programs with a focus on local control, funding equity, and additional support for the large share of students (63%) who are "high needs"—that is, low-income, English Learner, and/or foster care youth. However, there are still concerns about whether the new funding will reach high-need students. Because districts have spending flexibility, and because some of the extra funding for high-need students is based on their districtwide enrollment levels, it is possible that high-need schools in districts with relatively low overall shares of high-need students will not get the funding they need. Our research indicates that county offices of education—which are charged with assisting districts in developing and achieving accountability plans—may have extra work to do in parts of Southern California, the Bay Area, and Sacramento to ensure that extra state funding improves outcomes of high-need students who are not evenly distributed across district schools.

INTRODUCTION

By increasing funding transparency and equity, the Local Control Funding Formula makes it easier to understand the goals of the state’s public education system. LCFF gives districts control over how to spend state funding while requiring them to "increase or improve services" for high-need students in proportion tothe increased funding these students generate.

However, LCFF has not eliminated all concerns about funding adequacy and about how districts with unevenly distributed high-need students will allocate funds to students. Districts in which high-need students are concentrated in only a few schools may need to develop spending plans that explicitly dedicate funding to schools that are educating large shares of high-need students.

In this report, we investigate the potential for mismatches between spending and need by identifying districts in which high-need students are concentrated in just a few schools. We start with an overview of LCFF. We then examine the distribution of high-need students across the state, across schools, within school districts, and the special case of concentration grant funding to districts where more than 55 percent of students are high need.

HOW ARE LCFF FUNDS DISTRIBUTED?

The LCFF distributes funding from the state to districts primarily through three grants: the base grant, the supplemental grant, and the concentration grant.1Defining High-Need Students, Districts, and SchoolsThe base grant varies by grade level and is keyed to the average daily attendance (ADA) of students in four grade spans: K–3, 4–6, 7–8, and 9–12. K–3 and 9–12 receive additional funding to support smaller class sizes and career technical education (CTE).2

The other two grants are focused on districts with high-need students; these districts tend to have lower Academic Performance Indexes.3 LCFF addresses that inequity with extra funding for English Learner (EL), low-income, or foster care students. District policies for identifying English Learners and enrolling students in free or reduced-price lunch can vary. (A related PPIC report examines enrollment in free or reduced-price meal programs across California.)4 Funding is determined by unduplicated counts—to avoid "double counting” a single student who is both an EL and in foster care, for example. School districts and charters receive supplemental funding equal to 20 percent of the base grant for each high-need student.

Concentration grants go to districts in which more than 55 percent of students are high need.5 For each student above the 55 percent threshold, districts receive funding equal to 50 percent of the base grant. This three-grant system can create large differences in per pupil funding. For example, Fremont and Stockton Unified School Districts are similar in size, but Stockton has a much larger share of high-need students. As a result, Stockton receives nearly $70 million more in funding (Table 1).

Table 1. LCFF Grants Can Vary Greatly Among Districts of Similar Size
Table 1. LCFF Grants Can Vary Greatly Among Districts of Similar Size
SOURCE: Authors' tabulations, CDE Local Control Funding Formula—Funding Snapshot.

LCFF allows funds to be spent for any educational purpose but requires districts to develop Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) that detail district goals and document how districts plan to measure their progress toward those goals. School districts must improve or increase services for high-need students in proportion to the increased funding they receive,6 but they may spend supplemental and concentration grants on district- and school-wide programs.7 This is the first year of LCAP development, and it is not yet clear if district plans are sufficient to improve outcomes for students—for high-need students in particular. A related PPIC report assesses LCAPs from a diverse set of districts and finds that their effectiveness varies.8

County offices of education are responsible for reviewing and approving district LCAPs. Part of the review process involves evaluating whether supplemental and concentration funding is "principally directed towards, and are effective in, meeting the district’s goals for its unduplicated pupils.”9 Early research suggests that many county offices are overwhelmed by these new responsibilities.10

HOW ARE HIGH-NEED STUDENTS DISTRIBUTED ACROSS THE STATE?

The majority of the state’s K–12 students are considered high need (63%). More than half are low income (eligible for free or reduced-price meals), nearly a quarter (24%) are English Learners, and 0.5 percent are foster youth. For the purposes of calculating the LCFF grant, students who are in more than one of these categories only generate supplemental funding once for their district.11 All foster youth are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, as are approximately 75 percent of EL students.12 Thus, the unduplicated high-need counts are considerably lower than the sum of EL, low-income, and foster care students.

Not surprisingly, the concentration of high-need students across the state is not uniform (Figure 1). Seven of California's 58 counties have K–12 student populations that are more than 73 percent high need—including many counties in the Central Valley (Merced, Madera, Fresno, and Tulare) and Imperial, Monterey, and Colusa Counties. In these counties, 129 of the 156 school districts have shares of high-need students above 55 percent. Altogether, there are 549 school districts in the state with student populations that are more than 55 percent high need. These districts receive both supplemental and concentration grants.

Figure 1. The Concentration of High-Need Students Varies Across Counties
Figure 1. The Concentration of High-Need Students Varies Across Counties
SOURCE: Authors' tabulations, CALPADS Unduplicated Pupil Count Source File.

HOW ARE HIGH-NEED STUDENTS DISTRIBUTED WITHIN DISTRICTS?

To the extent that the share of high-need students in individual schools matches the share in the district overall, the LCFF should be effective in distributing funding to needy students. But districts in which only a few schools have large shares of needy students might need to direct supplemental and concentration funding to those schools in order for the new LCFF funding to improve outcomes for high-need students. LCAPs require districts that use supplemental and concentration funding for district- and school-wide expenses to justify doing so.

We find that, on average, as the district share of high-need students increases, so too does the share of high-need students at district schools. However, if we examine districts in which 63 to 70 percent of students are high need (just above the state average), we see that there are many schools with much larger and smaller shares of high-need students. In districts with shares of high-need students that are somewhat larger than the state average, some schools have no high-need students and other schools have student bodies that are nearly 100 percent high need.13

Of the 10 schools that have the largest difference between the share of high-need students at the school and at their district, most are in Southern California (Table 2). Most of these schools have high-need-student rates of above 90 percent, at least 57 percentage points higher than their district rates. Two elementary schools in Capistrano Unified are first and second, but Capistrano is not the only district represented more than once: Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified, also in Orange County, has three schools in the top ten.

These districts may well have robust and effective spending and programmatic plans for reaching their high-need students. A cursory review of their first LCAPs suggests that most districts shown in Table 2 do mention high-need students, and some even mention specific schools. However, most district plans for spending and curriculum do not contain enough detailed budgeting information to indicate whether districts are adding services or spending "proportionately” on high-need students.14 It will be years before we can assess the effectiveness of district spending by examining student outcomes.

Table 2. Several Schools in Orange County Have Dramatically Larger Shares of High-Need Students than Their Districts
Table 2. Several Schools in Orange County Have Dramatically Larger Shares of High-Need Students than Their Districts
SOURCE: Authors’ calculations from CALPADS Unduplicated Pupil Count Source File
NOTE: Excludes county offices of education schools, non-school locations, State Board of Education, and Statewide Benefit Charters, as well as nonpublic/nonsectarian schools, juvenile court schools, youth authority facilities, and schools with fewer than 50 students. Most schools in this list are elementary schools. Overall, we find that elementary schools are only somewhat more likely differ from their districts in terms of share of high-need students than middle and high schools. This slight overrepresentation is probably attributable to the fact that elementary schools are more likely to draw from one neighborhood than schools serving older children, and many neighborhoods throughout the state remain segregated.
How Much Does High-Need Student Enrollment Vary within Districts?

We created a measure of the difference in the concentration of high-need students across the schools within each district.15 A district in which every school has the same share of high-need students would have a value of zero. Statewide, we find that the school-to-district average concentration difference is 12 percentage points and ranges from 0 to 30 percentage points.

The six schools in Folsom Cordova Unified are about 30 percentage points different from the district average, suggesting that some are well above and some well below the district’s average share of high-need students (39%). Districts with large school-to-district average difference will need to direct funding to programs that reach those students, and may find district-wide use of concentration and supplemental funds less effective for improving outcomes for high-need students. Unlike the differences across schools, which are concentrated in Southern California, the districts with larger average school-to-district differences are slightly more geographically diverse (Table 3).

Table 3. The Largest School-To-District Differences in the Share of High-Need Students are in the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Southern California
Table 3. The Largest School-To-District Differences in the Share of High-Need Students are in the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Southern California

SOURCE: Authors’ calculations from CALPADS Unduplicated Pupil Count Source File.
NOTES: Excludes county office of education schools, non-school locations, State Board of Education, and Statewide Benefit charters, as well as nonpublic/nonsectarian schools, juvenile court schools, youth authority facilities, and districts with fewer than 10 schools. Monterey County’s Big Sur Unified has the highest average absolute difference measure (56%) but it only has two schools and 73 students, so we do not list it here.

Among the 10 most populous districts, San Diego Unified has the highest school-to-district average difference in concentrations of high-need students (22 percentage points, 34th statewide). Los Angeles Unified serves more than 600,000 students in more than 900 schools, has an average school-to-district variation of 14 percentage points, which places it 140th statewide.16

Which Counties Need to Monitor Unevenly Distributed High-Need Students?

As we have seen, districts with large differences between individual schools’ and districts’ share of high-need students are not evenly distributed across the state. Which counties have the most districts with unevenly distributed high-need students? Bay Area counties: San Francisco,17 Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz (Figure 2). The highest level of variation within a county ranges from 13 to 18 percentage points; the lowest ranges from 1 to 7 percentage points. Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Orange, and San Diego Counties are the other parts of the state where the concentration of high-need students in individual schools tends to vary from the district average.

Figure 2. Districts with the Most Unevenly Distributed High-Need Students are in Bay Area and Southern California Counties
Figure 2. Districts with the Most Unevenly Distributed High-Need Students are in Bay Area and Southern California Counties

SOURCE: Authors’ calculations from CALPADS Unduplicated Pupil Count Source File.
NOTE: Excludes county offices of education schools, non-school locations, State Board of Education, and Statewide Benefit charters, as well as nonpublic/nonsectarian schools, juvenile court schools, and youth authority facilities.

Recall that there is no overlap between the counties in the top fifth in Figure 2 and the counties with the largest percentage of high-need students overall (as shown in Figure 1). This indicates that counties with high numbers of high-need districts may not have to worry as much about monitoring the distribution of funding to high-need schools.

NOT ALL CONCENTRATIONS OF HIGH-NEED STUDENTS GENERATE CONCENTRATION FUNDS

High-need students generate funding no matter how they are distributed. But because concentration grants are based on district-wide shares of high-need students, individual schools with shares that are above the concentration threshold do not get extra funding unless the district concentration is also above the threshold. Altogether, there are 677 schools in 154 districts above the 55 percent threshold that do not receive concentration funding because their districts are below the threshold. Table 4 contains a "top ten” list of these schools. Each has shares of high-need students well above 55 percent.

Table 4. Most of the High-Need Schools That Do Not Get Concentration Grants are in Southern California
Table 4. Most of the High-Need Schools That Do Not Get Concentration Grants are in Southern California

SOURCE: Author’s calculations from CALPADS Unduplicated Pupil Count Source File.
NOTE: Excludes county office of education schools, non-school locations, State Board of Education, and Statewide Benefit charters, as well as nonpublic/nonsectarian schools, juvenile court schools, and youth authority facilities

Six of the top 10 of these schools are in Orange County, in different school districts. Statewide, there are 54,000 of these students—about 1.4 percent of all high-need students.18

These high-need students are concentrated in a few counties (Figure 3). Orange County enrolls nearly 15,000 of these students (7% of all the county’s high-need students); Santa Clara has nearly 6,000, Sacramento has more than 5,000, and Contra Costa has nearly 4,000.

Figure 3. High-Need Students Who Do Not Generate Concentration Funding Are Clustered in a Few Counties
Figure 3. High-Need Students Who Do Not Generate Concentration Funding Are Clustered in a Few Counties

SOURCE: Authors’ calculations from CALPADS Unduplicated Pupil Count Source File.
NOTE: Excludes county offices of education schools, non-school locations, State Board of Education, and Statewide Benefit charters, as well as nonpublic/nonsectarian schools, juvenile court schools, and youth authority facilities.

In these and other counties with high-need schools in districts that are not high need, county offices of education will need to help districts distribute funding carefully.

POLICY IMPLICATIONS

The success of the LCFF hinges on whether school districts are able to improve outcomes for students, especially those who are high need. We find that counties and districts with the largest shares of high-need students rarely have schools with larger shares of high-need students than the district as a whole. These districts are not likely to have trouble distributing funding to students who need it. The biggest cause for concern lies with districts that have relatively low overall shares of high-need students that are unevenly distributed across schools. These districts are most likely to be found in Orange and San Diego Counties, as well as in the Bay Area (Sonoma, Napa, San Francisco, Solano, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz Counties) and in Sacramento County. An additional potential problem is that these students are in high-need schools but not in high-need districts, and therefore do not generate concentration funding.

In their LCAPs, districts are required to develop explicit plans for distributing funding to their highest-need students. The LCAPs being implemented this year are the first step toward holding districts—and the county offices that approve district plans—accountable for meeting the objectives of the LCFF. In their first year of planning, many district LCAPs mention the distribution of supplemental and concentration funding but do not provide much detailed information. Some districts go beyond a basic mention—for example, Los Angeles Unified plans to distribute funding according to schools’ duplicated number of high-need students.19

The Local Control Funding Formula gives counties new responsibilities to make sure that districts use supplemental and concentration funds principally for the benefit of high-need students. LCAP evaluation rubrics20 to be adopted by the State Board of Education in 2015 may help districts and county offices assess their success in serving high-need students.

The years ahead will reveal whether the relationship between district LCAPs and district practices is strong enough to improve outcomes for high-need students. This relationship should be closely monitored by county offices of education and the State Board of Education.

Related reports are available on ppic.org: Paul Warren, Implementing Local Accountability in California’s Schools: The First Year of Planning and Caroline Danielson, Low-Income Students and School Meal Programs in California.

A technical appendix to this report is available on ppic.org.

  • NOTES

We started this report working with our beloved colleague, Margaret Weston, in June 2014. Before her death in July 2014, Maggie influenced the direction of the report and provided great insights on California education financing. Her contributions are evident throughout this work, and we are grateful to have had her as a colleague and friend. We also thank Jacob Jackson, Carolyn Chiu, Paul Warren, and Bruce Fuller for their thoughtful reviews, and Lynette Ubois, Mary Severance, Jenny Miyasaki, Kate Reber, and Leigh Whittier for editorial support. Any errors are our own.

  1. See Edgar Cabral and Carolyn Chu, An Overview of the Local Control Funding Formula (Legislative Analyst’s Office, December 2013).
  2. LCFF also provides a necessary small schools allowance to the 108 school districts with such schools, and other small grants, but these make up a small share of base grant funding.
  3. Heather Rose and Margaret Weston, California School District Revenue and Student Poverty: Moving toward a Weighted Pupil Funding Formula (PPIC, 2013).
  4. Caroline Danielson, Low-Income Students and School Meal Programs in California (PPIC, 2015).
  5. Charters are subject to different rules with respect to the concentration grant.
  6. Districts calculate this proportionality requirement using the formula in LCFF Emergency Regulations, Title 5 California Code of Regulations (5 CCR) section 15496.
  7. They may also do so if district concentrations are 55 percent or lower or if school concentrations are 40 percent or lower, but must describe how district- or school-wide programs are "principally directed toward and are effective in” meeting goals for high-need students (as of November 2014). Section 3C of the LCAP template stipulates that "when using supplemental and concentration funds in a districtwide or schoolwide manner, the school district must additionally describe how the services provided are the most effective use of funds to meet the district’s goals for unduplicated pupils in the state priority areas.”
  8. See Paul Warren, Implementing Local Accountability in California’s Schools: The First Year of Planning (PPIC, 2015). See also Dan Humphries and Julia E. Koppich, Toward a Grand Vision: Early Implementation of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (SRI International, October 2014); Carrie Hahnel, Building a More Equitable and Participatory School System in California: The Local Control Funding Formula’s First Year (Education Trust–West, December 2014), and Carolyn Chu and Edgar Cabral, Review of School District’s 2014–2015 Local Control and Accountability Plans (Legislative Analyst's Office, January 20, 2015).
  9. Section 15497 of Local Control Funding Formula, adopted by State Board of Education on November 14, 2014.
  10. Warren, Implementing Local Accountability in California’s Schools: The First Year of Planning; Humphries and Koppich, Toward a Grand Vision; and Hahnel, Building a More Equitable and Participatory School System.
  11. Under the old funding regime, students who were both eligible for free and reduced-price meals and ELs were double-counted for Economic Impact Aid.
  12. However, LCAPs must specify goals for their foster youth students separate from low-income and EL students (Cabral and Chu, An Overview of the Local Control Funding Formula).
  13. Technical appendix Figure A1 illustrates this analysis for all the school districts and schools in the state.
  14. Warren, Implementing Local Accountability in California’s Schools: The First Year of Planning; Humphries and Koppich, Toward a Grand Vision; and Hahnel, Building a More Equitable and Participatory School System; and Chu and Cabral, Review of School District’s 2014–2015 Local Control and Accountability Plans (Legislative Analyst's Office, January 20, 2015).
  15. We calculate the average absolute difference by taking the absolute value of the difference between each school and its district, weighting it by number of students (enrollment), and then averaging across all schools in the district. A district in which all schools had the same percentage of high-need students would have an average absolute difference of 0 percent. Absolute average differences above 0 indicate that high-need students are not evenly distributed across schools. One important thing to note is that districts that have very high percentages of high-need students cannot have high average absolute differences—by definition, schools cannot vary much around a high average value of high-need students. For example, if a district’s percentage of high-need students is 90 percent, the largest value our measure of average school-to-district difference can take is 10 percent. Districts where 60 percent of students are high need could have a maximum average absolute difference of 40 percent. Districts with lower shares of high-need students could score higher on our measure of distribution. The question is whether they do score higher.
  16. For the school-to-district average differences values for the 10 largest school districts, see technical appendix Table A1, and for the list of top 100 school districts on our measure of school-to-district variation, see Table A2.
  17. Note that San Francisco County has only one school district: San Francisco Unified.
  18. For a complete list of these schools, see technical appendix Table A3.
  19. Susan Frey, "LAUSD Allots Funds to Schools with the Highest Student Needs,” EdSource, 2014.
  20. "The evaluation rubrics will allow local educational agencies to evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, and areas that require improvement; assist county superintendents of schools to identify needs and focus technical assistance; and assist the Superintendent of Public Instruction to direct interventions when warranted” (California Education Code (EC) Section 52064.5).

TWO AUTHORS, TWO VIEWS ON THE FUTURES OF CHARTER SCHOOLs

by Charlie Boss of The Columbus Dispatch for the Education Writers Association | EWA Educated Reporter Blog | http://bit.ly/1HN9bLN

Image of Two Authors, Two Views on Future of Charter Schools

Authors Richard Whitmire (left) and Richard Kahlenberg speak with EWA's Erik Robelen at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs. (EWA/Emily Richmond)

March 18, 2015   ::  Where are charter schools headed? Two authors offer different takes on the movement.

A pair of recent books provide notably different takes on the charter schools sector, including its strengths and weaknesses, as well as what the main focus of these public schools of choice should be.

Richard Kahlenberg, the author of A Smarter Charter and a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, said today’s charter schools are a far cry from the vision union leader Albert Shanker put forward in 1988. Shanker, the former president of the American Federation of Teacher, thought charter schools should be teacher-led and foster innovation, Kahlenberg explained at the Education Writers Association’s seminar on charter schools and choice last month in Denver.

Shanker believed charters should be labs where the best ideas can be tested and shared, and where teachers would be empowered, Kahlenberg said. Charters would also be socially and economically integrated. But Kahlenberg argued that the charter sector has failed to live up to its vision, as many are highly segregated, most of the schools are not unionized and struggle with high rates of teacher turnover. And he sees little evidence of innovative practices in most of the schools.

“The idea in some ways has been flipped on its head,” he said.

Kahlenberg was joined on the Feb. 27 panel by Richard Whitmire, author of the 2014 book On the Rocketship, who delved into how top charter schools are raising the bar. Whitmire is a fellow at the Emerson Collective and a former editorial writer and reporter at USA Today.

For his book, Whitmire followed the high-profile Rocketship network through a school year, examining what makes the Rocketship charter school network and other charters successful. (Along the way, he also discovered some of the challenges Rocketship encountered, including a year of disappointing test results.)

Among his observations: Teachers have more of a voice to help student outcomes. Successful charter schools learn from one another. At Rocketship, for example, educators visited high-performing charters in Denver and Memphis, Whitmire said.

“We are on the cusp of something special,” he said.

Much like their books, both Whitmire and Kahlenberg offered two different thoughts on stories reporters should examine.

Whitmire suggested reporters pay attention to the top-performing charter schools that are borrowing from one another. Also look at the relationship between charter schools and districts, he said. How are they working together? Are they sharing resources such as special education?

Kahlenberg, meanwhile, pointed to what he sees as the rising level of teacher dissatisfaction in charter schools. He recalled interviews author Steven Brill conducted with teachers who talked about the experience of burnout in some charters and their decision to leave education.

Teacher turnover rates, teacher voice, collective bargaining and teacher recruitment in charter schools are important issues, he said.

Kahlenberg noted challenges charter schools face in recruiting effective teachers, referencing a study last year that found that high-performing charters tend to be in cities where they can attract bright and talented people.

He also suggested looking at the racial and economic diversity of families served by charter schools. Do families care about diversity or do they want out of neighborhood schools?

_________________

 

2cents_small_thumb[2][1] …so the best practice is to share best practices with other charter schools?  Isn’t that the exact opposite of the intent?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

CALIFORNIA STATE PTA ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR IMMUNIZATION BILL

CA PTA MEDIA ADVISORY

March 25, 2015 – SACRAMENTO  ::   California State PTA, the state’s largest children’s advocacy organization, has taken a support position on Senate Bill 277 (Pan).

Currently, children entering the school system or child care are required to be immunized against various communicable diseases unless they medically cannot receive immunizations, or unless immunization is contrary to personal beliefs. SB 277 would eliminate the personal belief exemption and have all medically eligible children be immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases thus protecting vulnerable children.

California State PTA President Colleen A. R. You issued the following statement:

“PTA, both nationally and in California, has been a strong supporter of vaccinations for many decades. At past state conventions, our members approved two important resolutions -- Immunization Awareness and Education Programs and Measles (Rubeola*), Mumps and Rubella Vaccinations -- that are the basis for our authority to support SB 277.

“We are grateful to Senators Pan and Allen for their leadership on this vital health issue. It is our duty as a community to protect children in school, especially medically vulnerable children – and SB 277 will do that.

“We understand this may be a sensitive issue for some who wish to retain the personal-belief vaccine exemption, and we considered that important perspective. However, we believe the vaccines in use today are extremely safe and effective for the general population. Immunizations are recognized as one of the most beneficial and effective public-health measures.”

 

California State PTA Logo

Information Alert
March 25, 2015

California State PTA supports immunization bill

California State PTA has taken a support position on Senate Bill 277 (Pan).

Currently, children entering the school system or child care are required to be immunized against various communicable diseases unless they medically cannot receive immunizations, or unless immunization is contrary to personal beliefs. SB 277 would eliminate the personal belief exemption and have all medically eligible children be immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases thus protecting vulnerable children.

Background

California has recently suffered two outbreaks of highly contagious diseases. Northern California experienced an outbreak of pertussis -- commonly called whooping cough -- last spring, and a recent outbreak of measles in Southern California has been traced to an initial exposure at Disneyland. There were at least three fatalities of young children associated with pertussis in Northern California counties. Measles can be fatal as well; however, there have been no reported deaths to date related to this recent outbreak.

The underlying tragedy is that these contagious diseases are preventable. Vaccines have dramatically decreased the rate of mortality associated with many viral and some bacterial diseases. The vaccines we use today are extremely safe and effective for the general population. Immunizations are recognized as one of the most beneficial and effective public-health measures.

PTA, both nationally and in California, has been a strong supporter of vaccinations. Beginning in 1925, PTA was a driving force behind providing check-ups to identify health problems in 5- to 6-year-olds entering school for the first time. This became the main vehicle for immunizing children against diseases.

The members of California State PTA have adopted two resolutions -- Immunization Awareness and Education Programs and Measles (Rubeola*), Mumps and Rubella Vaccinations -- that are the basis for our authority to support SB 277. At its March meeting, the Legislative Action Committee as part of our decision-making process further considered the input of our members, including those who wish to retain the personal-belief vaccine exemption. We also were informed by the statement issued by Rob Ring, chief science officer for Autism Speaks: "Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated."

Why is it important for all medically eligible children to be fully vaccinated?

If 96 percent or more of our population is vaccinated against communicable diseases, the small portion of people who medically cannot be vaccinated are protected. Children who are immunocompromised and cannot be vaccinated are extremely vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases and suffer a greater chance of dying than the general population. It is our duty as a community to protect these children in school. Others such as infants and adults who are immunocompromised are also at risk.

In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the Unites States but not globally. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more cases of measles in January 2015 than in any one month in the past 20 years. Since 2000, the number of families requesting personal-belief exemptions for children entering kindergarten in California has risen from .7 percent to 2.6 percent, resulting in some kindergarten classes with vaccination rates of under 80 percent. This is well below the threshold to protect medically vulnerable children.

Learn more about this once-eliminated childhood disease:

For more on SB 277, please contact Health Advocate Cathy Hall at chall@capta.org or Director of Legislation Kathy Moffat at legislation@capta.org. To learn more about healthcare and immunizations, visit capta.org. Stay tuned for more information on how you can take action to help support SB 277.

CALIFORNIA TEACHERS UNIONS PROMOTE CHARTER SCHOOL BILLS

Capitol Alert /The Sacramento Bee

The go-to source for news on California policy and politics

By Jeremy B. White | Sacramento Bee | http://bit.ly/1HI3zPf

 

 Students at Madison Elementary School on Tuesday July 1, 2014 in North Highlands, Calif.

Students at Madison Elementary School on Tuesday July 1, 2014 in North Highlands, Calif. Paul Kitagaki Jr.

Updated 3/25/2015 3:17 PM  ::  California’s politically potent teachers unions are promoting bills requiring charter schools to hold open meetings and to consider all applicants while cracking down on for-profit charter operators.

Charters schools, which receive public funding but operate under different rules than traditional public schools and often employ non-unionized staff, now number more than 1,100 in California. Critics that often include union officials accuse charters of selectively admitting only the most promising students, warn that charters produce uneven results and argue that some schools are motivated more by the pursuit of profit than by student success.

“What we see nationally and in California is that these for-profit companies are siphoning off funds that should go to the classroom for corporate profits,” said Ron Rapp, a lobbyist for the California Federation of Teachers. “This must stop.”

A bill sponsored by the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers and the California Labor Federation would prohibit charter schools from being managed by for-profit corporations. Assembly Bill 787 would also ensure charter teachers are covered by the Education Employment Relations Act, part of what the bill’s author called an effort to help teachers organize.

The bill “would open up the already legal avenue to unionize,” said Assemblyman Roger Hern├índez, D-West Covina. “The ability to unionize is a civil right, the right of association is a civil right, but charter schools have this culture of infringement on those rights.”

While many charter schools do an exemplary job, said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, he argued that some cherrypick students by imposing entrance requirements that include having parents volunteer, requiring entrance exams or dictating a minimum GPA. Senate Bill 322 would ban such requirements and have charters comply with the same expulsion and suspension requirements governing traditional public schools.

“Charter schools were established with the mission of providing educational opportunities for all students, with a special emphasis on providing educational opportunities for students who are academically low-performing or with some special needs,” Leno said, adding that his bill “re-establishes California’s commitment to this goal.”

Assembly Bill 709, by Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, would require charters to comply with open meetings and public records laws.

Representatives of the California Charter Schools Association, which is opposing the Leno and Gipson bills and is evaluating Hern├índez’s measure, said supporters of the package repeatedly mischaracterized charter schools. Charter schools’ student bodies “look an awful lot like traditional public schools,” said California Charter Schools Association lobbyist Rand Martin, discounting the notion that charters skim off top students, and his organization estimates that a sliver – between two and three percent – of California charters are run by for-profit corporations.

On unionization, “we’ve never had a problem with that,” Martin added. “CCSA has been agnostic on the issue of unionization since its beginning and the law is agnostic on that – it lets them unionize.”

SMARTER BALANCED INTERIM ASSESSMENTS DELAYED FOR MOST STUDENTS. Delayed? They never happened!

By Laurie Udesky | EdSource | http://bit.ly/1M0Ltyz

Third grader taking a test at Bayshore Elementary School in Daly City

Mar 24, 2015  ::  As millions of California students prepare to take the new Smarter Balanced assessments this spring, most will not have had the benefit of taking a series of “interim assessments” that were supposed to help them and their teachers prepare for the new tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

The interim assessments were supposed to give students a way to rehearse for the Smarter Balanced assessments and allow teachers to see how well students had mastered the math and English Language Arts curriculum tied to the Common Core.

That’s not how it has worked out, however. The interim assessments were supposed to be in the hands of educators last fall. But the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t complete them until the end of January, too late for most teachers or districts to use them extensively, according to interviews conducted by EdSource.

Luci Willits, deputy executive director of the Smarter Balanced consortium, told EdSource earlier this year that the release was delayed because teachers had not finished vetting test questions until late October. It was further delayed by test designers who had to field questions from states about scoring the essay portions of the assessments.

“Ideally, it would have been best to have the interim items available in the fall, but circumstances prohibited the rollout earlier,” Willits said.

As a result, superintendents of six school districts EdSource is tracking as they implement the Common Core said that, for the most part, the interim assessments have been of limited use. Districts that were counting on giving their students the optional midterm assessments either abandoned those plans or scaled them back significantly.

“I’m dying to know how our kids are going to do,” said Elise Darwish, chief academic officer for Aspire Public Schools. “But it is too much to ask for kids to spend seven hours in March on a practice test when they’re going to take the actual test in two months anyway.”

Others, such as Santa Ana Unified, were not planning on using them.

“The information has been very long in coming,” said Garden Grove Unified Superintendent Gabriela Mafi, who said that as recently as the beginning of March her district had not been provided with log-in information that would enable students to take the interim assessments.

Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Michael Hanson offered teachers in his district the option of giving interim assessments, but he expected few teachers would want to use them now.

“They look at this and they go, ‘I already have a testing cycle coming up. I don’t want to spend any more time on this when there’s really not anything I can do with the results between now and the time I’m going to give the exam [the Smarter Balanced assessments] anyway,’” he said.

“The best we can do now is offer it as an option,” he said. “People would be in absolute mutiny if you tried to force them [the assessments] on them right before we do the actual testing.”

Visalia Unified Superintendent Craig Wheaton said he wished that the interim assessments had been available six months earlier. He said his district has pulled together a group of teachers to use them in a systematic fashion, and that some began using them as soon as they became available.

“We were really trying to have an organized pilot and were exploring how to share them,” he said. But their late delivery thwarted plans to use the assessments extensively in the district, he said.

The Smarter Balanced consortium promoted the interim assessments on its website as “one of the three major components of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System.”

The other two components were a digital library of so-called “formative assessments” – tools and practices that teachers could use to see how students are doing to help “form” the instruction they receive – and the end-of-year “summative assessments” students will take this spring measuring the “sum” of what students learned during the year.

By contrast, the interim assessments were intended for use by teachers “throughout the year to gauge student progress toward mastery of the skills measured by the summative assessment and to assess targeted concepts at strategic points during the school year.”

Santa Ana Superintentendent Rick Miller said his district was never planning to use the interim assessments extensively, and that teachers had been using their own “formative” tools in the classroom to assess student progress. “We are doing things other than interim assessments,” he said.

The interim assessments come in two forms. One is the Interim Comprehensive Assessment, which  is essentially the same test as the final summative assessment. It runs at least seven hours and includes math and English Language Arts, according to information on the website of the California Department of Education. The other assessment is the Interim Block Assessment. That test is not longer than an hour and is focused on a particular subject area, such as math, or even more specific areas, such as a week’s lesson in algebra or geometry.

Elise Darwish, chief academic officer for Aspire Public Schools, a charter management organization with 35 schools around the state, said that some Aspire schools are using the “block” interim assessments focused on discrete parts of the curriculum. She said it was tempting to administer the Interim Comprehensive Assessment, but Aspire officials did not think it was viable.

“I’m dying to know how our kids are going to do,” she said. “But it is too much to ask for kids to spend seven hours in March on a practice test when they’re going to take the actual test in two months anyway.”

As a result of the delays, California will receive a credit on some of the funds it paid the Smarter Balanced consortium to produce the interim assessments. The cost of the assessments was bundled with the cost of producing the digital library for teachers. That total was $3.35 million. Keric Ashley, interim deputy superintendent of public instruction, did not disclose the amount of California’s credit, but said at a recent State Board of Education meeting that “it would not be insignificant.”

Some teachers who have used the interim assessments said they were useful. Thanh Vo, a math teacher at Gompers K-8 school in Lakewood, used one of the Interim Block Assessments that was an overview of 7th-grade math to see what his 8th-graders remembered from last year. He said it took students only 45 minutes to complete the hour-long test, which included algebra and geometry, but the results were enlightening.

In particular, the test results showed Vo that his 8th-graders had forgotten the formulas for calculating the volume of shapes like cylinders and cones, which they had covered for a couple of weeks in 7th grade. Based on those results, Vo reworked his approach to teaching volume calculation.

For example, he had his students apply formulas for volume to real-life situations. One popular problem was asking his students to calculate the volume of a pizza he brought in to class.

Debbie Williams, a math coordinator for the San Joaquin County Office of Education who works with smaller districts in the Central Valley, said besides helping teachers understand where their students are in learning math and English tied to the Common Core, the interim assessments would have given students the chance to see what the year-end assessments will look like.

“There are kids who didn’t take the [Smarter Balanced] field test last year,” she said. “They’re going to come up to the computer to take it for the first time, and it’s going to be a shock for them if they’ve never seen it before.

Going Deeper

Interim assessments explained

Assessments A-Z

TEACHERS UNION CALLS FOR MiSiS MEETING WITH LAUSD, STATE SUPERINTENDENT

 

By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News/Pasadena Star News |  http://bit.ly/18Ypwhz

3/24/15, 12:01 AM PDT | In an effort to avoid losing millions of dollars because of a failed record-keeping system, the president of the teachers union called Tuesday for Los Angeles Unified’s superintendent to travel with him to Sacramento and explain the MiSiS crisis to California’s top education chief.

District officials estimate losses of up to $47 million, in part because the system bungled attendance records the state usually requires to determine funding levels.

“The state has a process that ensures school districts are not penalized when there’s an earthquake or a blizzard that affects attendance,” United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. “MiSiS is worse than an earthquake and blizzard together in terms of the amount of attendance count loss here.”

California law allows State Superintendent Tom Torlakson to waive the attendance reporting if records have been lost or destroyed, California Department of Education spokeswoman Pam Slater said in a written statement. LAUSD has yet to make such a request, Slater said.

MiSiS launched at the start of the school year, losing attendance records, transcripts, class schedules, grades and other information needed for campuses to operate. Students were left stranded in the wrong classes for weeks. Teachers reverted to taking attendance on paper forms from decades ago.

While district officials continue to reconcile the bungled records, they are not prepared to say precisely how much money will be lost as a direct result of MiSiS, Assistant General Counsel John Walsh said. Without a waiver from Torlakson, district officials will need to nail down and substantiate their figures by the state’s April 21 deadline.

LAUSD reported an average daily attendance of 513,765.9 to the state in January. The preliminary figure is down from the 532,932.8 reported last year, according to LAUSD figures.

The district anticipates losing an additional $10 million due to declining enrollment, Walsh said. LAUSD projects 3.1 percent fewer students next year and 2.7 percent fewer in the 2016-17 school year.

School board members feared losing the $57 million as part of a projected $88.4 million deficit when they voted earlier this month to notify 609 teachers, counselors and social workers they might be laid off in May.

In an email to Torlakson earlier this month, UTLA states all of the $47 million loss would be a result of MiSiS.

Caputo-Pearl said he hopes a meeting with Torlakson and LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines will “clarify what the MiSiS discrepancies are and get that $47 million back for our schools and our students.”

______________________

2cents_small_thumb[2][1] I can’t resist pointing out that UTLA members are refusing to attend faculty meetings at their schools – and contract negotiations are officially at an impasse  …but  UTLA President Alex Caputo Pearl  is proposing to fly up to Sacramento with Superintendent Cortines, take a meeting with Tom Torlakson and fly back – hopefully with $47 million in their carry-ons in the return trip.

Maybe they can chat on the airplane and resolve some other issues they have outstanding. Class size? Salaries? One nurse in every nurse’s office?  I have a couple of Southwest drink coupons I’m willing to commit to the effort if that would help.

Report: RISKING PUBLIC MONEY: CALIFORNIA CHARTER SCHOOL FRAUD - 3 stories, the report, the CCSA response + smf’s 2¢

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Report calling for more oversight to prevent charter school fraud draws rebuke

03/25/15

California lawmakers must strengthen financial oversight of charter schools to stem cases of fraud and mismanagement that have already cost taxpayers $81 million, according to a new report from several advocacy groups.

The report by the Center for Popular Democracy, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Institute and Public Advocates Inc., said state and local leaders rely too heavily on self-reporting through whistleblowers or audits paid for by charter school operators. Local leaders also lack the staff and training to monitor charter schools and identify fraud, according to the report.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-report-charter-school-fraud-20150324-post.html

LA SCHOOL REPORT

Report finds lack of proper fraud oversight at charters in state

MARCH 24,, 2015

California is extremely vulnerable to fraud at charter schools and as a result can expect to lose $100 million in wasted tax money in 2015, a new report released today finds.

The report from the Center for Popular Democracy, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and Public Advocates found that there are “structural oversight weaknesses” in the state’s charter system.

http://laschoolreport.com/

WASHINGTON POST

California charter schools vulnerable to fraud, report says

Journalists, auditors and other investigators have turned up more than $80 million in charter school fraud in California to date, according to a new report by a coalition of left-leaning organizations, which argues that lax oversight of the state’s charter schools is leaving taxpayer dollars vulnerable to abuse.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2015/03/24/california-charter-schools-vulnerable-to-fraud-report-says/

 

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from the center for popular democracy | http://bit.ly/1BrpJ3J

Risking Public Money: California Charter School Fraud

Mar 19, 2015

Executive Summary

In 1992, California became the second state in the nation to pass legislation authorizing the creation of charter schools. Since the law’s passage, which originally authorized 100 charter schools, the number of charter schools in California has grown rapidly. Today, California is home to the largest number of charter schools in the country, with over 1100 schools providing instruction to over half a million students. In the 2013-14 school year, California charter schools received more than $3 billion in public funding.

Download the full report here.

Despite the tremendous investment of public dollars and the size of its charter school population, California has failed to implement a system that proactively monitors charters for fraud, waste and mismanagement. While charter schools are subject to significant reporting requirements and monitoring by oversight bodies, including chartering entities, county superintendents and the State Controller, no oversight body regularly conducts audits.

In 2006, California took a step in the right direction by amending the Charter Schools Act to permit county superintendents who suspect fraud or mismanagement at charter schools to request an “extraordinary audit” from the Financial Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), a state agency charged with helping local educational agencies fulfill their financial and management responsibilities. Although FCMAT only conducts an audit when requested to do so, its findings reveal internal control deficiencies and various forms of mismanagement ranging in severity and form—from inappropriate self-dealing by charter school staff to the spending of thousands of public dollars without documentation. Even after 2006, charter schools in California continue to operate year in and year out without regulator-level audits that are designed specifically to determine whether the public dollars funding these privately managed schools are being spent properly. This lack of appropriate government audits is a problem, especially given the findings of FCMAT’s audits.

The number of instances of serious fraud uncovered by whistleblowers and the FCMAT suggests that the fraud problem is likely not isolated to the charter operators that have been caught. In fact, California’s charter oversight system’s deficiencies suggest that the $81,400,000 in fraud, waste and abuse by charter operators that has been uncovered to date is likely just the tip of the iceberg. Based on conservative estimates, California stands to lose more than $100 million to charter school fraud in 2015. The vast majority of this fraud perpetrated by charter officials will go undetected because California lacks the oversight necessary to identify the fraud. In this report we describe three fundamental flaws with California’s oversight of charter schools:

  • Oversight depends heavily on self-reporting by charter schools or by whistleblowers. California’s oversight agencies rely almost entirely on audits paid for by charter operators and complaints from whistleblowers. Both methods are important to uncover fraud; however,neither is a systematic approach to fraud detection, nor are they effective in fraud prevention.
  • General auditing techniques alone do not uncover fraud. The audits commissioned by the charter schools use general auditing techniques rather than techniques specifically designed to detect and uncover fraud. The current processes may expose inaccuracies or inefficiencies; however, without audits targeted at uncovering financial fraud, state and local agencies will rarely be able to detect fraud without a whistleblower.
  • Oversight bodies lack adequate staffing to detect and eliminate fraud. In California, the vast majority of charter schools are authorized by local school districts that lack adequate staffing to monitor charter schools and ferret out fraud. Staff members who are responsible for oversight often juggle competing obligations that make it difficult to focus on oversight and identify signs of potential fraud and abuse.

To address these serious deficiencies in California’s system, we recommend the following reforms:

Mandate Audits Designed to Detect and Prevent Fraud

  • Charter schools should be required to institute an internal fraud risk management program, including an annual fraud risk assessment.
  • Charter schools should be required to commission an annual audit of internal controls over financial reporting that is integrated with the audit of financial statements charter schools currently commission. These integrated audits should require auditors to provide an opinion on the quality of internal controls and financial statements.
  • Oversight agencies, such as the State Comptroller’s Office and Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), a state agency, should conduct audits on charter schools once every three years.
  • Auditing teams should include members certified in Financial Forensics trained to detect fraud.

Increase Transparency & Accountability

  • Oversight agencies should create a system to categorize and rank charter audits by level of fraud risk they pose to facilitate public engagement.
  • Oversight agencies should post the findings of their annual internal assessments of fraud risk on their websites.
  • Oversight agencies should determine what steps charter school nonprofit governing boards and executives have taken to guard against fraud over the past 10 years and issue a report to the public detailing theirs findings and recommendations.
  • Charter school authorizers should take fraud risk assessments into account when evaluating whether to renew a school’s charter.
  • Until the state implements the oversight mechanisms described above, authorizers should only approve new charters that commit to the fraud controls recommended above.

Given the rapid and continuing expansion of the charter school industry and the tremendous investment of public dollars, California must act now to reform its oversight system. Without reform, California stands to lose millions of dollars as a result of charter school fraud, waste, and mismanagement.

Download the full report here.

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from the California Charter School Association |  http://bit.ly/1BMObfG

Response to Report "Risking Public Money: California Charter School Fraud"

March 24, 2015  ::  This report does nothing to point to an issue in CA's fraud prevention, detection and resolution. It refers to examples that are not only dated but that were resolved in a way to prevent further financial issues from arising, since the schools closed or made management systemic changes. These are in fact all examples (see list below of examples from report and their current status) of the charter school system working how it's supposed to. In a charter sector the size of California's surfacing so little, and making estimates based on global assumptions calls into the question the credibility of the report and the organizations that published it. This is not the first time that CCSA has had to respond to a report by this organization that was simply inaccurate.

While we don't presume to understand the motives behind this report we do know that California is a state where the charter school sector, authorizers and legislators have come together to put into place real solutions. It is unfortunate that we continue to have similar distractions for a sector that the report itself suggests is demonstrating to be responsible users of precious public funds in addition to serving a half a million public school students well.

  • We agree that inappropriate use of public dollars intended for public school students should be prevented.
  • We believe that the system that CA has very carefully and thoughtfully implemented does just that.
  • For a report of this nature to have found so few and very old examples in a charter school sector the size of CA's sector suggests that CA's fraud detection and resolution system is working.
  • This report is not only based on old examples many of which resulted in real solutions and indeed changes in CA's laws, but it also does not accurately report on how financial reports and audits are conducted, reviewed and reported in the state, including the extensive oversight already in place by multiple agencies for charter schools.
    • For example, the report cites a 2002 BSA report which is over 13 years old and does not acknowledge that the next year the law changed creating specific greater authorizer responsibilities. In other words, the issue identified by that report was resolved.
    • The current regulatory funding determination process for nonclassroom-based charter schools was specifically enacted to address these issues identified in the CATO and Sierra Summit examples. In other words, the issue identified by those examples was resolved.
    • Some of the reports cited and suggested to be "audits" were not in fact audits (e.g., the LAUSD OIG conducted a "financial review" of Magnolia as part of the LAUSD's oversight function and the report references findings from a state audit that has not yet been issued).
  • To assume that there is a greater risk at charter schools than school districts, particularly in light of all the real time oversight on financial reports, is simply unfounded.
  • And the report's estimate of charter fraud by simply applying a 5% assumption of fraud based on some "global assumptions" without any specific analysis, simply calls the whole report into question. Frankly a similar percentage could easily be applied to school districts and indeed the organizations that released the report and have the same level of credibility.
  • The fraud-prevention mechanisms work exactly the same for traditional public schools as for charters - neither the safeguards nor the outcomes are unique to charters - why charters are being singled out here belies a different motivation than more accurately representing the challenges of fraud prevention in the public school SECTOR.
  • One can only conclude that the absence of accurate information, more recent examples, the inclusion of how the system actually works, and the involvement of charters and organizations such as CCSA working on charter related issues in the report preparation and publication was intended for a purpose other than actually solving anything.

Details on Financial Reporting for California Charter Schools:

  • The report not only provides no evidence of a systemic issue, it does not do justice to the system already in place and that is actually more rigorous for charter schools than for other LEAs in the state (e.g., school districts).
    • For example, charter schools already provide real time financials (e.g., quarterly financial reporting to authorizers and county offices of education, independently conducted audits, etc.)
    • Furthermore, financial information is already required of charter public schools and must be made available under federal tax filings (Form 990) annual reports, which are available online, and can be obtained directly from any nonprofit public benefit corporation, and in annual independent financial audits required by state law.
    • Every charter school in California is also required to have an annual independent audit, which must be submitted to the charter school authorizer in addition to annual budgets and financial statements. This requirement, while clear in California law, is not always required in other states.
  • The system in place in CA for charter audits for example is essentially the same process used for all LEA's (e.g., school districts). These audits are completed per the audit guide by independent auditors. There is no state agency auditing LEA's and to assume that there is a greater risk at charter schools than school districts, particularly in light of all the real time oversight on financial reports, is simply unfounded.
  • The majority of the examples cited in this report are old, from schools that have since closed, and reflect old laws that were updated to provide even greater protection.

Schools Listed as Examples in the Report and their Current Status:

  • California Charter Academy- Closed in 2004; legal action taken
  • Ivy Academia Charter School - school open, Board restructured, legal action taken
  • LA Academy - report cites "fake charter schools invented" and legal action taken
  • Center for Excellence in Education - Closed in 2004
  • American Indian Public Charter II - school open after school and authorizer resolved issues (CCSA took a public position that schools should close)
  • Cato School of Reason - Revoked 1997
  • Magnolia Charter Schools - all issues addressed by school and authorizer, renewed recently by LAUSD, following OIG investigation and referral to state auditor (results expected in April 2015).
  • Wisdom Academy of Young Scientists - Revoked 2014
  • El Portal Leadership- Academia Calmecac - Closed in 2009
  • Westwood Charter School - school is still open, restructured
  • Oak Hills Academy - Revoked in 2007
  • Albor Charter School - Closed in 2006
  • Sierra Summit Academy - Revoked 2001
  • Challenge Charter School - Closed 2009
  • Children's Conversation Academy* - Closed 2005

*Please note this is a misprint in the report, we believe the school they are referring to is the Children's Conservation Academy.

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2cents_small_thumb[2][1] “These are in fact all examples of the charter school system working how it's supposed to.”   OK: First the grammar police: “…working as it’s supposed to!”

These are fifteen examples of wrongdoing that were caught, charters revoked, suspended or governing boards restructured and/or legal action taken. There are examples here where folks went to jail …and that’s the system working how  as it’s supposed to?  Really??  The exception is Magnolia – where a deal was reached behind closed doors: So much for the increased accountability-in-exchange-for-flexibility promised under the charter law. 

Someone posed this challenge to me  today – and let me put it out there:  Name one instance where a California Charter School has served as an incubator for reform and shared its best practice/lessons learned to benefit the traditional public school community.