The theme for this school year at the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) is change. Not that change itself is anything new in California – No Child Left Behind and K-3 grade class size reduction are just two examples. But what I hear from experienced educators is that the changes occurring in public education right now are the most significant they’ve seen in decades.
I’m specifically referring to the Common Core State Standards and the Local Control Funding Formula.
This is the year Sonoma County’s school districts and the County Office of Education must fully implement the Common Core State Standards, a process that has been under way since 2010. Even though SCOE educates some of the county’s most challenging students in its court and community schools and special education programs, it will follow the same standards as school districts.
The Common Core State Standards describe what students in each grade should know and be able to do in math and language arts. Developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, with input from parents, teachers and educational experts, the standards are designed to ensure that every child graduates from high school “college and career ready.”
Besides implementing the standards in its own classrooms, SCOE has been assisting Sonoma County’s 40 school districts. SCOE’s Instructional Services Division has been providing training and support to teachers and administrators. The county superintendent and county board of education have also sponsored two workshops for school district board members about the new standards and new student assessment that is replacing the STAR test. (For information about the new test, called the Smarter Balanced Assessment, visit smarterbalanced.org.)
The other major change for public education this year is the state’s new formula for funding K-12 education. The Local Control Funding Formula replaces a formula that had restricted how school districts could spend much of their money with one that provides more flexibility and accountability at the local level.
With this new funding formula, however, comes a new responsibility. By July 1, all school districts, county offices of education and charter schools must adopt Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP). The plans must set annual goals and focus on eight priorities: Student achievement, student engagement, school climate, basic services, implementation of Common Core State Standards, parental involvement, course access, and other student outcomes demonstrating a broad course of study. The LCAPs are for three years and must be updated annually.
In addition to having to create its own LCAP, SCOE is assisting Sonoma County’s school districts with this new undertaking.
This month, the county superintendent and county board sponsored a workshop for school district board members. We brought in the state’s top expert on LCAP, Jannelle Kubinec, who is leading the process for the state Board of Education to create a LCAP template.
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