A Guide to the Local Control Funding Formula

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(repost from EdSource)

The Local Control Funding Formula replaces California’s nearly half-century-old, state-controlled school finance system with one that promises more local control as well as greater transparency and fairness.

Under the old system, school districts received approximately two-thirds of their revenues as general-purpose funding based on complex historical formulas (known as “revenue limit” funds), and about one-third through nearly four dozen highly regulated “categorical programs,” such as for summer school, textbooks, staff development, gifted and talented students, and counselors for middle and high schools.

Under the new system, districts will receive a uniform base grant for every district, adjusted by grade level, plus additional funds for students with greater educational needs, defined as low-income, English learner and foster youth students. Districts will get an additional 20 percent of the base grant based on the numbers of these students enrolled in a district, and even more when they make up more than 55 percent of a district’s enrollment.

Welcome to EdSource’s guide to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), along with news and information about California’s new K-12 finance system.

The EdSource section includes:

Districts will have broad discretion over how to use the base grants. The funding law says that districts must expand or improve services for high-needs students in proportion to the additional funding that these students bring to the district. Temporary regulations that the State Board of Education passed in January 2014 tell districts how much money they must spend each year on high-needs students and when that money can be used to fund schoolwide and districtwide programs.

The transition to the new formula began in the 2013-14 school year. Full implementation of the new funding formula is projected to take eight years. The vast majority of school districts will receive more funding under the new formula after it is fully implemented. Most districts that would get less than under the old system will receive additional payments restoring their funding to 2007-08 levels, before the Great Recession led to substantial budget cuts. In 2013-14, no district will get less than it received from the state on a per pupil basis in the 2012-13 school year.

School districts will have more authority than before to decide how to spend their money. But they will also face new obligations to show that their spending improved student performance. Districts must adopt a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), after soliciting suggestions from teachers, parents and the community, and update it annually.

The plan must spell out the district’s goals for improving student outcomes according to eight priorities set by the state, and align spending to meet the goals. Districts that fail to meet their goals and improve student outcomes will receive assistance from county offices of education and through a new agency, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence. Districts that are persistently failing could be subject to state intervention or even a state takeover.

More information on the EdSource website on LCFF here.

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EdSource: California eliminates incentives for 8th Grade Algebra

From 2003-10, the number of eighth graders who took Algebra I nearly doubled in California, and the percentage that rated proficient on the state Algebra test actually increased from 39 to 46 percent overall. Source: 2011 EdSource study “Improving Middle Grades Mathematics Performance.” (Click to enlarge)

The State Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to remove state incentives encouraging schools to offer Algebra I in 8th grade.

The move was both a vote of confidence in the new Common Core standards for 8th grade, which districts are now beginning to implement, and a retreat from a decade-old policy of pushing universal algebra in 8th grade. Proponents of the state’s current policy are predicting that enrollment in Algebra by 8th grade, which has doubled over the past decade to nearly two-thirds of students, will plummet in coming years.

Under the current policy, students who take General Math in 8th grade, the less rigorous alternative to Algebra, are penalized on the results of their state standardized math test. If they test at the advanced level in General Math, their scores are knocked down one level to proficient, while those who test proficient are rated with only having basic knowledge. This, in turn, affects the school’s Academic Performance Index or API score, the  state’s chief and most recognizable measure of accountability. The penalties were a big reason districts pushed students to take Algebra.

The State Board’s new goal is to create guidelines that lay out two paths for math in 8th grade, one leading to a course based on Common Core 8th grade standards, which is basically pre-Algebra, and an accelerated route leading to a new, as yet, undesigned Common Core Algebra I course. Local districts will decide which students are ready for Algebra; the State Board’s position is to be neutral. Board members have expressed confidence that students who take Common Core 8th grade math will be well-prepared to take Algebra I or a new alternative, an Integrated Common Core high school course, as freshmen in high school. Then they can proceed to higher math, including Algebra II and pre-Calculus, qualifying them for admission to the California State University or University of California by their senior year.

“The decision by a former state board to create penalties and incentives for students to take algebra was probably wrong-headed. The decision about where students are placed for purposes of mathematics should be made at the local level not state level,” said Sue Burr, the former executive director of the State Board and now its newest board member.

Board members noted that Common Core 8th grade math is more rigorous than the current General Math, which does not include pre-Algebra. Removing the penalties on the API will enable districts to ease the transition to Common Core; districts won’t feel pressure to skip from seventh grade Common Core to Algebra.

However, Doug McRae, a retired test publisher from Monterey who has written frequently on the issue in EdSource Today, said that districts will no longer feel any urgency to offer Algebra I, and, as a result, fewer students will be on a path to take Calculus in high school and major in science, engineering and math in college.

“You are lowering standards for those kids who are capable of taking a full algebra course,” McRae said during the public comment period.

Board member Trish Williams expressed the ambivalence shared by others on the issue. In her former role as executive director of EdSource, she directed a study of middle school math that documented impressive numbers of 8th graders, particularly minority students, who took Algebra in eighth grade and did well on the state Algebra test. But the study also concluded that substantial numbers of students were misassigned and were taking it twice and even three times without success. Only 40 percent of African American and Hispanic students are scoring proficient on the Algebra exam – an improvement over a decade ago, but troubling nonetheless.

The increase in minority students taking Algebra “is not insignificant. It was a big advantage for those kids,” she said. “Social justice advocates worry that if pressure is not on then schools will revert and not prepare low-income kids. I hear that and I respect it, and I honor it.”

“It is important that the Board send a signal to schools that we want them to continue to keep open opportunities for low-income kids,” she said.

The Board’s policy to encourage more students to take Algebra was done, she said, with “good intentions.” But the “collateral damage” – too many unprepared students required to take Algebra – is why she said she would vote to change the policy.

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EdSource Symposium Reveals Financial Stress on Schools

Anaheim, CA–EdSource, a nonprofit that aims to make discussions of complex education policy issues accessible and participatory, hosted a symposium today in partnership with the California State Parent Teacher Association to evaluate the effects of the recession on education, on both the state budget and young students’ lives. California’s highly regarded Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor lead off the discussion with the latest developments on the state budget and its effect on schools. Leading researchers identified emerging data showing the impact of the economic crisis (including housing foreclosures and unemployment) on school performance. A panel of representatives from school districts and nonprofit organizations described innovative school and community strategies to help ensure that an entire cohort of students does not fall through the cracks.

The data was part of the EdSource most recent and ground breaking work: Schools Under Stress: Pressures Mount on California’s Largest School Districts. Using an innovative approach to gauge the mounting pressures facing school districts since the onset of the Great Recession in the 2007-08 school year, the report identifies eight “stress factors” that are affecting California school districts to varying degrees. The report is based on three surveys of the 30 districts conducted by EdSource in 2011 and 2012.

“In November, Californians are likely to be voting on two tax initiatives intended to provide more funds for the state’s schools. But most voters have no way of objectively assessing the extent of the challenges facing these schools,” said Louis Freedberg, EdSource executive director and lead author on the report. “We hope this report can help fill that gap.”

The findings of the report include the following:

  • Twenty-two out of 30 districts have fewer counselors than they had before the onset of the Great Recession. Across all 30 districts, the number of school counselors has declined by 20 percent since 2007-08.
  • More than one-third of the districts ended up laying off some 2,000 classroom teachers for the current school year.
  • Twenty-six out of 30 districts are serving more free and reduced-price meals than in 2007-08. Across the state, 57 percent of students qualify for subsidized meal programs, a 6 percentage point increase since 2007-08.
  • Sixteen out of 30 school districts are suffering from declining enrollments, resulting in decreased funding from the state.
  • Half of the districts surveyed had 30 or more students in one or more of their K-3 grades, a stark reversal of the 1-to-20 teacher-to-student ratio that was the norm in almost every K-3 classroom in 2007-08. Only one district reported having an average class size of 20 students and that was only in one grade-kindergarten.
  • Twelve out of 30 districts have an instructional year of less than 180 days.
  • Nearly all of the state’s 30 largest districts are educating more students living in poverty than before the current recession.
  • Every district is coping with the impact of high levels of unemployment on their students and their families.
Other resources from the symposium:
How is your school or district coping with the financial stress of The Great Recession?
If you attended the symposium, let us know what you think.

EdSource Announces Free Middle Grades Action Kit

It is only in the last decade that educators finally have access to high-quality, large-scale studies of what works and what doesn’t work to improve student outcomes is the middle grades. Particularly powerful was the monumental 2010 “Gaining Ground” study by EdSource, Michael Kirst, and the American Institutes for Research. Here at California GEAR UP we have successfully focused on middle grades for over 12 years with amazing results. It is research and tools like this EdSource kit that continues to support our work throughout California.

The “Gaining Ground” report is the largest study of its kind. EdSource and Stanford University researchers analyzed data and test scores from more than 200,000 students at 303 middle grade schools in California for the 2008-09 school year. They also surveyed the principal at each school, more than 3,700 ELA and math teachers in grades six thru eight, and over 150 district superintendents.

The key finding of the Gaining Ground study is that a relentless and intense schoolwide focus on improving academic outcomes most distinguishes higher- from lower-performing middle grades schools. That conclusion, says Trish Williams of EdSource, “came out on top no matter which analysis we ran.”

Now available from EdSource is a downloadable, free action kit based on the findings of the landmark study, and gives educators tools and provides schools with key strategies that will help prepare students for academic success in high school and beyond. The components include:

Middle Grades Playbook describes how the classroom, school, and district levels each can contribute to stronger middle grades education—including self-assessments and a compendium of actionable practices.

School profiles provide a window into how selected schools from the Gaining Groundstudy are thinking about, undertaking, and improving their practices.

Principal and teacher survey tools help you take stock of the existing foundation for improvement in your district or middle grades school and get people talking.

We highly recommend taking a look at the EdSource kit and put the research into action in your school community. It is the courage and commitment to use research based tools into good use at underperforming school and this is an essential tool not to be missed.

Gaining Ground in Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better

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A new middle grades report from EdSource provided further affirmation of the capacity building efforts of California GEAR UP. What is particularly interesting for GEAR UP schools is the findings suggest schools who have high functioning Leadership Teams that focus the school community on a shared “future oriented” mission are far better off.

Gaining Ground in the Middle Grades: Why Some Schools Do Better, is based on surveys from 303 principals, 3,752 English language arts (ELA) and math teachers in grades 6-8, and 157 superintendents in California. Educator responses were analyzed against spring 2009 scores on California’s standards-based tests in ELA and math in grades 6, 7, and 8, which were taken by close to 204,000 students.

The study was designed to identify the practices and policies that differentiate higher- from lower-performing middle grades schools that serve similar student populations.

But the single most important overarching finding was in how these higher-performing schools create a shared, school-wide intense focus on the improvement of student outcomes:

  • They set measurable goals on standards-based tests and benchmark tests across all proficiency levels, grades, and subjects;
  • Their school mission is “future oriented,” with curricula and instruction designed to prepare students to succeed in a rigorous high school curriculum;
  • They included improvement of student outcomes in evaluations of the superintendent, the principal, and the teachers; and
  • They communicate to parents and students their responsibility as well for student learning, including parent contracts, turning in homework, attending class, and asking for help when needed.

Go here to learn more about California GEAR UP middle grades capacity building model. To read the report in full, please visit EdSource report.