The Local Control Funding Formula has been an issue California Forward has been aggressive about covering because of the sweeping, necessary changes the law brings to funding our state’s schools. Less touched upon, by us and other media in the state, is what it’s like for a district to have to implement not just LCFF, but Common Core at the same time. While LCFF significantly alters the way schools are funded, Common Core significantly alters the type of instruction students across the nation will be receiving. They are major shifts happening at the same time, which is why we’ve reached out to school board members across the state for an update on implementation in their respective districts, as well as some analysis of the unique challenges facing each district they represent.
In this interview, CAFwd spoke to Micah Ali of the Compton Unified School District for his perspective on the ongoing changes.
What’s the process been like implementing LCFF in your district?
The process has been very inclusive. Our preliminary outreach occurred with our Community Resource Specialist that is responsible for parent outreach. We have surveyed parents and staff members for their input into the process to determine goals related to input on the LCAP. We have hosted parent forums at each of the school sites. Yesterday our District hosted and videotaped an additional forum with administrators that was conducted by Adonai Mack from ACSA. We had a workshop for the Governing Board in January. Elementary parent forums took place on January 15 and secondary forums took place on January 22. We had additional community forums on the issue on February 8.
How do you feel about the LCFF emergency regulations that were finalized last week?
I believe the emergency regulations were a great improvement over the draft regulations. There are still some areas that will need to be ironed out in the future such as mandates to spend the same amount of funds on populations year after year. There should be exceptions for declining populations, currently there does not appear to be any maintenance of effort exceptions. Overall, however, it provides districts with greater flexibility to determine how funds will be used to increase student performance and provides parents with a hand print in determining the most important goals related to the state’s key priority areas.
Are the LCAP deadlines and other benchmarks reachable or should they be pushed back?
The LCAP deadlines can be achieved. However, it is interesting that the template for reviewing the LCAP’s submitted by Districts will not be available until 2015. Therefore for the first two years, districts will be providing their best effort developing the LCAP with no real gauge to determine adequacy for what County Offices of Education will be looking for. Pushed back, probably not…exceptions similar to what currently exist in budgeting would be nice.
How has your district gone about shifting to Common Core?
Our District has had a Common Core emphasis for the past two years now. We focused heavily on awareness activities initially, then moved into transition activities. Currently we are in the implementation phase. The vast majority of our staff development activities have been focused on Common Core. Our assessments have been revamped for greater complexity with less emphasis on multiple choice questions. Teachers have been surveyed to determine additional needs in this area. We adopted a Common Core Implementation plan and included a transition timeline for Common Core. In November 2013 our Governing Board approved the Common Core Spending plan allocating funds for technology, professional development and supplemental resources.
Do you think having to do LCFF and Common Core implementation at the same time makes things difficult?
It is a tectonic shift that has definitely changed the landscape of education. Concerning LCFF, districts across the state have sought greater flexibility in the use of funds for over a decade now, and have finally received that flexibility. Concerning Common Core, educators across the state and nation had expressed their dissatisfaction with the way assessment and teaching had taken a detour. Initially there will be adjustments that each district will have to figure out. Overall however, I believe it represents the change the majority of people involved with education have determined needed to occur.
How do you differentiate between the two when doing outreach to parents?
LCFF represents a major shift in how we fund education along with the activities that must occur related to community involvement in determining priorities at the local level. Whereas, Common Core represents a major shift in how we prepare students for rigorous learning that includes depth and complexity in instruction and student engagement activities to prepare them for the skills necessary to compete in a global economy.
Has LCFF’s mandated parent outreach changed the way your district communicates with parents?
We have had an active parent outreach process in Compton Unified that has been coordinate through our Community Outreach Specialist. However, LCFF will provide parents with more input in determining the priorities for impacting student achievement. It certainly has changed the way we survey them and will change the way we develop our school site plans by incorporating the state priority areas into each school site plan. Also we have responded by hosting more forums at the site level instead of trying to accomplish everything at the District level.