Report: California schools can benefit from a more collaborative LCFF approach

610 200 Susan Lovenburg

(Photo Credit: Violeta Vaqueiro/CA Fwd)

When the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was signed into law in California in 2013, the education reform model gave school districts greater discretion in how they allocate funds to more effectively direct resources to the state’s most vulnerable students.

The LCFF also changed how school districts are held accountable for improvement. Districts now create a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), in consultation with their communities, to detail how they will use funds to improve outcomes for students.

The governance implications of these changes are significant, reflecting the recognition that excellence has not been achieved through compliance-oriented structures and systems, and an understanding that public agencies need to work differently to deliver better results. Keys to achieving this potential are for governance teams and educators to transform the way they make decisions, listen and learn from each other, and interact more collaboratively with the state.

Understanding this potential, the California Forward and the California School Boards Association convened the LCFF Collaborative Working Group from 2014 to 2017 to provide the collaborative space and technical support needed by governance teams to successfully navigate this transformation. Over the project’s three years, board members and superintendents from 20 school districts and four county offices of education convened quarterly to participate in facilitated sessions focused on improving LCFF implementation, informing LCAP development, and sharing peer practices.

“In the public sector, the competitive advantage that we have is the opportunity to share secrets since we are not competing for market share.”

Jim Mayer, CA Fwd President and CEO

What Did We Learn? – Coherence in Action

The Collaborative identified some early challenges such as the complexity of the LCAP template provided by the state and the need for tools to better communicate a district’s vision for student success to community members. Collaborative members thought about how to reorient the work of teaching and learning and how to use data to inform a culture of continuous improvement. 

The Coherence Framework in Action: Promising Practices for Developing and Implementing LCAPS, co-authored by international education reformer Michael Fullan and Collaborative members, describes a model the group constructed using Fullan’s “Coherence Framework” to drive a district’s effort to improve student outcomes. In annually reassessing direction and goals, school districts can use the Framework model to evaluate whether they are successfully implementing the right strategies to cultivate collaboration and deepen learning, and have allocated resources effectively.

The LCFF advances public interest by allowing education leadership teams to focus their decision-making on local community needs. This promotes students gains at the local – and by extension, the state – level. Civic involvement and public support are both critical to improvement efforts and best incorporated at the community level. The Coherence Framework is one tool that governance teams can use to help integrate these interests and improve the success of California students and schools.

What Did We Learn? – The Power of Networks

At the conclusion of the group’s three years of work of together, a final assessment was conducted to evaluate achievement of the original goals for the Collaborative, to contribute to the body of knowledge about collaborative learning and problem-solving, and to inform the design of future CSBA and CA Fwd activities. Key learnings, intended to convey what worked effectively for this group and to encourage and accelerate the success of future networks, include:

  • Participants must own and drive the agenda from the beginning.
  • Engaging together on shared challenges builds bridges.
  • The convener role is critical to help participants build trust, clarify their needs and priorities, and take ownership of their learning.

Read the full report here.

Professional learning networks can be an effective way to improve understanding and capacity. In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, these networks offer superintendents and board members the opportunity to grow stronger together. The Collaborative experience offers valuable to lessons in realizing the promise of LCFF – to better serve the students of California.


Susan Lovenburg

All stories by: Susan Lovenburg