In the news: Career pathway programs on the rise, a bankable opportunity in Anaheim and more

It’s that time again. Here’s a week’s worth of local education stories you might have missed.

  • California’s teacher shortage is likely to worsen, according to a new report that calls for “purposeful steps” to reverse the trend.
  • In the NewsThe integration of hands-on career technical training with standards-based academics is becoming increasingly prevalent in California’s high schools thanks to a sizable investment by the state in programs like Orange County’s own OC Pathways.
  • The Orange Unified School District has conducted a feasibility study to determine whether a bond measure to replace aging facilities can win voter approval.

In the news: A state spending proposal, a makeup assignment in La Habra, court news and more

You want headlines? We’ve got headlines. Here’s the latest roundup of what’s happening in the world of education:

  • Anthony Rendon, the next speaker of the California Assembly, wants to use his position to focus on early childhood education.

Governor’s latest spending plan calls for increased school funding

A new state spending plan unveiled Thursday by Governor Jerry Brown would provide a $5.4 billion increase for California’s K-14 public school system.           

IMG_1647Indeed, the budget proposed for the fiscal year that starts July 1 reflects California’s steady economic improvement — and the governor’s commitment to fully implementing California’s new education funding formula.

“Overall, this budget is welcome news for Orange County students,” said Wendy Benkert, OCDE’s associate superintendent of business services. “We eagerly await a number of key details that will shed light on how this plan specifically impacts Orange County, but the governor continues to demonstrate his support for full implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula, and for the third year in a row, schools are poised to receive one-time dollars to support critical investments.”

The Local Control Funding Formula or LCFF, was designed in 2013-14 to channel more resources to students with the greatest needs. Along with a base level of funding by grade span, it sends additional dollars to districts based on their number — and concentration — of English-learners, low-income students and foster youth.

When it was created, the LCFF established target levels of funding for school systems that were to be achieved by the 2020-21 school year. Until then, districts have been receiving annual increases in the form of “gap funding,” referencing the gap between what they currently get and the target amount. Based on his proposal, the governor wants to increase the gap funding by $2.8 billion this year, or about 5.4 percent. 

Brown’s plan also includes more than $1.2 billion in one-time discretionary spending for school districts, charter schools and county offices of education. This funding could support key investments for districts, including standards implementation, technology, professional development, training for beginning teachers and deferred maintenance.

“The ongoing economic recovery in California will increase the Proposition 98 budget guarantee for schools up to $71.6 billion, a dramatic improvement from the $47.3 billion budget share in the depths of the recession five years ago,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said Thursday in a statement. 

Note that the governor’s proposal serves as a starting point for budget deliberations that typically go for months. The next fiscal milestone at the state level is May, when Brown is expected to release a revised spending plan based on the latest economic data and projections. 

OCDE staff and school district leaders will continue to analyze details of the governor’s proposal as they emerge.

In the news: Culinary arts in Irvine, new immunization rules, a Tustin school to close and more

It’s Friday, Dec. 18, and we’ve got another batch of spoiler-free education stories you might have missed. Here goes:

  • The Newport-Mesa Unified School District is among those reminding parents of new immunization requirements that take effect on Jan. 1. Specifically, Senate Bill 277 says parents of students who attend public or private schools can no longer refuse to vaccinate their children based on personal belief exemptions.
  • A student from Irvine’s University High School has earned the unique honor of having a photograph she took displayed in Vice President Joe Biden’s home.
  • Estancia High School, also in Costa Mesa, held its annual Fire Day, offering sophomore students the unique opportunity to experience the demands and challenges of a firefighter’s job.

Orange County superintendent releases report outlining progress toward strategic priorities

Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares has released a new report assessing OCDE’s progress toward meeting its eight strategic goals.

 “Measuring Up: Strategic Priorities and Key Performance Indicators” can be accessed by clicking here, or on the graphic below.

KPI ReportLast year, the Orange County Department of Education unveiled an ambitious vision, stating that “Orange County students will lead the nation in college and career readiness and success.” Along with that vision, the department developed a five-year plan that spelled out eight strategic priorities, along with desired outcomes and key performance indicators.

The idea is to use specific metrics to track the progress of OCDE’s programs and services, as well as the overall performance of Orange County students. This data will ultimately be included in comprehensive reports that will be available to the public.

In the meantime, Superintendent Mijares and OCDE have issued this more concise and user-friendly snapshot, which offers some of the top statistics and info-graphics for each of the eight priorities. 

The report highlights some promising signs, including the fact that O.C. students posted higher average scores than California on new English and math assessments aligned with the state standards. But the data also identify areas for improvement. Using this information, OCDE will be able to strategically invest its resources to enhance services that benefit students, parents and the community.

We’d encourage you to take a look at the report, and visit the OCDE website to check out the five-year strategic plan and learn more about the steps the department is taking to ensure students graduate from high school with the competencies needed to thrive in the 21st century.

The 20 fees public schools can legally charge

New school registration is underway throughout Orange County, and students and parents may be asked to pay some fees. In an effort to clarify what fees schools can and cannot charge and how schools can be compliant with the law, we consulted with our Orange County Department of Education legal counsel.

calculator and dollar bills on spiral notebooksLets begin with some background.

The Constitution of California requires that public education be provided to students free of charge, unless a law specifically authorizes a charge for a particular program or activity. In 2012, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1575, which settled a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the state’s alleged failure to prevent school districts from charging fees for educational activities and materials. That bill became effective in January 2013 and is intended to make clear existing law about what fees school districts may or may not charge.

While there are 20 fees, charges and deposits that schools can collect, not all schools or districts charge these fees. Keep in mind that the law does allow school districts to ask for voluntary donations and engage in fundraising as long as it is truly voluntary and a student is not denied participation for failure to give or raise funds.

Here is the list of the 20 fees, charges and deposits that are permitted by law for kindergarten through 12th grade.

  1. Optional attendance as a spectator at a school- or district-sponsored activity. You can read more about this in the landmark Hartzell case (Hartzell, 35 Cal.3d 899, 911, fn. 14).
  2. Food served to students, subject to free and reduced-price meal program eligibility and other restrictions specified in law.
  3. Books or supplies loaned to a student that are not returned or are willfully damaged.
  4. Field trips and excursions or school-related social, educational, cultural, athletic, or school band activities, as long as no student is excluded for not paying.
  5. Medical or hospital insurance for field trips made available by the school district.
  6. Required medical and accident insurance for athletic team members, so long as there is a waiver for financial hardship.
  7. Physical education attire of a particular color and design, but it does not need to be purchased from the school and no physical education grade may be affected based on the failure to wear standardized apparel “arising from circumstances beyond the control” of the student.
  8. Parking of vehicles on school grounds.
  9. Rental or lease of personal property needed for district purposes, such as caps and gowns for graduation ceremonies.
  10. School camp programs, so long as no student is denied the opportunity to take part because of nonpayment.
  11. Cost of materials that the student has used to create something for his or her own possession and use, such as wood shop, art or sewing projects kept by the student.
  12. Cost of duplicating public records, student records or a catalogue of the school curriculum.
  13. Transportation to and from school provided there is a waiver provision based on financial need.
  14. Transportation of pupils to places of summer employment.
  15. Tuition fees charged to pupils whose parents are actual and legal residents of an adjacent foreign country or an adjacent state.
  16. Tuition fees collected from foreign students attending a district school pursuant to an F-1 visa.
  17. Optional fingerprinting program for kindergarten or other newly enrolled students.
  18. Community classes in civic, vocational, literacy, health, homemaking and technical and general education.
  19. Deposits for band instruments, music, uniforms and other regalia, which school band members take on excursions to foreign countries.
  20. Eye safety devices for specified courses or activities that are likely to cause injury to the eyes.

Four things you should know about California’s new budget and its impact on OC schools


Last month, Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders announced a brand new spending plan for the 2015-16 fiscal year that started July 1.

As is usually the case with state budgets, there are still some details to be worked out, and OCDE is anticipating a number of trailer bills that could impact K-12 education. Still, there’s a lot we do know, and here are four takeaways for schools and districts in Orange County:

1. State revenues have increased substantially, and that’s good news for schools. Buoyed by a strengthened state economy, revenues in California have surged, and the $115.4 billion spending plan for 2015-16 allocates $68.4 billion for schools and community colleges, setting a new record for yearly growth. The budget also earmarks almost $300 million for early childhood education, including 7,000 more preschool slots and 6,800 additional childcare vouchers. Governor Brown’s office has characterized the educational investments as an opportunity to correct historical inequities, particularly as California continues implementation of its new Local Control Funding Formula. Speaking of which …

2. Based on the state’s new funding formula, Orange County’s school districts may receive significantly different amounts. Recall that the LCFF model was designed to channel more resources to students with the greatest needs. So even though it includes a base level of funding by grade level, it also sends more dollars to districts based on the number — and concentration — of English-language learners, low-income students and foster youth. In Orange County, those figures vary significantly from district to district. The end result is that per-student funding may look very different depending on whether you’re in Santa Ana, Irvine, Fountain Valley or Garden Grove.

3. Rising revenue means California is on track to implement its Local Control Funding Formula as planned, with more dollars coming up front. The aforementioned LCFF established target levels of funding for school systems to be reached by the 2020-21 school year. The idea is that from now until then, districts would get annual increases called “gap funding,” referencing the gap between what they currently get and that target amount. When the LCFF was first adopted in 2013-14, K-12 education funding was expected to reach $47 billion this coming year. Now we’re looking at almost $53 billion. That being said …

4. Revenue may be strong now, but there are still plenty of challenges ahead — and lots of unknowns. After a few dismal years, we may be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief at reports of spiking revenue. But our state has hundreds of billions of dollars in existing liabilities, including deferred maintenance on roads and infrastructure, pension benefits and future retiree health care costs for state workers. Also, remember those temporary tax increases that took effect under Proposition 30? They’ll start to expire in 2016, eliminating a key source of state revenue. Shifts in the state and national economies could also impact California’s bottom line.

As always, stay tuned.

In the news: A new state budget deal, JPL interns from Santa Ana, inspiring graduates and more

It’s Friday, June 19, and that pretty much closes the books on the 2014-15 school year. While we don’t have much in the way of pomp and circumstance here, we do have a handful of education stories from the past week.

  • Thanks to OCDE’s OC Pathways initiative and community partners including OpTerra Energy Services, eight high schoolers from Santa Ana are embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime research experience as summer interns at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. (We’ve got a story and a brief video.)
  • A daughter of immigrant parents who was once considered a shy and timid student is headed to Harvard University after graduating from Magnolia High School.
  • George and Miko Kaihara, now 90 years old, finally received their diplomas this week from their alma mater, Tustin High School. The couple was supposed to graduate from then-Tustin Union High School in 1943, but the two were instead sent to an internment camp in Arizona after Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor. They have since been married 65 years and had four children.

Education advisor Fullan calls for collaboration and capacity-building at OCDE conference

Renowned education reform expert Michael Fullan says two things matter most in changing the culture of a school or district — the ability to shape and reshape quality ideas, and the ability to build capacity and ownership around those ideas.

Fullan4“If you have one without the other, you don’t get anything,” he said.

Fullan, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the author of more than 30 books, was the keynote speaker at OCDE’s “Equipping an Emerging Generation” conference at the Hyatt Regency Orange County on Tuesday, May 19. Hosted by county Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares and sponsored by SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, the event also featured Trevor Packer, senior vice president for the College Board.

Fullan has advised policymakers around the world and is widely recognized for his role in transforming the school system in Ontario, Canada. In recent years, he’s been recruited to help bring similar reforms to California. Speaking to more than 400 educators and business leaders from Orange County and beyond, he said there’s a very real opportunity to bring meaningful change to schools in the golden state.

The key, according to Fullan, is to foster collaboration, allow educators a chance to develop, focus on a specific agenda and avoid being judgmental, particularly in the early stages. Talented teachers are a necessary ingredient, he said, but research indicates effective collaboration is an even bigger driver of high academic achievement.

“Collective efficacy of a group of teachers has more impact on student learning than individual things,” he said. “It makes sense when you put it together. This is why we work so much on changing the culture of schools and the culture of districts. That is really where the power lies.”

Student enthusiasm also plays a role, yet surveys show a consistent decline in enthusiasm with each passing grade level. To turn that around, Fullan said schools must strive to make learning engaging, ensure technology is accessible and easy to use, and offer lessons steeped in real-life problem-solving.

“This is fundamental to how learning should happen in the 21st century,” he said.

As for the role of principals, Fullan believes they should avoid becoming micromanagers and instead view themselves as the “lead learners” at their campuses, meaning they pursue professional growth as they build capacity.

“The main mark of a good leader, whether it’s a superintendent of a principal, is that they work five, six, seven years or so in a given jurisdiction, and they build collaborative cultures to the point where they, themselves, become dispensable,” he said.

PackerIn his presentation, Packer — he’s pictured to the right — said his role in developing and managing the Advanced Placement program for the College Board has prompted him to question whether tests appropriately reflect and reinforce instructional rigor. Too often, he said, school exams require memorization rather than thoughtful analysis. He cited an older AP biology test question that asked students to identify the term for “the creeping horizontal and subterranean stems of ferns.” (Google tells us the answer is “rhizomes.”)

“If teachers see lots of questions like this on tests, what do they do? They cram, they lecture, they cover as much material as possible because you don’t know what micro-fact, what minute piece of data, is going to show up on a test,” he said.

As part of a landmark redesign of AP courses and tests, Packer said the College Board worked with cognitive scientists in each discipline to determine what practices and skills would best indicate a student is prepared to be successful in college. As a result, newer questions blend content with an associated task. For example, students might be asked to create a diagram showing how nervous systems transmit information.

Similarly, an older version of the AP U.S. history exam asked this multiple-choice question: “Which of the following colonies required each community of 50 or more families to provide a teacher of reading and writing?”

“Do any of you know the answer to that?”, Packer rhetorically asked the audience. “Yeah, why should you, right? And yet we’re all functioning adults. Somehow we were all able to succeed in college without knowing this.”

Those types of questions send the message that teachers and students should focus on memorizing random facts, he said.

So a recent overhaul of the AP test in U.S. history doubled the number of questions that require student writing and replaced 80 multiple-choice questions with 55 prompts asking students to analyze primary and secondary sources. The new version, for example, might ask students to decide which of three dates marks the beginning of the United States as a world power — and explain why.

Packer said college should continue to be encouraged as a path for students who are at risk or on the bubble, pointing to studies that show higher education has a dramatic impact on their futures. He also noted that courses fostering critical-thinking have become somewhat politicized in recent years, and he called on educators to stand up for challenging coursework.

Dr. Mijares, the county superintendent, kicked off the conference by discussing recent budget news out of Sacramento, where proposition 98 revenues are expected to hit an all-time high of $68.4 billion.

“These are most certainly improved fiscal times,” he said. “However, with these resources comes enormous accountability. That’s why the Orange County Department of Education created the highest vision for our work: Orange County students will lead the nation in college and career readiness and success.”

At the same time, he acknowledged that local demographics are increasingly posing new challenges for educators. Mijares said half of Orange County’s students are eligible for subsidized lunches based on their families’ income levels, and 24 percent are English-learners who speak nearly 60 languages.

The superintendent encouraged attendees to read author Robert D. Putnam’s new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.”

“I love it that (Putnam) says ‘Our Kids,’” Mijares told attendees. “These aren’t somebody else’s kids; these are our kids. And he writes about the opportunity gap, because with the achievement gap comes an opportunity gap … and that gap is wholly tied to education. In fact, all major indices of social dysfunction are tied to education.”

OCDE helps Ocean View School District recoup general fund revenue

With support from the Orange County Department of Education, the Ocean View School District has been granted an attendance credit by the state that will restore approximately $800,000 worth of potentially lost general fund revenue for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

OCDE has worked closely with Ocean View officials since three of the district’s elementary schools — Hope View, Lake View and Oak View — were temporarily closed in the fall due to asbestos concerns. Students from the impacted sites were later bussed to other campuses throughout the county and have since returned to classrooms within the Ocean View district.Ocean-View-School-District

Meanwhile, the shuttering of three campuses has taken a toll financially, due to the mitigation of asbestos, reconstruction, lease and transportation costs. In addition, the temporary closures resulted in a significant drop in student attendance, and because attendance rates determine the majority of funding, the district was looking at reduced revenue for next year.

In response, Ocean View leaders, working in conjunction with members of OCDE’s finance team, submitted a request to the California Department of Education in January asking for relief. Last month, the state responded with a letter indicating Ocean View’s waiver had been approved, covering the loss in attendance for the days that its schools were closed and a material decrease in attendance that exceeded 10 percent.

School districts have the option to petition the state for lost revenue based on emergencies, closures and other hardships that impact attendance. The formulas get a little complicated, but they’re based on apportionment days — or the number of days attended by each student. For Ocean View, the state’s waiver translates into about $800,000 in restored funding, according to Wendy Benkert, OCDE’s associate superintendent of business services.

“This was an important step for the Ocean View community,” Benkert said. “Superintendent Gustavo Balderas and his staff are taking every precaution to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students in this current year and beyond, and now it’s critical that we all work together to make sure the district has the resources necessary to continue supporting high-quality instruction at all levels.”