Here’s a look at California’s new education laws for 2016

capitol.jpegA new year is upon us, and that means a raft of new state laws has gone into effect. Here at the OCDE Newsroom, we’ve been specifically tracking a handful of educational bills expected to have an impact on Orange County students and schools. Here’s a quick roundup of what’s changed as we enter 2016.

Vaccinations

Over the summer, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 277, which states that parents of students who attend public or private schools can no longer refuse to vaccinate their children based on a personal belief exemption. Though the law technically took effect Jan. 1, the 2015-16 year isn’t affected, so the real impact will be seen in the fall.

High School Exit Exam

Another new law officially suspends the California High School Exit Exam and calls for school districts to grant diplomas to students who didn’t pass the test but met all other graduation requirements, dating all the way back to the 2003-04 school year. Eligible students are advised to contact the school districts, county offices or charter schools where they completed grade 12.

Cheerleading

Good news for cheerleading enthusiasts. Assembly Bill 949, signed by the governor in October, reclassified cheerleading as a competitive CIF sport, starting in 2017-18. In the meantime, CIF officials are tasked with creating new rules, guidelines and safety protocols.

Health education

Assembly Bill 329 makes comprehensive sexual health education mandatory in middle or high school unless parents specifically opt out. It also updates the curriculum to include HIV and AIDS prevention information.

A separate law, Senate Bill 695, makes it a graduation requirement for students to complete a course in health education that includes instruction in sexual harassment and violence.

State education officials say 97 percent participated in new web-based assessments

California students posted a 97 percent participation rate on this year’s statewide English and math assessments, education officials announced Tuesday.

And the numbers were just as strong locally.

More than 250,000 Orange County students took the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, exams last spring, participating at a rate of 96.9 percent in English and 97.6 percent in math.

students in computer labThese rates are significant for a few reasons. For starters, almost all of the tests in California were taken on computers, meaning they were reliant on state and local efforts to upgrade schools’ Internet capabilities. These were also the first exams to reflect the state’s more rigorous standards in English and math.

“These numbers tell an important story,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said Tuesday. “They reflect strong support for our new standards among parents, teachers, students, and business and community leaders. The standards are a critical part of our plan to improve education in California because they emphasize skills that prepare students for 21st-century careers and college, such as critical thinking and problem solving.”

As we reported in September, Orange County students outshined their state and regional counterparts on the new assessments, with 53 percent meeting or exceeding the English language arts standard and 45 percent meeting or exceeding the standards in mathematics. When you combine the number of students who met or nearly met the standards, Orange County posted rates of 76 percent in English and 72 percent in math.

In California, 44 percent of students met or exceeded the English standard and 34 percent met or exceeded the standards in math.

Mijares: OC Pathways initiative has much to celebrate at the end of its first year

From the Desk of Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County Superintendent of Schools


On a cool December morning, in a historic airplane hangar at the Orange County Great Park, some of the region’s top educators and business leaders gathered for a very special birthday party.

OC Pathways, an initiative that brings together schools, colleges and businesses to create new career paths in targeted industry sectors, was celebrating its first year — and what a year it’s been.

Al MijaresOver the past 12 months, more than 8,600 high school students have enrolled in OC Pathways programs, receiving career preparation in the fields of health care, biotechnology, engineering, advanced manufacturing, information technology and digital media. In our community colleges, more than 12,500 students have participated in OC Pathways coursework, earning roughly 600 certificates and 85 degrees.

Led by the Orange County Department of Education and Saddleback College, OC Pathways was launched in 2014 through a California Department of Education grant. Along with its efforts to partner schools and colleges with industry leaders, the project creates work-based learning opportunities for students — these include internships and mentorship — and empowers educators with innovative teaching strategies.

In just the first year of this initiative, more than 2,500 students participated in one or more work-based learning experiences, and we have seen a 13 percent increase in the number of articulation agreements that allow high school students to receive community college credit for taking career technical education courses.

Moreover, OC Pathways has established 53 additional businesses partnerships that will help strengthen the 21st-century workforce.

On Dec. 2, the leaders of many of these businesses were among the 300 or so who gathered in the Great Park’s Hangar 244 for a morning showcase that featured incredible displays from local schools, colleges and businesses, as well as video profiles of students who are on successful career tracks thanks to OC Pathways.

NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, who made two trips aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, was riveting as our keynote speaker at the end. I was also honored to say a few words, joining Saddleback College President Dr. Tod A. Burnett, OC STEM Executive Director Dr. Linda Christopher, Orange County United Way president and CEO Max Gardner, and four very impressive high school and college students.

Thanks to the unparalleled levels of collaboration between Orange County’s secondary and postsecondary partners, OC Pathways has already racked up more achievements than can be listed in this column, and we’re just getting started.

Just think of what can be accomplished in year two. 


You can learn more about OC Pathways’ efforts to promote college and career success by visiting the OC Pathways website. To find out how you can get involved, click here.

 

In the news: Reaction to the new federal education law, environmental studies and more

Guess what? It’s Friday again, and we’ve got a week’s worth of education stories you might have missed.

  • OCEdNewsSix students from Washington Middle School in La Habra won a $10,000 prize after devising a plan to reduce water usage on campus. They’re now in the running for a $30,000 grand prize in the of the Lexus Eco Challenge.
  • Project Zero Waste, a partnership between OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors program and OC Waste & Recycling, earned a Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association.
  • Though a large percentage of preschoolers speak a language other than English in the home, preschool teachers often don’t have the training to teach English-learners.

State Superintendent Torlakson lauds Laguna Beach as a leading digital district (video)


How’s this for recognition? State Superintendent Tom Torlakson recently cited the Laguna Beach Unified School District as one of three “leading digital districts” in California.

“These bright spots serve as lights of encouragement and guidance for our state,” Torlakson wrote in this letter to district leaders about technology and equity.

Laguna Beach, which was mentioned along with the Napa Valley and Riverside unified school districts, has been actively promoting the use of technology in its classrooms. In fact, the district piloted a Bring Your Own Device program at Laguna Beach High School in October 2014 that has since been expanded districtwide.

“Our teachers connect with students everyday within the classrooms,” said LBUSD Superintendent Sherine Smith, “but it was our turn to strengthen the connection with students. Using technology that they already use at home is important because students have learned how to best utilize their own devices to take ownership of their own learning.”

In addition to BYOD, Laguna Beach Unified carefully selects web-based software, including Haiku and Pear Deck, to ensure virtual learning environments are engaging in and out of classrooms. Moreover, the district’s 4Cs Learning Environments project was established to strengthen the link between the school environment and student learning.

“We found that after implementing the Common Core, teachers were creating collaborative lessons but were battling their classrooms,” said Chief Technology Officer Mike Morrison. “We have empowered our teachers to become researchers and testers for the concepts, and together we have designed truly remarkable learning spaces.”

Watch a flexible classroom space in action in the video above. And you can learn more about technology in Laguna Beach Unified by visiting the district’s award-winning website, specifically this page.

Two OC districts receive College Board AP District Honor Roll distinction

Two Orange County school districts have made the College Board’s AP District Honor Roll for 2015.

The Huntington Beach Union High School District and the Los Alamitos Unified School District are among 425 districts across the U.S. and Canada recognized for APhonorrollincreasing access to Advanced Placement coursework while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of three or higher on AP exams.

Reaching these goals indicates these districts are successfully identifying motivated, academically prepared students who are likely to benefit from rigorous AP coursework.

Both Orange County districts are additionally highlighted for having achieved the designation for multiple years.

You can view the entire sixth Annual AP District Honor Roll list here.

OCDE’s Inside the Outdoors science education program is in the spotlight again

OCDE’s popular Inside the Outdoors program is the subject of a new feature story from the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.

You can check it out here.

CCSESA supports students, schools, districts and communities by enhancing the service and leadership capabilities of California’s 58 county superintendents. The organization began spotlighting successful educational programs back in September.

10.2.08 245Inside the Outdoors dates back to 1974 and continues to expand student knowledge of natural environments through hands-on lessons. Administered by OCDE, the program currently has 14 field trip locations in Orange County and one in Los Angeles County, and it regularly dispatches Traveling Scientists — often accompanied by an assortment of critters — to local schools.

Earlier this year, we reported that the Anaheim City School District was making Inside the Outdoors science lessons available to all of its approximately 20,000 students, marking a first for Orange County.