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DAIT Districts: To adopt, or not adopt?

By William Spalding - March 10, 2009

Many districts are grappling with the current financial crisis, and are knee deep in pink slips, growing class sizes, and red ink as they go forward into the next school year.

A major consideration is the second of the large back-to-back core adoptions, Reading/English/language arts.  IMFRP (Instructional Materials Funding Realignment Program) funding for these adoptions has become more anemic over the years.  And in the current fiscal environment, many districts find the hefty adoption of new Reading/English/language arts, plus ELD (English Language Development) materials for English learners, plus intervention materials, to be all but impossible.

Some districts are looking hard at seeking a waiver from the State Board of Education to extend the adoption period from 24 months to 36 months.  Others are looking at seeking a waiver to extend the mathematics adoption.

This becomes particularly troublesome for the LEA Program Improvement, Year 3 districts in DAIT (District Assistance and Intervention Team) or technical assistance.  In each case, the over 150 districts in the first two cohorts of this process have been assigned the corrective action by the State Board of Education that mandates full implementation of the latest State Board of Education-adopted core curriculum, and to plan for that implementation in a revised or re-written Local Educational Agency Plan.  Ed Code allows for a 24-month cycle for completion of adoption, so these districts are held to a standard for adoption at least as expedient as required by law, and some maybe even adopt in a shorter time span.

Additionally, for DAIT districts, AB 519 legislation from last fall requires that DAIT “recommendations” be approved by the local board prior to going to the state board, and the district is required to carry out those recommendations once approved.  Presumably, those would include the full and timely adoption and implementation of the core and intervention curriculum.

It would appear that with the State Board of Education-imposed (really, “No Child Left Behind”-imposed) corrective actions, and the current fiscal situation, Program Improvement (PI) Year 3 districts are caught between a rock and a hard place.  Some might argue that PI Year 3 districts are receiving additional federal funds per AB 513 for their status based on the severity of their placement and number of schools in PI in the district.

However, there is a wide variation in funding, and for districts in PI Year 3 without any schools in PI (yes, there are a few), there is no additional money.  The only conceivable alternative to slow the rate of adoption and spread the cost over more budget years would be to seek a waiver from the State Board of Education to forestall the adoption.  Under the circumstances, this is going to be tricky business.

Virtually anything under Ed Code can be waived by the State Board of Education, but it is going to be difficult for that board to waive its own order in the corrective action (formerly called “sanction”) assigned to these districts to fully implement the latest core adoptions.  PI Year 3 districts that choose to seek a waiver will need to make a very compelling case that purchasing and fully implementing the latest core curriculum will have devastating fiscal implications, that is, that going forward with the order in the 24 month period will jeopardize the district’s fiscal certification under AB 1200.

A district may be able to make this case, however, given all of the materials that will be required, especially with an English/Language Arts adoption that requires also ELD materials and intervention curriculum.  A Program Improvement Year 3 DAIT district that is considering this will likely need its DAIT team to agree and certify to the California Department of Education staff (who will read and recommend, or not recommend, approval) and the State Board that going forward with adoption will have the dire fiscal consequences that the district describes.  Even then, there is no guarantee the waiver will be granted.

Finally, for PI Year 2 districts that anticipate the strong possibility of entering PI Year 3 status next year, it is a good time to begin to cost out and prepare for the likely requirements of this status, such as full adoption, SB 472 training, content coaching, etc.  Even with federal set-aside money channeled by AB 519 to these districts, most find it insufficient to cover the costs of being a DAIT or technical assistance district.

Editor's Note: William Spalding is the Director of Educational Program Development for the educational consulting firm, Total School Solutions.