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State Board of Education Meeting Summary

By Jeff Hudson, Cathy Bui,and Theresa Garcia - September 12, 2008

The State Board of Education meeting this month brought out quite a few interested parties.

The issue generating the most attention and buzz was the board’s decision in July to require the Algebra 1 test of all eighth-graders, and the recent lawsuit by the California School Boards Association (CSBA) and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) against the State Board of Education because of that decision. 

But there was also important discussion about setting the criteria for classifying high performing districts and school as eligible for waivers, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) corrective actions on Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and updates on the AYP and API reports.

Schools Under Program Improvement
The SBE was updated on the progress of 97 school districts that were required to contract with District Assistance and Intervention Team (DAIT), despite a lack of funding for these efforts. 

The state has $180 million in federal funds set aside to help districts and schools in corrective action, but the lack of an agreement between the legislature and the Governor has left schools to fund this requirement on their own.   

A state budget and a trailer bill allocating the funds are necessary before districts will see any money for these efforts, and, $19 million in federal funding is likely to be returned to the feds because of the budget delay. 
One district, Oxnard, has put off complying with the DAIT requirement due to a lack of federal funds.

Interim reports on progress being made on district capacity studies and revision of Local Education Agency plans from LEAs assigned to work with a District Advisory and Intervention Team (DAIT) were submitted in mid-August.  The final LEA plans and district capacity studies are due September 30th.  

The board approved, without any opposition, the California Department of Education’s (CDE) recommendation to have LEAs submit all appeals of District Assistance and Intervention Team (DAIT) recommendations by November 4, 2008.  Districts that want to appeal the DAIT recommendations must do so by November 4, 2008 and those appeals must address district capacity, reason for the disagreement and a summary of the district proposal to address the corrective action.

As part of this process, LEAs were asked to post their completed plans on their local Web site and provide a Web-link to CDE by the middle of September 2008.  CDE will report out at the November’s SBE meeting on the plans. 

API and AYP Update
The board also received updates from CDE on the Academic Performance Index (API), Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and were told that for the first year, the AYP scores have increased. 

The results are available on the website which has been upgraded to allow the public to pull down the status tables of each school.  The APR system results can be found at www.cde.ca.gov/apr.

Important findings from this year’s release include An increase of 8 percentage points on the API.  Further, the achievement gap between traditionally lower performing student groups and white students has decreased. 

On the AYP front, 52% of all schools made all their AYP targets in 2008, a decrease of 15 percentage points from 2007.  This decrease is likely due to the increased AYP targets for proficiency and those that missed AYP targets only in the students with disabilities sub-group.

High Performing District Waivers
The board engaged in a lengthy discussion about a proposed streamlined waiver criteria and process for high performing schools.

The discussion on this issue spanned Wednesday and Thursday, and on Thursday, the board settled on language that would “define eligible districts and schools” as follows:

For districts: Achieve API scores of 8- or above in the current scoring cycle.
For individual schools outside of these districts: Achieve API scores of 800 or above in  the current scoring cycle and meet API growth for all subgroups; or successfully meet API growth targets in three out of the past five years.

Waivers, once approved, would remain in place for two years less one day.
Board member Kenneth Noonan expressed concern that while he wanted to reward high performing schools, there should be some opportunity to provide flexibility for low performing schools also.

A working group will devote more time to the proposed streamlined waiver process, and report back to the SBE in November. Staff will also communicate with school districts about the idea.

Eighth-grade algebra testing
Judy Cias, assistant General Counsel for the California School Boards Association, spoke on behalf of CSBA and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).

Cias said that those organizations believe the SBE’s approval of eighth-grade algebra testing at the July meeting was illegal, in part because the public was not adequately informed that the SBE was contemplating a fundamental change in state policy, and in part because of ramifications including teacher credentialing, and existing math standards for grades K-7.

CSBA and ACSA have filed litigation in this matter, and Cias urged the SBE to stop negotiations on this subject with other agencies, and instead pursue “full public hearings.”

The members of the SBE – who met with legal counsel in closed session on Thursday morning to discuss the CSBA/ACSA lawsuit – had little to say on the subject during open session.

Other speakers included Margaret DeArmond of Bakersfield, representing the California Mathematics Council, who urged “continued careful consideration” of the issue. Gretchen Muller, a Marin County math educator, and Jim Burfeind, who teaches at Ishi Hills Middle School in Oroville, spoke against the new SBA mandate for testing all eighth-grade students in algebra..

Editor's Note: Cathy Bui  is the Legislative Assistant for Governmental Solutions Group, LLC.  Pror to joining GSG, Ms. Bui worked in the office of Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media.  Theresa Garcia is a former assistant secretary of education and is a consultant with Governmental Solutions Group, LLC.