SBE nearly doubles community school sites funded through state grants

The California State Board of Education (SBE) meeting on May 8 saw the board take action on community school funding, waivers related to instructional minutes lost to teacher strikes and late start changes, career technical education efforts, reading screeners and charter school grants.

The board approved the third cohort of California Community Schools Partnership Program (CCSPP) implementation grantees, making it “the largest community schools allocation yet under the state’s nation-leading initiative to transform schools through a child- and family-centered lens,” said Board President Linda Darling-Hammond.

Community schools are known for providing resources such as medical and dental care, as well as mental and behavioral health services, but the model hinges on a combination of academics with a wide range of vital in-house services, supports and opportunities that are integral to promoting children’s learning and overall development. Community schools prioritize strategic structures for integrating academics and collaborative leadership with youth and community development, health and social services, and community engagement in alignment with the goals and values of California’s Multi-Tiered System of Support to organize campuses around the academic, behavioral, social-emotional and mental health needs of students.

While community schools have existed for decades, they became especially important as local educational agencies sought to address student and family needs during the pandemic.

In 2020, the state invested $45 million of its Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to expand and sustain existing community schools, and funded 20 grants for LEAs serving 156 community school sites. In 2021 the Legislature allocated just over $3 billion for the CCSPP to establish new, and expand existing, community schools and to create a statewide technical assistance infrastructure to create and sustain community school implementation and programming. The following year, the Legislature allocated more than an additional $1 billion to further expand access to the CCSPP.

Funds are allocated to LEAs through planning grants (for LEAs with no existing community schools), implementation grants (for those with at least some existing community school infrastructure) and expansion grants (to extend implementation funding from five to seven years).

The Cohort 3 Implementation Grant was awarded to 288 LEAs, including 23 county offices of education, funding 995 school sites — many of which serve high rates of unduplicated students. Many were also planning grant awardees, according to California Department of Education staff.

The work is “already beginning to pay off as we can see in the earlier cohorts of community schools — the gains that they are making,” Darling-Hammond said. “We are seeing the fruits of this work all over the state in both urban and rural contexts. We are seeing community schools show sharp reductions in chronic absenteeism, strong gains in achievement as a result of their engagement with families, the available health services, extended learning time after school and in the summer, connections to community resources and innovative collaboration around professional development.”

Several board members noted the scale of the May 8 action.

“We’re adding almost 1,000 community schools to this effort … we will have almost 2,000 community schools in the State of California, the largest in the nation,” said board member Alison Yoshimoto-Towery. “Special kudos to our R-TACs and S-TAC and county offices for learning how to work differently together to truly integrate the tenants of community schools into our own technical assistance work and to model the collaboration that we’re asking of our school sites and of our communities.”

The CCSPP State Transformative Assistance Center (S-TAC) created guidance documents in response to the needs of grantees but has begun to transition from creating all resources to co-creating resources with the Regional Transformation Assistance Centers (R-TACs), CDE staff said. R-TACs supported their regions with application workshops, office hours and one-on-one support to applicants resulting in a higher quality pool of applications.

Further discussion among the board prompted by public comment covered how families are being included in community school planning and implementation decisions (and how they could be more involved), how the R-TACs will be able to support this massive influx of grantees, and potential for future guidance that the S-TAC and R-TACs could provide LEAs, such as how to maintain community schools once this funding runs out.

Moving forward, the board would like to ensure that, “in the evaluation tool, that there’s feedback received on the support that the LEAs and schools are receiving from this very strong infrastructure that’s been put in place for them,” said Board Vice President Cynthia Glover Woods. “I think it’d be very important to know not just how the schools are doing and the LEAs are doing, but also how they perceive the support that they are receiving.”

Instructional minutes waivers

Two LEAs with plans to make up missed instructional minutes had their waivers approved with conditions. The first, Sacramento City Unified School District, experienced a shortage of eight instructional days caused by a teacher strike during the 2021–22 school year. The district’s governing board submitted to the SBE adopted school calendars for 2024–25 and 2025–26 that reflect the addition of eight instructional days.

That agreement between the Sacramento City board and Sacramento City Teachers Association on the specific days of instructional time was reached after the SBE issued the district a $39.8 million fine for failing to meet the minimum minutes and days required of instruction. The SBE approved the waiver on the condition that, should the district fail to make up the time, the fine would be reinstated. However, if the impacted charter schools failed to meet their time obligations, only their fines would be reinstated, and vice versa.

The second waiver was granted to Gonzales USD, a rural Monterey County district with an enrollment of about 2,100. The district was short on instructional time for 2021–22 due to an adjustment to accommodate the later start time requirement for high schools. While the administration adjusted the start time, they did not take into account the end time to make up the difference.

Gonzales USD proposed to use the 2024–25 and 2025–26 school years to make up the shortfall. The SBE approved the waiver on the condition that, if the district fails to do so, it will have to pay a penalty amount of almost $600,000.

In other State Board meeting news:
  • The board established a review process and evaluation criteria for the Reading Difficulties Risk Screener Selection Panel (RDRSSP) to evaluate and approve screening instruments to assess students for risk of reading difficulties. Under Senate Bill 114, signed in July by Gov. Gavin Newsom, LEAs will be required to screen K-2 students for reading delays, including dyslexia, beginning in 2025–26. The RDRSSP must evaluate and create a list of evidence-based, culturally, linguistically and developmentally appropriate screening instruments for LEA use by Dec. 31, 2024. During discussion on the item, board member Gabriela Orozco-Gonzalez asked, “How can we assure that the selected screeners are reasonably priced or include at least one free option to prevent imposing unfunded mandates on our LEAs?” CDE staff said that while the statute requiring these screeners doesn’t address cost, current conversations on the developing state budget include proposed funding for this.
  • The board approved the submission of the updated Draft Federal Perkins V State Plan to the Governor’s office for review. Now fully aligned with federal requirements, the plan will supplement and support California’s ongoing career technical education efforts.
  • Following significant discussion, the board requested further information from CDE staff in June on the developmental appropriateness of administering the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) to transitional kindergarteners and asked that an item on the issue be added to the board’s July meeting agenda. The board approved the 2023–24 apportionment rates and updates on program activities for the ELPAC and California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP).
  • The board directed CDE staff to apply for up to $93.8 million under the 2024–29 Federal Charter Schools Program (CSP). The grant enables states to provide financial assistance for the purpose of opening new charter schools and replicating and expanding high-quality charter schools. Funds may also be used to provide technical assistance opportunities for charter schools and authorizers related to successful charter school practices.

The next State Board meeting is scheduled for July 10-11, 2024. View the full meeting calendar.