The State Board of Education’s Nov. 2–3 meeting shined a spotlight on student voice, saw the adoption of changes to the California Spanish Assessment and California School Dashboard principles, as well as new resources to help teachers access and utilize disaggregated English learner student group data.
Director of the California Department of Education Assessment Development and Administration Division Mao Vang also provided an update on the 2021–22 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) and the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) results. Also known as Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments, data for the 2021–22 academic year show the impact of the pandemic on student achievement, with less than half of students (47 percent) meeting or exceeding standards for English language arts (ELA) — a 4-percentage point drop from 51 percent in 2018–19, before the public health crisis. The rate of students who met or exceeded math standards fell 7 percentage points from 40 percent to 33 percent between 2018–19 and 2021–22.
Meanwhile, results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed the largest declines in math scores on record, yet California students showed no significant change in reading scores in fourth or eighth grade, despite a majority of states showing declines. The rigorous standardized assessment, also known as “the nation’s report card,” is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics to a nationally representative sample of students in grades 4 and 8. Administration of the test in spring 2022 was the first since the pandemic began.
Despite such grim, though expected, findings, California has actually drastically risen in national rankings in eighth grade reading in particular, and continued state and local academic recovery efforts related to expanded learning opportunities, professional development, increasing digital connectivity and more will support learning in the years to come, said SBE President Linda Darling-Hammond.
“This is not to minimize the extensive work that is still needed both to recover and to continue supporting our students to forge ahead. The scores show us that California’s commitment to the academic progress of every student must continue in full force in the days, months and years to come,” she said. “We cannot take our foot off the accelerator now. These data serve as a clarity and call to push forward the transformation of California schools that’s begun over the last three years. The whole child approach is critical to creating the kind of environment that supports high-quality learning for every campus and every child across our state.”
Prioritizing student voice
Student delegates of the 2022 Student Advisory Board on Education Conference held from Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 brought to the board key issues researched and examined during the conference. The presentations to the State Board take place during each November meeting, but with more young people demanding a seat at the table in discussions and decisions about education that impact them directly, these conversations have become all the more important.
CDE and SBE staff can review and develop responses to the proposals, which may be considered at future SBE meetings if they are within the jurisdiction of the State Board.
Last year’s topics included civic engagement, student wellness, socioeconomic support, diversity, equity, inclusion and post-graduation preparedness — all issues that have proven challenging for policymakers to navigate. This year, students emphasized the need for continued work in some of these areas, highlighting in their report the following issues: staff qualifications and training, political literacy, student mental wellness support, school safety and socioeconomic equity.
Many students are hesitant to reach out to staff members with mental health concerns due to cultural disconnects and privacy concerns, preventing students from seeking proper intervention and endangering their mental well-being, explained Hau Lam Lung, a Monte Vista High School student from Danville. The SBE should establish guidelines and resources for local peer mentoring programs that could help local educational agencies further meet student mental health needs.
Under the supervision of an adult counselor or teacher, peer counselors could be trained on skills such as peer mediation, identification of mental health symptoms, and referral to appropriate professional resources — essentially expanding a school’s mental health resources while allowing students to make a difference in their community.
In response, board members emphasized the importance of ensuring these peer counselors are properly trained and have resources of their own to help process the stories and trauma potentially being shared with them by fellow students. Board member Gabriela Orozco-Gonzalez shared that she was a peer counselor during her high school years and found the training she received for that role a very important part of her experience then as well as later her in career as a teacher.
“This work is important and it’s a way to engage the entire community, including students, and support each other and guide each other through these difficulties we have, especially coming out of a pandemic,” Orozco-Gonzalez said.
On the topic of socioeconomic equity, Nethra Dhamodaran of Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon noted that although Local Control and Accountability Plan committees must reflect community demographics, marginalized individuals outside the committee are often uninformed and disengaged throughout the LCAP process, preventing equitable representation.
Dhamodaran cited California School Boards Association findings in a 2016 report that, despite efforts from LEAs to address this deeply rooted issue, the LCAP template “was cumbersome and not ‘friendly’ or understandable to the community.”
The board should develop a plan for LEAs to incorporate strategies that promote marginalized communities’ engagement with LCAP advisory committees, she said. Additionally, expanding accessibility for parents to stay engaged is vital. The reliance on virtual school board meetings during the pandemic saw an immediate increase in participation, as parents lacking transportation or child care were able to be involved. Such efforts should be made available for committee meetings when possible, Dhamodaran said.
The board also announced its recommendation of three SBE student member finalists for submission to Gov. Gavin Newsom for consideration and appointment for 2023–24. The finalists — Anya Ayyappan of Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon Valley Unified School District; Eduardo Corona of Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley USD; and Kristie To of Northwood High School in Irvine USD — were selected by the board’s screening committee from an initial set of 12 semi-finalists.
“I was recently reading a book from the late Mike Rose [a research professor of Social Research Methodology in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies], and he talked about how those with the lived experience have to be closest to the decision-makers,” said board member Alison Yoshimoto-Towery, who urged the student leaders to continue their work in their local school districts.
CSBA has developed resources and reading materials and provides training opportunities and more at its Annual Education Conference and Trade Show for district leaders and student board members to get a deeper understanding of the responsibilities and benefits of youth participation in school governance.
English learners, assessments and the Dashboard
The board continued its discussion on differentiated assistance eligibility and an English learner student group academic indicator started during an item about the Dashboard at its September meeting. In response to a CDE staff presentation on the English learner student group — one of 13 student groups reported on the California School Dashboard — including analysis of the history of decisions made by the board to include reclassified fluent English proficient (RFEP) students, several members of the board expressed concern.
While disaggregated English learner data is available in many places on the CDE web site, the board said it is critical that LEAs know where these data are displayed, how these data are used when making planning and improvement decisions through the LCAP process, and that they’re familiar with how they are accountable for their English learners
In response, CDE staff developed new resources to assist educators and the public on how to access the wide range of disaggregated English learner student group data through the CDE website and the LCAP process. Staff noted that the resources, further explained in attachment two of the item, can be used as part of California’s System of Support to help LEAs address their needs.
Public comment and board discussion identified concern that, while data on long-term English learners and those at-risk of being labeled long-term ELs is available, it does not play a role in the English Learner Progress (ELP) LCAP indicator, and therefore does not impact if a district is identified as needing additional aid in supporting these students.
“As we’re starting to think about starting a new three-year LCAP cycle in 2024, we need to plan for any changes in the LCAP now,” Darling-Hammond said. “I’d like us to take an opportunity to look at the LCAP instructions, provide recommendations to the board on where they can be strengthened to ensure that a deep data analysis around LCAP planning for English learners includes long-term and at-risk of long-term English learner status, and a look at the progress that is shown in the ELP indicator.” Further discussion may take place as soon as March 2023.
The board also approved a final set of 11 Dashboard principles, included in attachment one, which indicate that the Dashboard “focuses on elements that express the commitment to a well-rounded, well-supported education and makes space for what is valued locally,” “promotes coherence between data reporting and support/improvement programs,” “is subject to continuous revision and improvement,” and more.
Lastly, the board approved several California Spanish Assessment items, including a proposed addendum to the high-level test design, a proposed score reporting structure, and a revised blueprint and general achievement level descriptors. The goal of the redesign is to improve the reporting of test results provided to students and families and include actionable information in a timely manner while minimizing distribution efforts for LEAs, according to CDE staff. The CSA — a part of the CAASPP system — is an optional assessment administered to students seeking a measure of their Spanish skills in reading, writing mechanics and listening.
Several board members sought to confirm that, even once the CSA is fully implemented, students would still be able to demonstrate competency through multiple measures when pursuing the State Seal of Biliteracy. “If they’re taking AP Spanish, and that’s one of the ways in, then we should preserve that option and others that have been on the table,” Darling-Hammond said.
In other State Board meeting news:
- The board approved California Community Schools Partnership Program (CCSPP) Regional Technical Assistance Centers awards and the proposed 2022–23 CCSPP Administrative Plan, which details interim technical assistance efforts, county office of education coordination and planning and implementation grants, outreach to potential grantees and formative evaluation of the CCSPP. Additional details can be found here. These efforts build upon the board’s approval in May of $635 million in planning and implementation grants and establishing the Alameda County Office of Education as lead technical assistance center. The board also received an overview of the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative.
- Following several meetings approving Finding of Emergency and proposed emergency regulations/amendments to the California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR), related to the California Physical Fitness Test (PFT), the board approved a final statement of reasons (and final permanent regulations (found here in attachments one and two). Prompted by the 2020 passage of Senate Bill 820, the CDE has worked with partners with expertise in fitness, adapted physical education, gender identity, body image and students with disabilities to improve the PFT and its administration.
The next State Board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 19–20, 2023. View the full meeting calendar.