SBE takes nuanced look at chronic absenteeism, assessment data and more

During its final meeting of 2023, the California State Board of Education adopted revisions to the Local Control and Accountability Plan template and instructions, and discussed results of recently released statewide testing and absenteeism data.

In October, the California Department of Education released the results of both the 2022–23 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) and the Chronic Absenteeism and Absenteeism by Reason DataQuest report.

While the CDE in an Oct. 18 press release called testing results “particularly promising” considering the staggering increase of students now considered high-need (including foster youth and students who are experiencing homelessness), organizations such as The Education Trust—West, Public Counsel and others expressed harsher views of the data.

“The results from the 2022–23 did show some hopeful signs that recovery from pandemic-related declines may be beginning … but they also indicate there’s a long way to go for students and schools before we recover from what we’ve experienced in these last three years,” said Board President Linda Darling-Hammond.

However, she noted, due to the lengthy process related to the distribution of education funding, improvements in results were never going to be immediate. “We will begin to see much more of the impact of community schools, extended learning time, transitional kindergarten, literacy coaches and new Golden State Pathways, as well as the rollout of the new mathematics framework,” she said. “Those will begin to reach students, and I think they’ll make a growing difference in the coming years.”

CAASPP, also known as Smarter Balanced tests, are given to students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11. Results showed 34.6 percent of students met or exceeded standards in math in 2023 — up 1.2 percentage points from last year. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, 39.8 percent of all students were at grade level. Meanwhile, scores in English language arts dropped less than 1 percentage point to 46.7 percent for students meeting or exceeding standards in 2023 — down from 51.7 percent in 2019.

Students who speak a language other than English at home are required to take the ELPAC every year until they are proficient in English. There was a slight increase in English learners achieving a proficient score, at 16.5 percent.

The state also released chronic absenteeism data showing 24.9 percent of all students were chronically absent in 2023, more than double the rate in 2019. However, that still represents a significant improvement from 30 percent in 2021–22. And far fewer kindergarten students were absent in 2022–23 compared to 2021–22 as well, at a rate of 36.3 percent chronic absence vs. 40.4 percent.

Board Vice President Cynthia Glover Woods said that while it’s wonderful to see the data going in a more positive direction, she is mindful that numbers are still quite high. She said the State Board should discuss ways for students who are unable to be in class to still receive instruction in a way that will allow them to be counted for attendance purposes.

“One thing we need to keep in mind post our response to the pandemic is that families and students are looking at education in a different way than they did beforehand,” Glover Woods said. “And they are cognizant of the fact that in some instances, there is a way to utilize some technological resources to be able to engage in robust instruction and still in a sense be counted as having been present.”

Darling-Hammond was among those in agreement, noting that there is a need to sort out the causes of absenteeism so that local educational agencies are not held accountable for children missing classroom time due to illness, climate issues such as flooding, fires or snow, and more.

There needs to be a way to measure attendance and engagement if students need to rely on Google Classroom or other learning programs, she said, “so that as these things occur, we’re not either directing the wrong solution to the wrong problem or penalizing schools for doing things that are intended to preserve the health of the student body as a whole.”

LCAP template revisions adopted

The board adopted the LCAP template and instructions revisions proposed at its September meeting, which include reporting on engagement with parents, students and other educational partners for schools that generate Local Control Funding Formula Equity Multiplier funding, plans to address any ineffective actions or programs described in the existing LCAP goals and more. These changes will be implemented in the 2024–25 LCAP year.

California’s LCAP is a three-year plan that describes LEAs’ goals, actions, services and expenditures to support positive student outcomes that address state and local priorities. The document provides an opportunity for districts to share their stories of how, what and why programs and services are selected to meet the specific needs of their students and community.

During public comment, CSBA Legislative Advocate Carlos Machado expressed support for the current revisions and reiterated recommendations submitted to the State Board by a group of statewide and local K-12 education associations, of which CSBA is a member.

“CSBA supports the changes recommended today to help make the LCAP less complex and more accessible,” Machado said. “The proposed changes include consolidation and flexibility that taken together would take an important step in streamlining the template. By making the LCAP more accessible these changes will improve transparency and lead to greater local engagement.”

In other State Board meeting news:

  • The board appointed Nancy Portillo to Co-Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction. Portillo in 2022 served as Deputy Superintendent of the Student Achievement Branch overseeing the Student Achievement and Support Division and providing support to the Whole Child Division leadership.
  • Three finalists for the position of 2024–25 SBE Student Member were approved: Neil Chandran, of San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s Monte Vista High School in Contra Costa County; Julia Clausen, from San Juan USD’s Bella Vista High School in Sacramento County; and Maulik Dhakal from Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District’s Los Altos High School in Santa Clara County. Approved finalists will now be forwarded to the Governor for his consideration and appointment.
  • Student delegates of the 2023 Student Advisory Board on Education brought to the state board key issues researched and examined during their Nov. 5–8 conference, including mental health and wellness services, refining restorative justice frameworks, ensuring financial literacy, providing opportunities for underrepresented students to make their voices heard, amending the current history-social science  framework to include aspects of current and global affairs, and improving socio-economic equity and college and career readiness.
  • The board received an update on the California Community Schools Partnership Program from the CCSPP State Transformative Assistance Center and the Southern Inland Regional Transformative Assistance Center. CDE staff stated during the meeting that the department will release the cohort 3 Community Schools Implementation Grant request for applications on Nov. 13 with a deadline of Feb. 9. The five-year grants are available for new, expanded or continuing community schools.
  • Per CDE staff recommendation, the board approved revisions to the Local Indicator Self-Reflection Tool for Priority 1: Basic Services and Conditions, among other actions.

The next State Board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 18–19, 2024. View the full meeting calendar.