State Board starts the year with a STEM-centered agenda

Kicking off the first State Board of Education meeting in 2024 on Jan. 18, the board moved ahead on items related to assessment, instructional materials, guidance for local educational agencies, the California School Dashboard, grant allocations and more — with a particular focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

Board President Linda Darling-Hammond lauded Gov. Gavin Newsom’s January Budget Proposal for largely protecting education funding, noting that it also includes a comprehensive set of proposals to improve instructional continuity by encouraging LEAs to implement attendance recovery programs that will allow students to recapture lost instructional time and schools to recapture lost attendance-based funding.

“These changes will ensure that in a changing world … our students can maximize their learning regardless of what is happening in the world around them and will provide LEAs with more fiscal certainty when students are absent,” Darling-Hammond said.

Artificial intelligence guidance, math and science

California Department of Education staff provided an update on the state’s artificial intelligence (AI) guidance and support for districts, including a practitioner’s perspective.

Use of AI in the K-12 sector has been hotly debated recently, with some concerned about students cheating on assignments, and others excited about the prospect of improving lesson planning or allowing for more engaging learning opportunities. In May 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology (OET) released a report summarizing the prospects and risks for AI in teaching, learning, research and assessment.

In September 2023, the CDE released AI guidance for school districts, making California one of just two states to issue such guidance. The state AI guidance reiterates the need for compliance with current federal and state student privacy laws and was developed in alignment with the OET report.

Staff noted that as CDE continues to navigate the integration of AI into education and as federal policies are developed and shaped, the board will likely begin having more discussions surrounding how AI is used with respect to instructional materials, assessments and other areas within the SBE’s purview. Insights from educational practitioners serve as a valuable contribution, highlighting the challenges, opportunities and the critical importance of prioritizing equity in this technological evolution, staff reported.

One can’t get through the day without some conversation about AI — both the perils and the upsides — with the focus in education largely directed at how the technology can be used by students to cheat, said board member Sharon Olken. “What I really appreciate about the direction we’re heading in California is that we’re trying to think about it more holistically than that,” she continued.


Among the other STEM-related items on the agenda, the board received the California Science Test Innovations Concept Paper. The paper describes the research conducted by the contractor and a proposal to include performance tasks embedded in learning (PTELs) that provide teachers and students authentic and engaging experiences through science exploration.

The CDE has worked with assessment contractor ETS (Educational Testing Service) since 2022 to conduct a review of existing performance tasks (PTs) and assemble a framework for their use in assessment systems. According to CDE staff, a set of features has been identified that can be clustered into three broad categories: California Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned, student-centered and instructionally relevant. Yet, while each feature contributes to the design of high-quality PTs, integrating all features into a single PTEL may not always be feasible.

Science educators and assessment experts identified several PTs they recommend be prioritized for implementation in the classroom and for summative assessment use. Assessments, they noted, should be authentic in highlighting and centering the key concepts, modes of inquiry and ways of learning in the discipline; have tasks that create opportunities to meaningfully engage with scientific phenomena by placing phenomena within contexts likely to be familiar to students; and more. (A full breakdown is included in the agenda item)

Noting the benefits of culturally representative curriculum and materials, board member Francisco Escobedo asked CDE staff if these authentic science assessments would include connections to the workplace or to children’s varied backgrounds. “I think it’s really important, especially for marginalized communities, to see science as part of their own world and part of what they experience every day,” he said. “Is there an effort to create relevancy in the field of science?”

Staff assured the board that among the prioritized features of the new PTELs were that “assessments follow principles of universal design and responsiveness to learners’ experiences and ways of knowing to ensure accessibility and opportunities for learners to show what they know.”


Moving forward on the 2025 K-8 mathematics instructional materials adoption process, the board approved the schedule of significant events, reviewer application, adoption notice, criteria map and standards maps. Dates and additional information are available in attachments found in the agenda item.

Board Vice President Cynthia Glover Woods was among those who expressed some concern about the timeline, as students won’t see these new materials until at least the 2026–27 school year, and then teachers will need to undergo professional development, she said.

In addition to ensuring the new materials also meet the needs of transitional kindergarten teachers and students, Glover Woods called for supports to be provided to teachers over the next few years as they begin moving forward in the meantime with lesson planning and more.

“As one of the [public] speakers said, children are in need now of strong mathematics instruction, and we sure don’t want to wait another three years for that to happen,” Glover Woods said. “I would ask that there at least be some thought and consideration as to how we might be able to mitigate this time frame and get materials in the hands of students sooner, or at least be sure our teachers have the supports they need to make sure students are getting that instruction that’s so necessary while we go through this very robust and important process.”

Criteria and standards revisions for LEA fiscal stability

The board approved revisions to the criteria and standards used to monitor the fiscal solvency of LEAs that reflect a change in Education Code (EC), terminology changes to conform to new accounting standards, removing terminology no longer applicable to the Local Control Funding Formula, and other technical changes to improve fiscal monitoring reviews.

The criteria and standards guide LEAs in developing budgets and in periodic self-evaluations of fiscal solvency, known as interim reports, and are used by the county superintendent and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in their monitoring and fiscal oversight roles and responsibilities. All related attachments can be found on the board’s meeting agenda page.

In other State Board meeting news:

  • 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 board took action on two items in support of this work, including approving a Reading Difficulties Risk Screener Selection Panel (RDRSSP) Governing Policy and appointing experts to serve as panel members. 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.
  • The board approved revisions to the Local Indicator Self-Reflection Tool for Priority 6: School Climate that require LEAs to report disaggregated data by student groups identified in EC Section 52052 to the greatest extent feasible under the LEA’s chosen tool to measure school climate. Revisions also included updates to the first and second narrative prompts within the current tool to clarify that LEAs are to report data disaggregated by student groups to the greatest extent feasible. LEAs use the self-reflection tools included in the California School Dashboard to report their progress on the local performance indicator.
  • The board approved the executive summary of the federal Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Performance Report (APR) for Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act covering program year 2022–23. The APR outlines the collective progress of LEAs in the state toward meeting yearly targets identified in the State Performance Plan.
  • The board approved Career Technical Education Incentive Grant allocations for fiscal year 2022–23, as well as an allocation formula, specific funding amounts and number of grant awards, purposes for grant fund use and allowable and non-allowable expenditures.
  • The board approved the 2023–24 LEA Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) to meet Every Student Succeeds Act standards, which “requires LEAs, in partnership with stakeholders, to develop and implement a CSI plan to improve student outcomes for each school identified for CSI.”

The next State Board meeting is scheduled for March 6–7, 2024. View the full meeting calendar.