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The State Board of Education is the K-12 policy-making body for academic standards, curriculum, instructional materials, assessments and accountability. The SBE adopts instructional materials for use in grades kindergarten through eight. The SBE also adopts regulations (Title 5) to implement a wide variety of programs created by the Legislature, such as charter schools, and special education. In addition, the SBE has the authority to grant local education agency requests for waivers of certain provisions of the state Education Code. The SBE has 11 members, all of whom are appointed by the Governor and serve four-year, staggered terms, with the exception of the student member, who serves a one-year term. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction, who heads the CDE, serves as the SBE's executive officer and secretary.

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