Since fiscal year 1984-85, the California Department of Education (CDE) has administered the competitive grant award process that funds Specialized Secondary Programs (SSP) and has funded over 200 programs. California comprehensive high schools may use the grant funds for programs that provide students with advanced learning opportunities in a variety of subjects, including but not limited to English-language arts, mathematics, science, history and social science, foreign language, and the visual performing arts. The acquisition of technology skills and the use of technology as a tool for instruction and learning are also emphasized in these programs.
In the past, the typical funding cycle was four years, which included a planning year followed by three years of program implementation. As SSP funds were taken out of Tier 3 of the Categorical Flexibility for the year 2013–14, funding for planning grants are now available. Following the planning year, schools may apply for an implementation grant as money becomes available.
Programs selected for funding are structured so that participating students can explore areas of study in a deeper way while developing their talents and skills as they prepare for the world of work or higher education. Frequently, specialized secondary programs are established as a smaller learning community or a school-within-a-school. As a result, the CDE expects high quality, innovative approaches to curriculum and instruction, staffing, and scheduling. Not only does the SSP approach often lead to secondary benefits for the entire school, district, and local community, it can also serve as a model for effective educational reform.
In the fall of this year, a Request for Application (RFA) for the planning year was mailed to every public high school, public school district, and county office of education in California. The RFA is also posted on the CDE Web site. The following information highlights other features of SSP:
- High schools currently receiving SSP funding are not eligible to apply until their current funding ceases.
- Applications must propose curriculum, which would serve students in at least grades 10-12, and must commit to using technology as a key implementation tool.
- Faculty members in SSPs must develop curriculum, instructional materials and methodology that the Superintendent of Public Instruction could make available to other schools in the state.
Required Annual Data for Each SSP
As this is a one-year planning grant for the 2013-14 school year, the CDE requires each SSP to gather and report baseline data related to the components listed below:
- Increased stakeholders' satisfaction with pupil learning, school organization, and school governance and management
- Counseling and other support services that enhance the program and the success of the pupils
- Improvement in academic performance of pupils as measured by appropriate standards of achievement
Appropriate Use of Funds
Funds are to be used to promote the intent and letter of Education Code sections 58800 - 58806 and in accordance with the California School Accounting Manual. These funds are intended to provide advanced learning opportunities for students. The funds are not intended to supplant current fixed costs or to be used for gifts of public funds.