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B. California's Education North Star

California's Mission, Right Drivers, and Guiding Principles.

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California's emerging Education North Star orients the recommendations in A Blueprint for Great Schools: Version 2.0. In ancient days of celestial navigation, routes to uncharted territories were plotted by first locating the North Star, a constant in the midst of the ever-rotating star field. The Education North Star guides our path along The California Way.

As we advise Superintendent Torlakson and the CDE, we know that much will change over the next four years. We will be entering uncharted territory together. We are confident, however, that the basic coordinates of the Education North Star, composed of the CDE's mission, drivers, and guiding principles, will assist with the critical choices and decisions that must be made along The California Way.

Graphic showing the interplay between the CDE Mission, right drivers, and guiding principles.

CDE Mission

An organization exists to fulfill a mission. Four years ago, State Superintendent Torlakson, working with his Transition Advisory Team, articulated CDE's mission:

California will provide a world-class education for all students, from early childhood to adulthood. The Department of Education serves our state by innovating and collaborating with educators, schools, parents, and community partners. Together, as a team, we prepare students to live, work, and thrive in a multicultural, multilingual, and highly connected world.4

Right Drivers

We know that our work to successfully realize our mission must focus on building the capacity of California educators and the systems that support them. The framework must focus on what researcher Michael Fullan has described as the "right drivers:"5

  • Investing in and building educator professional capital;6
  • Emphasizing collaborative efforts based on shared aspirations and expectations;
  • Supporting effective pedagogy;
  • Developing systemic solutions to create a coherent and positive education system.

Guiding Principles

As we translate these drivers to actions, a set of guiding principles has emerged that can be continually relied on as a filter or litmus test for future policies and programs. Extensive discussions involving the CDE, SBE, and academic, education, and private-sector leaders have resulted in a set of guiding principles, which we have adapted to form part of California's Education North Star:7

  • Meaningful learning should support acquisition of the knowledge, language, lifelong learning skills, and dispositions that students need to succeed in today's world: the ability to apply complex knowledge to solve problems, collaborate, communicate, inquire, and learn independently, build relationships, and be resilient and resourceful.
  • Whole child approaches should address the needs of the "whole student"—the multidimensional aspects of each child's growth and development, including cognitive, linguistic, nutritional, health, social, emotional, cultural, and community influences, and the impacts of school climate and safe, bully-free learning environments.
  • Community engagement should be the result of a local agency that allows schools and districts, with community input, to make appropriate informed decisions on behalf of their linguistically, culturally, and academically diverse students.
  • Collaboration and coherence at the state level, across districts and LEAs, within schools, and between early childhood, preK–12, and higher education, as well with the diverse state and private agencies and departments serving children and families, should enable California's educational system to operate more effectively to meet the state's educational needs.
  • Creativity and flexibility should be encouraged in order to meet the demands of the future and the full range of student needs. Multiple pathways to success, featuring relevant and engaging learning, should be available for students to attain a productive future.
  • Transparency should ensure that information about school decisions, programs, and outcomes is readily available to support continuous improvement and accountability.
  • Multiple measures should capture the many aspects of education valued by families, educators, and community members and inform all decisions about students, teachers, and schools. The measures should be evaluated through systems of review, judgment, and intervention that support continuous improvement.
  • Trust and responsibility should be achieved by strengthening professional accountability, family engagement, and available data, so that educators and parents have the best knowledge to make decisions that serve each child well.
  • Reciprocity and subsidiarity8 should guide state–local relationships. Each level of the system should be held responsible for the contributions it must make to support learning for every child. The state is constitutionally responsible for providing adequate and equitable resources, while local districts must allocate resources intelligently to meet students' needs with County Offices of Education providing essential support.
  • Equity should seek to engage, inform, and strengthen the development and implementation of policy and practice to meet the needs of California's diverse population, including LCFF subgroups.


  1. The Blueprint 2.0 team recommends inserting the words multilingual and multicultural to the mission statement.
  2. Fullan, M. (2011). Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform. Centre for Strategic Education. Retrieved March 31, 2015. [Note: the preceding information is no longer valid and has been replaced with Key Strategies for Whole System Reform—Framework [] External link opens in new window or tab. (2:20).]
  3. See also: Fullan, M., Rincon-Gallardo, S., and Hargreaves, A. (2015). Professional Capital as Accountability. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23(15).
  4. Darling-Hammond, L. and Plank, D. (2015). Supporting Continuous Improvement in California's Education System [] External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; 2MB). Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  5. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "subsidiarity" represents the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks that cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.

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Questions: Dina Fong | | 916-319-0551 
Last Reviewed: Thursday, April 22, 2021