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C. Strategic Priority Areas

Five Critical and Interrelated Strategic Priority Areas: California Standards, Teaching and Leading Experience, Student Success, Continuous Improvement and Accountability Systems, and Systems Change and Supports for Strategic Priorities.

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Utilizing California's Education North Star for orientation, we advise the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to focus actions on five critical and interrelated strategic priority areas:

  1. California Standards.
  2. Teaching and Leading Excellence.
  3. Student Success.
  4. Continuous Improvement and Accountability Systems.
  5. Systems Change and Supports for Strategic Priorities.

Key recommendations in each of these strategic priority areas are outlined below. These will become the basis for further strategic planning by CDE and its partners. Strategic Priority Area 5, Systems Change and Supports for Strategic Priorities, outlines necessary supports for the success of the other strategic priority areas, including critical financial and communications strategies.

1. California Standards

To prepare California's young people for the world of tomorrow, we must equip them today with the knowledge and skills that they will need to succeed in college, careers, and life. California has a strong tradition of using standards throughout its education system and has updated the goals for student learning in the new rigorous California Standards. California has approached adoption and implementation of these new standards in a deliberate and thoughtful manner, resulting in strong agreement across stakeholder groups that these standards represent the right step for our state's students and educators.9 There is still much work to be done, however, to fully implement the California Standards, and it is critical that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the CDE continue to lead and collaborate effectively as this work moves forward over the next four years. We call upon Superintendent Torlakson and the CDE to work with statewide partners to:

1.1. Continue articulating and communicating our state's vision for our children's education and for the continuous improvement of California Standards, done deliberately and thoughtfully.

1.1.1. Explain to communities statewide why the California Standards are important.

1.1.2. Support the development of standards for social and emotional learning (SEL), preschool through high school, building on existing California and national models.

1.2. Build CDE's capacity to support high-quality standards implementation through the development and support of a CDE California Standards Support Office.10

1.2.1. Seek state financial support for the core operations of the California Standards Support Office.

1.2.2. Leverage existing CDE and partner resources, including institutions of higher education, to create an action team that articulates and supports California Standards statewide.

1.2.3. Utilize peer networks to develop a deep knowledge repository of exemplars and promising approaches in standards implementation support, including use of technology,11 with a special focus on district and LEA development and improvement of Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) and support for LCFF subgroups.

1.2.4. Leverage CDE and partner resources, including institutions of higher education and organizations leading biliteracy efforts, to develop a collection of promising approaches and resources for implementing standards that address the needs of English learners and support English language and biliteracy development.

1.3. Continue to develop and strengthen broad-based coalitions of support that build California's capacity to develop and implement high-quality standards.

2. Teaching and Leading Excellence

To fully implement the California Standards, many teachers will need to learn new pedagogical strategies and integrate formative assessments into their teaching to support continuous improvement of their own instructional practices. This is equally true of principals, many of whom will need intensive professional development to provide a new kind of leadership expected and required by the more ambitious goals for teaching and learning. To support these needs for educator capacity building, we call upon Superintendent Torlakson and the CDE to work with statewide partners to take the following steps:

2.1. Utilize Greatness by Design as the overarching framework guiding efforts to revitalize the education profession, including the use of a holistic framework for preparation, induction, professional learning, evaluation, and career pathways.12

2.2. Revitalize California's professional learning systems to build capacity for all educators at the preschool, elementary, and secondary levels.

2.2.1. Take initiative to disseminate guidance and frameworks for educator evaluation, Peer Assistance and Review (PAR), and induction using Greatness by Design as the frame.

2.2.2. Support dedicated time for professional learning and educator collaboration throughout the year.

2.2.3. Support the availability of quality substitutes or creative alternatives to allow teachers to participate in professional learning during the school year.

2.2.4. Strengthen partnerships with professional organizations to coordinate opportunities for professional learning about the California Standards.

2.2.5. Improve pre-service professional learning and develop in-service professional learning opportunities for early childhood educators.

2.2.6. Increase resource development and accessible information to the field on evidence-based practices and current research on academic and behavioral interventions and the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

2.3. Take immediate steps, in collaboration with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC), to address the impending teacher and school principal shortage.

2.3.1. Review relevant research to identify the root causes of the teacher shortage, including issues of diversity and access to higher education and to certification and credentialing programs.

2.3.2. Address the pipeline into the teaching profession, specifically the shortage of bilingual and special education teachers.

2.3.3. Work with the CTC to convene regular meetings of the deans of education across institution of higher education segments (University of California [UC], California State University [CSU], and private colleges) and other relevant stakeholders to coordinate and improve recruitment and preparation programs.

2.3.4. Encourage and support diverse undergraduate routes to a teaching credential, preschool through secondary.

2.4. Continue efforts to develop, promote, and disseminate effective forms of labor–management collaboration.13

2.5. Continue to recognize and support the essential role that counselors, nurses, librarians, food service workers, maintenance and facilities specialists, and other school employees play in providing a world-class education for all California students.

2.5.1. Support the availability of professional learning opportunities for classified staff to ensure that all members of school communities are prepared to support students.

2.5.2. Identify specific actionable steps to increase the number of school counselors and nurses so that all students have access to these critical health and well-being supports.

3. Student Success

We have long known that student background, language status, socioeconomic status, and disability can strongly influence academic achievement. Despite a long history of understanding the relationship between these factors and educational success, education leaders and stakeholders have often ignored the very real needs of children for secure housing, regular health care, supportive out-of-school environments, and educational assistance.

During the past four years, State Superintendent Torlakson, the CDE, and collaborative partners have made impressive strides toward developing or rebuilding plans and systems for early learning, expanded learning, and whole child community schools to ensure that California's students receive the support they need to become successful. Most recently, California's Statewide Task Force on Special Education presented an important vision and a bold plan for a unified system of education serving all children effectively.14

Successful approaches to student learning must look at the whole child from cradle to career and must include an aligned system of supports and services for students both inside and outside the classroom as well as robust family and community engagement. We call upon Superintendent Torlakson and the CDE to:

3.1. Set the foundation for one coherent system of education in which students receive the supports they need to be successful in the most inclusive environment.

3.2. Ensure the incorporation and alignment across programs of effective student, family, and community engagement strategies in all relevant areas of CDE activity.

3.3. Support use of holistic and engaging curricula and pedagogy that include arts education, civics education, environmental literacy, Linked Learning, physical education, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

3.4. Implement high-priority elements of the CDE Whole Child Integrated Action Team Strategic Plan.15

3.5. Promote the use of community schools as a strategy to address the needs of the whole child, including the use of community schools as a framework for addressing LCAP priorities.

3.6. Support the adoption of key policies promulgated by the California Comprehensive Early Learning Plan (CCELP),16 including statewide use of a developmentally appropriate school readiness assessment tool. Implement the CDE Early Education and Support Division Strategic Plan.17

3.7. Develop innovative partnerships to communicate to families the importance of early brain development.18

3.8. Continue to build statewide capacity for expanded learning through the ongoing implementation of the CDE After School Division Strategic Plan.19

3.9. Support the implementation of the State Systemic Improvement Plan developed by the CDE Special Education Division consistent with the Statewide Task Force on Special Education's recommendations for one coherent system of education serving all students.20

3.10. Meet the needs of English learners by establishing an English learning master plan and enacting the English Language Development Standards Implementation Plan.21

3.11. Implement the key priorities recommendations from the Blueprint for California Education Technology report and, in particular, statewide efforts to reduce the impact of the digital divide on California's students and families.22

3.12. Develop and implement strategies to improve the coherence and effectiveness of the state's career technical education programs and policies.

3.13. Develop infrastructure at the CDE to improve cross-agency collaboration in support of student health. Increase capacity and support for school-based health centers and programs, and year-round access to appealing and nutritious meals for students to enjoy in healthy learning environments.

3.14. In order to better serve and support districts and LEAs, work toward alignment of California's system of learning supports across divisions within the CDE and reconfigure divisions for optimal collaboration and efficiencies. Continue work to build the CDE's capacity for service and support.

3.15. Conduct regular meetings between Superintendent Torlakson and leaders of other relevant state departments and agencies to break down "silos" and encourage the development of integrated state and local systems serving the whole child from cradle to career.

4. Continuous Improvement and Accountability Systems

The key to improving the performance of California's schools and districts is based on a simple premise: improvement depends on capacity. This encompasses improving both the individual capacity of teachers and school leaders—their knowledge, skills, and material supports—and the institutional capacity of schools, districts, and state agencies to support the delivery of improved education through strong staffing, instructional guidance, well-directed resources, helpful data and information, and productive incentives.

California must build individual and institutional capacity while creating a state accountability system that (1) is based on promoting continuous improvement of a broad array of student outcomes as well as continuous organizational learning; (2) places importance on improving the performance of students who are not meeting their full potential; (3) better identifies the needs and capacity of underperforming schools and districts and provides the appropriate resources and supports to facilitate improvement; and (4) properly balances accountability both vertically within the state and districts (students, teachers, principals, superintendents, and school boards), and horizontally within the community (parents, schools, businesses, community-based organizations, county services, and the like). To accomplish this, Superintendent Torlakson and the CDE should take the following steps:

4.1 Continue to accelerate California's accountability shift to a system of continuous improvement that actively supports the forward progress of every student.

4.1.1 Advocate thoughtful reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

4.1.2 Determine the total financing and resources required to fully support a system of continuous improvement statewide.

4.1.3 Communicate the shift in California's student assessment system from "test and judge" to "assess to improve" and the fundamental movement from sole reliance on standardized testing to a multiple-measures approach.

4.2 Provide support to districts and LEAs for the development and implementation of their LCAPs.

4.2.1 Explore with district and LEA leaders how the CDE can more efficiently and effectively communicate and disseminate important LCFF and LCAP resources to the field to support the development of their LCAPs.

4.2.2 Further clarify the role of the CDE and county superintendents in providing consistent LCAP support for districts and LEAs.

4.2.3 Support the development and State Board of Education adoption of high-quality LCFF evaluation rubrics, which help districts and LEAs advance in the eight state priority areas and demonstrate high-quality improved and increased services for LCFF subgroups.23

4.2.4 Develop a user- and viewer-friendly electronic LCAP form based on the SBE template.

4.3 Continue to develop robust data systems to guide diagnosis of local strengths and weaknesses and to identify strategies and practices to support improved performance.

4.3.1 Continue development of the CDE's capacity to convene statewide partners and facilitate the exchange of resources and knowledge.

4.3.2 Continue enhancements of interim and summative assessment systems that support continuous learning.

4.3.3 Build state capacity for the development of a multiple-measures data system, including a "dashboard" that is aligned with the LCFF evaluation rubrics and state priorities. Explore appropriate individualized means for documenting student learning and progress in prekindergarten settings.

4.3.4 Evaluate the success of accessibility supports and implementation of designated accommodations for specific student populations within the state's formal assessment system.

4.3.5 Redesign the California School Recognition Program to align with changes to the new accountability framework and systems.

4.3.6 Identify residual existing regulations and legislation that may impede the progress of new systems of continuous improvement.

4.3.7 Recommend system elements to support the implementation of a new accountability system grounded in system coherence and continuous improvement.

4.4 Develop strong coalitions of support for accountability systems changes, using models developed for the California Labor Management Initiative,24 California Common Core Communications Campaign,25 and the recently launched K–12 Water Cooler Network.26

5. Systems Change and Supports for Strategic Priorities

While there are many systems supporting California's students and schools, we believe that three areas demand priority attention in the next four years:

  1. Building long-term solutions to the state's ability to provide sufficient financial resources to districts and LEAs.
  2. Establishing and supporting the California Collaborative on Educational Excellence, the agency that will create supports for learning, knowledge sharing, and evaluation as well for direct intervention and improvement in the work of schools and districts that are struggling to provide an adequate education.
  3. Creating a robust communications and information exchange system to serve educators and staff at all levels of our state.

As the CDE continues its internal evolution from a primary emphasis on compliance to one of service and support for districts, LEAs, and educators, State Superintendent Torlakson and his CDE team will need to continue work on its own internal institutional strengthening, alignment, and capacity building to effectively support the transformative systemic changes represented by The California Way.

Comprehensive Funding and Resources

Over the past four years, two major initiatives, Proposition 30 and the LCFF, hugely impacted funding and budgetary decision making. Proposition 30 served to relieve the significant financial pressures facing districts, and the LCFF transformed the focus of financial decision making from Sacramento to local school districts.27 While great progress has been made, especially in the direction of a funding system that is simpler, more transparent, more rational, and more directly responsive to the needs of students, significant attention must now be given to the revenue side of state education funding to ensure that the current momentum can be maintained and that California's schools do not again fall prey to the vicissitudes of economic cycles. To achieve this goal, Superintendent Torlakson should work with the legislature, stakeholders, and the people of California to take the following steps:

5.1. Continue building the base for the adequate long-term resourcing of school districts and LEAs.

5.1.1. Convene and lead a coalition that obtains a comprehensive state education finance measure and conduct this work in combination with efforts to create innovative mechanisms for state and local education financing, including lowering the thresh- old for passage of local finance measures.

5.1.2. Support continued state assistance to school districts for school facilities.

5.1.3. Create and implement innovative public–private partnership strategies to build support for public education.

5.1.4. Participate in and support efforts to restructure special education funding and advocate full federal funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act at 40 percent.

5.2. Identify and organize potential funding streams for whole child learning and provide guidance on how LEAs might pursue existing funding streams for learning supports.

5.2.1. Clearly articulate how federal education funding can be blended and leveraged to support LCAP priorities.

5.3. Partner with the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation to develop opportunities for public–private partnerships and investments to strengthen California Standards research and development, support, and communications.

5.4. Work with the State Legislature to create and secure an educator-funding package that will strengthen induction, mentorship, and evaluation and build capacity for professional learning at the local level.

5.5. Support the adequacy of financial and other resources, especially educator and staff time for professional learning and for ongoing district and LEA standards implementation.

California Collaborative for Educational Excellence

The CDE has a unique opportunity to support and collaborate with the newly established California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) during the formative years to help build capacity and provide support for school districts.28 We recommend that Superintendent Torlakson and the CDE take the following actions:

5.6. Support and grow the CCEE by:

5.6.1. Working with stakeholders to clarify the CCEE's support function. What does constructive intervention look like, and who needs to be involved? What should effective instruction and learning supports for targeted subgroups look like?

5.6.2. Developing and implementing pilot projects to launch the work and development of the CCEE with an initial focus on promising approaches in LCAP development, implementation, and strategies to improve or increase services for LCFF subgroups.

5.6.3. Developing the CDE's capacity to support the CCEE as a knowledge repository, improvement support provider, and convener.

Communications, Data Systems, Online Resource Exchange, and Knowledge Dissemination

Communicating the work outlined by A Blueprint for Great Schools: Version 2.0 is critical to its success. Building public support to maintain adequate resources for schools requires the CDE and Superintendent Torlakson to continue and intensify efforts to communicate success stories from our schools to the public, the media, and stakeholders through a variety of channels, including traditional, online, and social media. Maintaining and building public support for the new funding system, the new standards, and the new accountability system will require significant effort by the CDE and its partners.

The CDE must play a leading role in developing communications and information sharing systems that are critical for our educators, school and district staff, and constituencies statewide. Fortunately, the CDE and its partners have successfully created models for utilizing coalition-based/trusted messenger communications strategies.29 Similarly, many platforms and tools for sharing digital resources focused on education already exist, including the CDE's My Digital Chalkboard; similar Web sites operated by other state departments of education; and others operated by nonprofit organizations, foundations, and the private sector.30 The CDE now has the opportunity to leverage these tools and build on its partnerships with statewide education organizations to provide California educators, staff, administrators, parents, and community members with a range of resources that are distributed and approved by a team of trusted messengers. The growth in CDE communications capacity over the past four years must continue through traditional, online, and social media communications mechanisms. In order to support all strategic priorities outlined by Blueprint 2.0, Superintendent Torlakson and the CDE should take the following steps:

5.7. Support the full range of California Standards work and ensure that these efforts reach California's diverse communities.

5.7.1. Communicate statewide the timeline for the ongoing development and improvement of California Standards.31

5.8. Elevate public opinion about the education profession (including the early childhood education and bilingual workforce) as a respected and desirable career pathway.

5.9. Provide districts, LEAs, and key stakeholders the tools to communicate effectively regarding new accountability systems.

5.10. Provide high-quality information and communications support around LCFF and LCAP issues and promising approaches directly and through the development and support of distributed and peer networks.

  1. Throughout the recommendations that follow, the word educator is used to refer to both teachers and administrators.
  2. In response to statewide demand from the field for support with the California Standards, CDE is developing a new Standards Support Office to integrate CDE and partner resources.
  3. This should include the development of state and local capacity to utilize high-quality digital materials in support of the California Standards.
  4. California Department of Education, Educator Excellence Task Force (2012). Greatness by Design: Supporting Outstanding Teaching to Sustain a Golden State (PDF; 3MB). Retrieved April 28, 2015.
  5. See California Labor-Management Initiative [] External link opens in new window or tab..
  6. Statewide Task Force on Special Education (2015). One System: Reforming Education to Serve All Students [] External link opens in new window or tab.. Retrieved on April 28, 2015.
  7. See Blueprint 2.0 Action Planning Team Key Resources.
  8. Governor's State Advisory Council on Early Learning and Care (2013). California Comprehensive Early Learning Plan (PDF; 7MB). Retrieved on April 28, 2015.
  9. See Blueprint 2.0 Action Planning Team Key Resources.
  10. See, for example, the results from the First 5 California 2015 summit (PDF).
  11. California Department of Education After School Division (2014). A Vision for Expanded Learning in California, Strategic Plan: 2014–2016 (PDF). Retrieved on April 28, 2015.
  12. Statewide Task Force on Special Education (2015).
  13. California Department of Education (2013). California English Language Development Standards Implementation Plan (PDF). Retrieved on May 20, 2015.
  14. California Department of Education, Education Technology Initiative (2014). Empowering Learning: A Blueprint for California Education Technology 2014–2017 (PDF). Retrieved on April 28, 2015.
  15. For more information, please visit California's LCAP priority areas.
  16. See California Labor-Management Initiative [] External link opens in new window or tab..
  17. See Common Core [] External link opens in new window or tab..
  18. See K-12 | Advancement Project California [] External link opens in new window or tab..
  19. See Track Prop. 30 : Home [] External link opens in new window or tab..
  20. The California Collaborative for Educational Excellence was established in 2013 to provide advice and assistance to LEAs in achieving the goals set forth in the Local Control and Accountability Plans. See California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) [] External link opens in new window or tab..
  21. See, for example, Common Core State Standards Communications Campaign [ what-we-do/common-core/] External link opens in new window or tab. and California Labor Management Initiative [] External link opens in new window or tab..
  22. See California Labor-Management Initiative [] External link opens in new window or tab..
  23. These should build on the model of the current "CCSS Communications Campaign" [ what-we-do/common-core/] External link opens in new window or tab..

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Questions:   Dina Fong | | 916-319-0551
Last Reviewed: Friday, March 13, 2020