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Executive Summary

A summation of A Blueprint For Great Schools report from the Transition Advisory Team dated August 9, 2011.

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In January 2011, recognizing the need for broad and deep stakeholder involvement in the issues facing California public education, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson convened a 59-member Transition Advisory Team, including parents, teachers, classified staff, administrators, superintendents, school board members, business and union leaders, higher education and nonprofit representatives. The team was co-chaired by Linda Darling-Hammond, Ducommun Professor of Education at the Stanford University School of Education and David Rattray, Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce Development, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

The team was designed to create a model for the kinds of coalitions necessary to prepare all of California's students to be healthy, productive citizens, and lifelong learners. Its work was funded entirely by private foundations including: The California Endowment, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation.

Superintendent Torlakson charged the team with providing him with advice on the development of a new mission and planning framework for the California Department of Education (CDE). He asked for innovative and strategic advice to ensure that the state provides a world-class education to all students, preparing them to live, work and thrive in a highly connected world.

Based on the team's recommendations, the Department adopted the following new mission statement:

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 highly connected world.

The team met as a whole three times over a two-month period. To make rapid progress in areas of high priority for the Superintendent, team members also participated in one of eight policy working teams focused on particular issues:

  • Accountability and School Improvement.
  • Curriculum and Assessment.
  • Early Childhood/Preschool.
  • Education Supports and Parent/Community Involvement.
  • Educator Quality.
  • Facility/Construction Reform.
  • Finance Reform and Efficiency.
  • Higher Education and Secondary Alignment.

Each policy working team met frequently between Transition Advisory Team meetings and produced a strategy memo articulating advisory recommendations, goals, outcomes, indicators, and strategies in their respective policy areas.

In addition, an Institutional Development Working Team was formed with the charge of concentrating on CDE as an institution and making recommendations for its continued development in building a strong culture of service and support, engaging internal and external talent, and collaborating across agencies. This team was asked to provide advice on a planning process to strengthen CDE as a service-oriented public agency engaging in innovative and collaborative work. That Working Team provided the Superintendent with a detailed planning design entitled, "Organizing for Innovation, Collaboration, and Service." This has subsequently been adapted and is being used by CDE staff to strengthen the department's culture of service and support for California's public education system.


The recommendations of the Transition Advisory Team are summarized in the body of this document. Critical priorities include:

  • Educator Quality: Recognizing that expert teachers and school leaders are perhaps the most important resource for improving student learning, support the development of more effective educator recruitment, preparation, professional support, and evaluation systems. Use professional teacher and leader standards to guide and assess practice in a way that reflects best practices and incorporates appropriate evidence of student learning. Create a major commission to outline how these educator quality systems should best be designed, supported, and implemented. Launch an ongoing initiative to support union-management collaboration toward high-leverage reforms.
  • Curriculum and Assessment: In close collaboration with the State Board of Education, revise State curriculum standards, frameworks, and assessments to better reflect the demands of a knowledge-based society and economy, incorporate new Common Core Standards (CCS), and build on the strengths and needs of diverse learners. Incorporate technology as a key component of teaching, learning, and assessment, and support high levels of literacy and bi-literacy to prepare students for the globalized society they are entering.
  • Higher Education and Secondary Alignment: Work with higher education partners to establish college and career readiness standards and align assessments for K-12 learning, college admissions, and college placement. Improve graduation rates and student preparation for college and careers by redesigning secondary school program models and curriculum, investing in Linked Learning approaches, and updating A-G requirements.
  • Accountability and School Improvement: Develop a robust system of indicators to give students, teachers and parents a more complete picture of school performance, including broader measures of growth and learning that better assess 21st century skills; measures of school capacity and student opportunities to learn; and measures of resources connected to opportunity-to-learn standards.
  • Early Childhood Education: Develop an infrastructure for a birth-to-3rd-grade system that serves our youngest learners and includes expanded access to programs designed to meet quality standards, supported by well-prepared and supported educators, guided by aligned standards and curriculum, and informed by readiness data.
  • Education Supports: Support the provision of wraparound services to enhance student access to healthcare, social services, before and after school programs, and other supports needed for success. Encourage the development of community school approaches and provide technical assistance through existing CDE staff and structures.
  • Health and Fitness: Improve children's health, nutrition, and fitness by facilitating access to health insurance for all eligible children, supporting school-based health care, and encouraging better nutrition and increased physical activity within both school and home environments.
  • School Finance: Identify new or expanded sources of revenue to stabilize and increase financial support for schools. Foster and promote fiscal and administrative efficiencies. Create a weighted student formula approach to tie funding to pupil needs.
  • Facilities Construction and Reform: Enable districts to engage in more effective and efficient facilities construction and re-design, including movement toward energy self-sufficiency.

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Last Reviewed: Tuesday, October 26, 2021