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California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
December 09, 2019

2019 Leadership Accountablility Report

Keely Martin Bosler, Director
California Department of Finance
915 L Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Ms. Keely Martin Bosler,

In accordance with the State Leadership Accountability Act (Leadership Accountability), the Department of Education submits this report on the review of our internal control and monitoring systems for the biennial period ending December 31, 2019.

Should you have any questions please contact Stephanie Gregson, Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, at (916) 319-0812,


Mission and Strategic Plan

The California Department of Education (CDE) oversees the state's diverse public school system, which is responsible for the education of more than 6 million children and young adults in more than 10,000 schools with 295,000 teachers. The CDE enforces the education law and regulations and continues to reform and improve public school programs. Additionally, the CDE oversees and maintains reporting responsibilities for the three state special schools, serving California’s hearing and visually impaired students, and three diagnostic centers that assess student needs.

The CDE’s mission is to provide a world-class education for all students from early childhood to adulthood. The CDE serves the state by innovating and collaborating with educators, schools, parents, and community partners. Together, as a team, the CDE prepares students to live, work, and thrive in a multicultural, multilingual, and highly connected world.

The CDE’s goal is to transform public education by adopting and implementing rigorous California academic standards to better prepare students for twenty-first century careers and college. Additionally, the CDE implemented an improved accountability system that uses multiple measures to more completely assess the progress schools are making with a particular focus on five critical and interrelated strategic priorities: California standards, teaching and leading excellence, student success, continuous improvement and accountability systems, and systems change and support.

The CDE’s objectives to achieve the goals and strategic priorities include:

  • Holding local educational agencies accountable for student achievement in all programs and for all groups of students
  • Building local capacity to enable all students to achieve state standards
  • Expanding and improving a system of recruiting, developing, and supporting teachers that instills excellence in every classroom—preschool through adult
  • Providing statewide leadership that promotes the effective use of technology to improve teaching and learning
  • Increasing efficiency and effectiveness in administration of kindergarten through grade twelve education including student record keeping and financial management practices
  • Providing broader and more effective communication among the home, school, district, county, and state
  • Establishing and fostering systems of school, home, and community resources that provide the physical, emotional, and intellectual support that each student needs to succeed
  • Advocating for additional resources and flexibility, and providing statewide leadership that promotes good business practices so that California schools can target their resources to ensure success for all students
  • Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the Department

    Additionally, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s (State Superintendent) priority initiatives include

  • Statewide Literacy—Provide books to students, training to teachers, and resources to families to reinforce the importance of reading.
  • Reducing Chronic Absenteeism—Expand the number of staff dedicated to outreach to help students get back to school.
  • Closing the Achievement Gap—Expand CDE capacity to lead state-level equity work to build a pipeline of male teachers of color in elementary schools.
  • Jobs for Tomorrow—Increase CDE capacity to lead state Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics efforts to increase the number of districts that offer courses and internships.

Control Environment

The CDE demonstrates its commitment to integrity and ethical values through an organizational structure that promotes a collaborative and inclusive professional climate. The CDE’s core values include a commitment to serve, leadership, integrity, professionalism, respect, open communication, positive supporting environment, and teamwork. Executive management conveys its priorities and organizational expectations through the establishment of policies and procedures, collaborative workgroups, leadership and executive management meetings, and Department-wide communications and presentations.

The State Board of Education (SBE), established first by statute in 1852, then by amendment to the California Constitution in 1884, is the governing and policy-making body for academic standards, curriculum, instructional materials, assessments, and accountability for the CDE. The SBE consists of 11 members and is constitutionally authorized to appoint members of the executive leadership upon nomination of the State Superintendent.

The CDE is headed by the State Superintendent, Tony Thurmond, a state official elected by the people for a four-year term. The CDE is organized into the following six operating branches that report directly to the Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction (Chief Deputy Superintendent), Lupita Cortez Alcalá, who is nominated by the State Superintendent and appointed by the SBE:

  1. Instruction and Measurement Branch: The Instruction and Measurement Branch oversees programs promoting innovation and improved student achievement. Programs include statewide student assessment, school and district interventions, state and federal accountability, curriculum and instruction, and the collection and reporting of educational data.
  2. Operations and Administration Branch: The Operations and Administration Branch oversees the CDE budget and all accounting, contracting, personnel, and technology services; apportions state and federal resources to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs); and assists LEAs in fiscal and business aspects of public school operations, including school facilities.
  3. Opportunities for All Branch: The Opportunities for All Branch (OFAB) helps all students, starting with early learners, reach their academic potential and goals by providing the necessary support to early educators and providers, teachers, administrators, school and district leaders, and community based organizations. The OFAB ensures that inclusion practices are established during classroom hours, before and after school, and in early learning and care programs, and the programs and instructional resources and support reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity, accessibility, and equity.
  4. Equity and Access Branch: The Equity and Access Branch (EAB) provides leadership, support, and administrative oversight in the program areas of career and college transition; state special schools and services for the deaf and blind; community schools; literacy; adult education; charter schools; professional development for educators; Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM); and equity. The EAB strives to provide the necessary resources and support to ensure every student can achieve at their highest potential and experience equitable opportunities to learn.
  5. Communications and Marketing Branch: The Communications and Marketing branch oversees all communications, correspondence, and marketing on behalf of the State Superintendent and the CDE. This includes but is not limited to all media relations, press conferences and releases, dissemination of information to LEAs throughout the state, instructional materials created by our in-house subject matter experts, and marketing materials.
  6. Legal and Audits Branch: The Legal and Audits Branch advises and represents the CDE, the State Superintendent, and the SBE; provides advice on legislation and legal matters regarding other governmental agencies and the state special schools; coordinates and conducts external and internal audits and audit-related services; reviews and processes civil rights complaints and appeals; investigates complaints involving state and federal categorical programs funded through the Consolidated Application; and monitors compliance with the Uniform Complaint Procedures.

Each branch provides direction to various divisions that administer the CDE’s processes and programs. The CDE’s structure allows the Department to appropriately address the varied responsibilities under its purview. However, the CDE’s executive management team responds to the changing needs of the state’s educational system, LEAs, and the children served by modifying its organizational structure and responsibilities as necessary.

The CDE maintains a competent workforce by ensuring its hiring and recruiting practices conform to the California Department of Human Resources requirements. In addition, a variety of professional and general training courses and opportunities are provided to promote professional competencies and aid in the retention of CDE personnel and management. Furthermore, the CDE administers an annual performance evaluation process that promotes organization-wide accountability and provides professional growth opportunities for all levels of staff and management.

The CDE management establishes effective systems of internal controls to ensure its goals and objectives are achieved. The internal control system is documented through policies and procedures at the department, branch, and division operational levels. Accountability is achieved through the CDE’s multi-level organizational reporting structure as well as regular internal and external assessments and audits.

Information and Communication

The CDE is responsible for the collection and processing of large amounts of information and strives to ensure that the collection, use, and communication of all information entrusted to it is relevant, reliable, and free from error. To this end, the CDE maintains a number of data collection systems employed to collect longitudinal, operational, and programmatic data. Additionally, the CDE utilizes the State-wide accounting system, FI$Cal, to collect, process, and report fiscal information. The CDE management employs controls over its information systems that ensure the information is both complete and accurate. Furthermore, it maintains adequate separation of duties over essential functions and requires management review of key programmatic and operational information. Moreover, the CDE provides outreach, training, and technical assistance to grantees and contractors to ensure the information obtained from external sources and used by program and department management is relevant to evaluate and improve the programs under its responsibility.

The CDE employs a number of methods for communicating information throughout, across, and outside of the department. For example, the CDE management communicates internally through email at every level, including department-wide, to ensure quality information is disseminated appropriately to all levels of staff in a consistent manner, as appropriate. Important Department information and updates are conveyed through official communications approved by the State Superintendent or the Chief Deputy Superintendent. Additionally, the Department engages in cross-collaborative workgroups, roundtables, leadership meetings, and executive meetings to share ideas, develop important policy direction, and convey important information across all levels of the organization. Further, the CDE regularly presents information at the public SBE meetings on various topics relevant to external stakeholders to ensure Department accountability. Moreover, the CDE provides critical LEA and school performance measures regarding California’s student population through the California School Dashboard and System of Support, promoting both accountability and continuous improvement. The public can access both of these tools through the CDE’s internet site.

The CDE provides staff with several avenues to report inefficiencies and inappropriate actions within the organization. For example, the CDE maintains processes for employees to report personnel, labor, and discrimination concerns to its Office of Equal Opportunity and Labor Relations Office, as appropriate. Additionally, the CDE periodically disseminates “Climate Surveys” to all staff requesting workplace satisfaction feedback regarding their concerns, work conditions, and management support. Further, concerns regarding Department inefficiencies and inappropriate actions can be directly reported to the Audits and Investigations Division (A&I) and internal audits can be directly requested through the A&I’s Request for Assistance form.

Fraudulent activities or concerns that employees do not wish to convey directly to CDE management can be reported through the Whistleblower Hotline operated by the California State Auditor’s Office. This avenue for reporting concerns is advertised in breakrooms and common areas on all floors throughout the CDE buildings, and the CDE’s A&I Director annually sends an email regarding the Whistleblower Hotline to all staff.


The information included here discusses the entity-wide, continuous process to ensure internal control systems are working as intended. The role of the executive monitoring sponsor includes facilitating and verifying that the Department of Education monitoring practices are implemented and functioning. The responsibilities as the executive monitoring sponsor(s) have been given to: Stephanie Gregson, Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The CDE utilizes a variety of activities to ensure the effectiveness of internal controls throughout the various divisions and programs under its oversight. Specifically, divisions develop, implement, and maintain effective controls over the processes and programs under their responsibility. These controls include reconciliations, performance indicators, monitoring meetings, action plans, and ensuring appropriate management and supervisory review and approval. Furthermore, division management periodically review the implemented controls for effectiveness. These reviews may result in management modifying the controls as necessary, or requesting assistance from the Internal Audits Office (IAO) to conduct an audit of the identified risk areas. In addition, the IAO routinely selects CDE programs and processes for review based on an annual risk assessment. During these reviews, the IAO evaluates the program(s) or process(es) to determine whether controls are efficient and effective, implemented as described, and functioning as designed. Moreover, federal and state oversight agencies frequently conduct audits and reviews of the CDE's various divisions and programs, often on a periodic or annual basis. In turn, the CDE management carefully considers the results of both internal and external reviews to identify opportunities for continuous improvement.

Vulnerabilities identified through the CDE's risk assessment process described in the "Risk Assessment" section of this report, are assigned to responsible parties and monitored by the executive management team as described below.

The CDE’s risk monitoring roles are defined and documented in the “CDE State Leadership Accountability Act Monitoring Procedures.” Specifically, the executive management team designates one or more responsible parties to address identified risks. The responsible parties communicate progress towards mitigating the vulnerabilities to the executive management team, and summarize their activities, progress, challenges, and anticipated accomplishments for the upcoming six-month period. This information is reported to the executive management team biannually. Since the responsible parties are generally Division Directors and Deputy Superintendents, they are also responsible for communicating the changes to impacted staff and addressing feedback regarding the implemented controls.


The following personnel were involved in the Department of Education risk assessment process: executive management, middle management, and front line management.

The following methods were used to identify risks: brainstorming meetings, ongoing monitoring activities, audit/review results, other/prior risk assessments, questionnaires, consideration of potential fraud, and other.

The following criteria were used to rank risks: likelihood of occurrence, potential impact to mission/goals/objectives, timing of potential event, potential impact of remediation efforts, tolerance level for the type of risk, and other.
The CDE has several mechanisms to identify potential areas of risk to the Department and its mission. The CDE annually conducts a comprehensive, department-wide risk assessment to identify internal and external risks at both the Department and division/program level. The A&I considers these results along with other factors to develop its annual audit plan. Additionally, the risk assessment results are considered in the biennial reporting of the CDE’s internal control and monitoring systems, as required by SLAA.
In developing the department-wide risk assessment, the CDE utilizes a risk-based questionnaire designed to acquire information in evaluating risks related to:

  1. Reliability and integrity of financial and operational information
  2. Effectiveness and efficiency of operations
  3. Safeguarding of assets
  4. Compliance with laws, regulations, and contracts

Upon receipt of the completed questionnaires, the CDE analyzes the responses and categorizes division management’s concerns into high-level risk areas, and identifies whether the risks are related to processes that are centralized, decentralized, or operational/division-specific in nature.

Other factors the CDE considers to identify and assess possible risks include:

  1. The CDE’s budget
  2. Reported external and internal audit findings
  3. Referrals and complaints received from internal and external sources
  4. Recent organizational or major operational changes
  5. The potential for fraud within and external to the Department

The executive management team (including the Chief Deputy Superintendent and Branch Deputy Superintendents) along with the CDE’s Division Directors participate in biennial meetings to discuss departmental risks and to identify the most significant risks to the CDE as a whole. These risks are compiled in the Risk Aggregation Worksheet which includes the risk description, cause, and potential impacts to the CDE.

Once the most significant risks are compiled on the Risk Aggregation Worksheet, the executive management team discusses and agrees upon a ranking of the impact (high, medium, or low) and the likelihood of occurrence (high, medium, or low) for each risk. Based on these scores, the executive management team determines the most significant risks that should be included in the SLAA report.

Further, the executive management team and division leadership meet regularly and discuss concerns and strategies to address any major issues as they arise.


Risk: Key Person Dependence and Workforce Planning

The CDE has over 2,200 positions and currently administers $84.6 billion in state and federal funds to carry out its mission of providing a world-class education for all students. While many retirements have already occurred in the last few years due to the CDE’s aging workforce, additional retirements will likely occur along with typical staff turnover.

The number of specialized and professional classifications, the difficulty in recruiting for these positions, and heavy reliance on individuals with significant knowledge and expertise in key areas results in a significant risk to the CDE.

Without controls planned to mitigate this risk, the CDE could experience workflow delays or inefficiencies, diversion of resources from critical programs, a lack of knowledge of program requirements, some potential policy options may not be identified, historical knowledge may be lost, and/or the CDE may experience a temporarily reduced ability to improve systems.

Control: A
Finalize and implement a Workforce Development Plan for recruiting, developing, and retaining an experienced, highly technical, and commendable workforce.

Control: B
In addition to the Workforce Development Plan, the CDE plans to:

  1. Ensure guidelines and manuals are updated or developed for major programs and processes
  2. Explore new or alternative classifications and suggest revisions to minimum requirements for existing specialized classifications to increase the ability to recruit for those positions
  3. Address pay scale parity
  4. Cross-train staff on mission-critical processes

Risk: Business Interruption and Safety Concerns

Catastrophic events pose a risk to the CDE's operations and the ability of LEAs/schools to pursue their core function of providing education to children and adults throughout the State. Additionally, the CDE may not be fully prepared to respond if headquarters is directly impacted by a disaster.

California has a heightened risk for catastrophic natural disasters that could impact the CDE and LEAs/schools' ability to ensure continuity of service and education to all children and adults. The CDE's role in the response to these emergencies needs to be clarified.

A catastrophic event could result in the loss of human life and property, diversion of staff and resources from other mission critical responsibilities to emergency response operations, insufficient restoration of services or implementation of interim services, and damage to the CDE or LEA/school facilities and assets.

Control: A

The CDE plans to enhance current emergency response protocols by formalizing a Disaster Recovery and Emergency Response Plan to assist the CDE and LEAs/schools during and after an emergency or disaster. The plan will identify resource requirements and response protocols including communication with CDE staff and the field (LEAs, schools, etc.) regarding how they are/will be affected, what is expected from them, and what they can anticipate during a disaster or other significant emergency event. The CDE works with related state and federal agencies that also support school-age children during an emergency response.

The CDE has already developed a Crisis Response page that contains a variety of information and resource links for LEAs/schools and the general public on the CDE's internet website. Additionally, the CDE has assigned responsible parties to address emergency preparedness and coordinate protocols for internal and external Department responses.

Control: B

The CDE will identify equipment and systems critical for disaster and emergency response services to protect state assets, personnel, or the public. Additionally, the CDE will ensure the identification of resources for critical equipment and system purchases.

Risk: Outdated and Incompatible Technology

The public, LEAs, schools, and other organizations utilize data collected, processed, and published by the CDE. Additionally, CDE staff rely heavily on information technology to execute administrative and programmatic functions. The CDE must implement modern information technology solutions to replace outdated systems and inefficient processes to effectively manage programs and perform departmental operations. However, state procurement requirements and funding constraints result in challenges that may significantly delay the implementation of technology solutions. As a result, CDE’s program management may be less effective due to manual processes, difficulties communicating and interfacing with external stakeholders, reduced ability to maximize the use of existing data, and significant workflow inefficiencies. Further, modern technology and equipment are an essential component of an effective information security program.

Control: A
The CDE will identify and prioritize outdated systems and technology and work collaboratively to identify department-wide solutions. Additionally, the CDE will consult with external agencies to minimize system development and procurement challenges.

Risk: FI$Cal Implementation and Functionality

FI$Cal is a new, state-wide accounting system recently implemented statewide. The CDE achieved full implementation during fiscal year 2018–19. However, the completion, conversion, and implementation of FI$Cal presented numerous challenges that impacted the CDE’s ability to provide fiscal information to staff and external stakeholders. Further, extensive departmental resources were expended to minimize the impact on the CDE’s operations. The CDE continues to work cooperatively with FI$Cal to address ongoing system functionality concerns.

The CDE is responsible for allocating funds to LEAs, childcare providers, food service providers, and multiple contractors. If FI$Cal does not operate properly, services to over 6 million students could be at risk. Continued delays in system solutions may result in operational delays and inefficiencies, increased workload, delayed payments, late contracts, inaccessible or inaccurate information essential for critical internal operational and fiscal decisions, compliance issues with federal reporting requirements, and negative impacts on future funding levels.

Control: A
The CDE will continue to work with FI$Cal to ensure that all modules within the FI$Cal system meet CDE’s needs.

Control: B
The CDE will finalize the internal development of the Administrative Cost Report and Subvention Report to provide expenditure information necessary for departmental operations.

Control: C
CDE will provide guidance to CDE FI$Cal users and key program staff to promote an understanding of FI$Cal processes and procedures and improve efficiency in operations across business units. Additionally, CDE management will increase communication throughout the CDE regarding FI$Cal status.


The Department of Education strives to reduce the risks inherent in our work and accepts the responsibility to continuously improve by addressing newly recognized risks and revising risk mitigation strategies as appropriate. I certify our internal control and monitoring systems are adequate to identify and address current and potential risks facing the organization.

Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Public Instruction


California Legislature [Senate (2), Assembly (1)]
California State Auditor
California State Library
California State Controller
Director of California Department of Finance
Secretary of California Government Operations Agency

Last Reviewed: Thursday, March 12, 2020

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