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CDE Ed Talks Podcast Episode 7

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CDE News Update: December 3 Update from Superintendent Thurmond

Published: December 9, 2019, Duration: 00:13:43

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond talks about the 2019 California Dashboard and the STEAM Symposium.



[Intro music plays]

Cynthia Butler: You're listening to a CDE news update on CDE Ed Talks.


This is Cynthia Butler. Thank you for listening to CDE Ed Talks. State Superintendent Tony Thurmond hosts bi-weekly media check-ins to provide an overview of what the CDE is focused on and updates from his office. In his media check-in on December 3rd he talked about the upcoming release of the 2019 California Dashboard and the STEAM Symposium. He also answered questions from the media. Here's what he had to say.

Superintendent Thurmond: Good morning welcome back to our media check-in. So a few things coming up: We have our annual steam symposium taking place in Anaheim, December 9th and 10th. Among other things, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be a special guest. He has been an advocate for expanding STEAM programs and we're honored that he will be joining us. We expect about 3,000 educators to participate in what is one of the largest professional development opportunities for educators in STEAM. It'll be all kind of hands-on activities, we expect that there'll be students engaged in some of the panels and some of the conversations. We want to really make this a student driven opportunity.

We want to also alert you to the Dashboard data [news] release coming up on December 11. That will be an embargoed release. You heard it here first, we just ask you to work with our media team and our data team about getting an embargoed copy. This dashboard will have some new features for us thanks to our teams here. We'll be able to see the latest graduation rates, suspension rates, college and career readiness rates, chronic absenteeism rates—all in one aligned release, because of a lot of work being done with the Dashboard and Dataquest. So we look forward to having that conversation about the importance of multiple measures of success for our students.

We also want to share with you just a little bit about something that we’ll be bringing forward in future meetings. I've announced the intent to create a statewide a Superintendent's Advisory Council where we will work with superintendents to lift up best practices that can be helpful to students across our state. I did announce that Cindy Martin from San Diego Unified is one of the co-chairs of this task force, which is in development. After having some time to visit with Superintendent Martin, I was impressed that the district has been able to create outstanding progress in a number of measures, including how their students have performed on the NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] tests, and particularly progress that they've made for students of color, students from low-income backgrounds. And I think that we should find ways to replicate these bright spots that are happening in education. And in the case of San Diego Unified, they've had success that is the best, in some cases, of any large urban district in the country. And so there’ll be more to come on that but we intend to build off of that success and form an informal advisory group to help advise myself and the Department of Education on all the key issues in education in our state.

I'll stop there and see if there any questions from our group.

Diana Lambert, EdSource: The Superintendent's Advisory … Diana Lambert from EdSource, thank you.

Superintendent Thurmond: Hi Diana.

Diana Lambert, EdSource: The Superintendent's Advisory [Council], how will you pick these Superintendents? Are they just from some very successful districts, or how will they be selected?

Superintendent Thurmond: Well we certainly hope to have geographic diversity, diversity in the types of districts. Yes we want to have representatives who can point to things that have happened in their districts that are bright spots to point to, but I think it would be a missed opportunity to not also invite Superintendents who may serve a district that hasn't had the success that we want to see yet.

That doesn't mean that there aren't great stories to be told. That doesn't mean that they're not great leaders. You know it takes time to make change and sadly the kinds of changes that we want to see may take decades, right? When we were together last time we talked about the state test scores and how the places where there’s been improvement has been really modest. And you know that just tells me that it may take a long time to make those changes, and that your input isn't always reflected in the output or the outcome. But we have to always make the effort, and so we will invite Superintendents to participate from a host of districts regardless of their experience academically.

Next up… Diana Lambert.


Dana Lambert, EdSource: I looked around.


Superintendent Thurmond: You did, you did. Thank you for that, and thank you for always being here. We're glad to take your questions.

Dana Lambert, EdSource: Do you agree with the State Auditor’s findings in the three-district audit that there's a lack of transparency in the spending of money intended for low-income students and foster students?

Superintendent Thurmond: I'll say it differently. I don’t think that the focus should be… I think that the focus should be on how do we provide more transparency period. Right? I think that always a good thing, and I think that we should look for ways to do that. I think to the degree that the audit lifts that up, is a need.

I want to have a different conversation, though. I think we should look at the experience of our districts statewide as it relates to LCAP and LCFF and we should look at the things that are working and look for the things that require improvement.

And if that's in the area of transparency, we'll do more. We'll work with districts to see how we can expand transparency. What I really want to do though was lift up the best practices and the bright spots about districts and how they've used LCFF funds and how they've used that to bring innovation and support to our districts. And so we're engaging in a conversation with districts about their experience as it relates to LCFF.

We'll have more to follow but I think that the real conversation is: What is the true experience of LCFF? And what's good, what needs improvement? And we're prepared to engage with stakeholders and advocates on that subject.

Dana Lambert, EdSource: Do you think this will prompt legislation?

Superintendent Thurmond: I do, I do. I suspect that there are legislators who are ready to bring forward bills that will call for more transparency. And you know, I support full transparency. Transparency by itself will not achieve what we want more than anything and that is helping our students to have the greatest success. If there are examples of someone misusing LCFF or any other public resource I always want to know that and I want us to address that immediately. But I think we have to also just be honest that LCFF has been part of our success and part of the solution, and that even with it, we continue to be 41st in the nation on per-pupil spending.

And you know, you don't have to just take it from me you know? Take it from Getting Down to Facts and Getting Down to Facts 2, that says we should be spending billions more to ensure that every one of our six million students gets the best education that we can provide. And so from my standpoint the audit really prompts an opportunity for us to look even deeper. Look deeper than the three districts that were audited, to look deeper at what is the experience of California schools and districts as it relates to LCFF. What can we learn from? What can we lift up as a bright spot? What can we use to help students? That's going to be my bottom line: How do we help students?

And in the weeks and months to come, we will be asking districts to come forward and share what their experiences are and lifting up those bright spots about what's helped our students in our state—particularly students who are supported by supplemental and concentration grants. We'll be asking those districts to come forward to tell their stories of success, tell their stories of challenge, and then using that to recalibrate, to see how we do more to help students in our state.

Dana Lambert, EdSource: If there isn’t any legislation would you, the CDE, be looking at these other districts? You said look deeper than the three districts. You will be looking at the other districts?

Superintendent Thurmond: Yes. Yeah, you know I know that PPIC put out a great study about LCFF and I thought it was interesting that their findings focused on a different area. It just sort of said that, while it I think it touches on transparency, I think it placed more emphasis on the need for coaching in districts that have students who are struggling. And that is something that we're going to put a lot of effort on: seeing how we can expand programs to provide coaching.

That makes a lot of sense given what we know teachers experience and our lack of success and retaining teachers. Especially new teachers, they should have access to a coach who helps them to enter the profession, to maintain success in the profession, to deal with things like classroom management and how to be engaging. And so I appreciate what's in the PPIC study.

There are some things from the Learning Policy Institute that lifted up districts that are bright spots. We want to look at everything. We want to look at the overall experiences of districts in our state. And we don't have any legislation planned at the moment, to get to the root of your question, but we're going to be open to exploring all options. Once we've done more analysis of the experience of LCFF in the state, our goal is to put forward recommendations for change that we think would make a positive impact.

Diana Lambert, Edsource: One more question.

Superintendent Thurmond: Please.

Diana Lambert, Edsource: And maybe a follow-up: Do you favor the Schools and Communities First split roll tax or the Full and Fair Funding initiative for higher taxes on businesses?

Superintendent Thurmond: So as I've always said, I'll support any measure that brings us permanent funding to the state. I think that the reason we're 41st in the nation is because we have a tax system that forces us to deal with fluctuating sources of revenue and I think that has to change. We spent last year, I believe we spent, 53 percent of the budget in California, was focused on education from Pre-K through higher education. That's significant but yet it's still not enough for a state of our size. And so that's why of among the workgroups that I appointed this year, one of them was a workgroup focused on creating permanent funding sources for schools.

I think that either measure could be successful. You know I'd like to have both to be honest with you. Because I think Schools and Communities First, while it's great if it generates four or five billion for K-12 education, that means that more revenue is still needed. And so I'm for looking at every single measure of generating more revenue. I happen to think that it's worthy to look at the issues of property tax and reform around prop 13 and I think it's also worthy to look at the idea that millionaires might pay more. I think both have merit and I think we need to look at that and at the same time do all we can to ensure that we pass our state bond measure because we know that many of our schools need help with maintenance and ADA compliance. And you know I'm thinking that many of our districts may need to use those resources to prepare for possible power safety shut offs and the need for equipment that will help them in the event that there are more power safety shut offs in the future.

Diana Lambert, Edsource: Are you fearful though that too many bonds on the ballot will hurt the chances of any of them passing?

Superintendent Thurmond: Yes it's a risk. It is a risk. And so I'm hopeful that those advocates who are working on the various tax measures will find a way to get together and build some compromise and put forward what's in the best interests and the best success of passage. And so we'll see. I think it's still early on in the process, but I think that the school of thought that's most prevalent is that having too many measures on the ballot dooms most of those measures and really pushes them towards failure. You know I can say this. The department can't take a position. But as the State Superintendent, elected to fight for six million students, I don't see anything more important than getting more permanent revenue. And I'll be working on that. I'll make that a priority.

Any other questions? Well great. Thank you all very much. We hope that you'll join us at the next media check-in. Thank you.


This has been a CDE News Update on CDE Ed Talks.

[End of Podcast Episode 7]

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Last Reviewed: Monday, December 09, 2019
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