CDE Ed Talks Podcast Episode 8
CDE News Update: January 30 Update from Superintendent Thurmond
Published: January 30, 2020, Duration: 00:19:03
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond talks about the 2020 budget, priority initiatives and upcoming CDE events.
[Intro music plays]
Scott Roark: You're listening to a CDE news update on CDE Ed talks.
Scott Roark: This is Scott Roark. 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 January 30th, he talked about the 2020 budget, priority initiatives and upcoming CDE events. He also answered questions from the media. Here's what he had to say.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: Good morning everyone. I think this is our first media check-in of 2020, so Happy New Year in that respect.
I'll start from the top. It's been a great budget for education. And we are excited about a number of things that the governor has proposed in his budget, with the focus on professional learning, some 900 million dollars to focus on professional learning. Given our teacher shortage, we think those are resources that will be very well put to good use. We have some interest in some other things that will take place in that area.
You know, a number of things in the budget really dovetail with proposals that we have been working on for years. And I’m very pleased that some of our interests have aligned with the Governor's interests. For example community schools. Many of you know that we have a two-year bill on community Schools, and the Governor has placed $300 million in the budget to further the conversation. We think that that is a very critical resource for helping our students to have success—to address their mental health needs or health needs or physical needs, you know, needs around hunger. I’m very pleased to see that this is the first budget in many many years that includes the needs of hungry students, that focuses on nutrition, that supports those who provide the meals but also moves the state conversation and how we provide healthier and more nutritious meals to our students.
We have engaged in the conversation about the Local Control Funding Formula in our own way. The State Board obviously put out a revised template for the LCAP following on the heels of the State Auditor's report about how Local Control Funding Formula dollars gets spent. We've convened a working group of stakeholders to really have a conversation about how do we track those dollars. How we best use those dollars towards students who have some of the greatest needs? The workgroup has met a couple of times and really is looking to see if there are some sort of obvious solutions that rise to the surface on how to better track those resources.
I was very pleased to sign on to a bill as a sponsor. The California Department of Education will be sponsoring SB 793, with its focus on banning the sale of flavored tobacco. I don't need to tell you. I'm sure you know from just watching anything on television. There's been a surge in the sale of e-cigarettes and other products in the hands of our students. And I feel that we've got to draw a line in the sand and say that we won't tolerate students being targeted in any way. And we want to protect their health and so we're excited to partner on that bill.
We have some events coming up in just under two weeks. The California Department of Education is sponsoring a statewide equity conference in Anaheim and that follows on the heels of the celebration of the Distinguished Schools Award, where we get to congratulate hundreds of educators and districts for their great work to support students. And I get to shake each and every one of their hands. I look forward to the event.
As we talk about professional learning, expect to hear more from us on a number of subjects. How would we diversify the teacher workforce? We've talked in this venue a lot about supporting the male educator of color pipeline efforts. Given the dollars that have now been fourth in the budget proposal, we hope to ramp up those conversations and have very detailed conversations about the things that we need to do to diversify our workforce, and then to support and retain our existing workforce. And so we'll be making some announcements in the days and weeks to come in those areas.
So let me stop there. I’d be happy to take questions if anyone has them.
Diana Lambert, EdSource: So, how much input did you have into the $901 million for teacher development in the budget?
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: I’d just say that we've had a lot of conversations about the need for professional learning. You know we have seen throughout all of our conversations that there are many districts that have the highest rates of non-credentialed teachers, and you can see that they also have many challenges around closing the achievement gap. We'll be talking about that in the days and weeks to come as well—that there are some 25 school districts that have students who live in the highest rates of poverty, who attend schools that have the highest rates of segregation, and also have the highest rates of non-credentialed teachers. We think that that is a place where we should be targeting resources. We’re really pleased that the Governor said those words in his budget address. We do want to get it into the details of how to begin moving resources to communities in those ways that will help them change the narrative.
You'll also be hearing more about a new group that I have appointed. I appointed a new ad hoc group. I’m calling it the Statewide Superintendent's Advisory Council for California. [I] appointed an initial group of 15 superintendents from across the state, many of whom who've had just incredible success in moving the needle for students from low-income backgrounds or students who've historically been disadvantaged. And I intend to use that group to help us learn ways that we can replicate that success throughout the state.
I suspect there'll be lots of conversations ongoing about professional learning. You know the Department of Education is in the process of moving request for funds through an application process, an RFA process currently, to support a number of areas like computer science. Some of those applications are now coming in as their deadlines are due.
The Governor's proposal also puts the Department of Education in position to continue allocating money into the next budget cycle—should it be approved at the final budget—to continue innovating and supporting professional learning. So the Department of Education expects to be deeply involved in this conversation all the way to the end.
Diana Lambert, EdSource: Some of the programs that they mentioned in the budget haven’t been fully fleshed out yet. We haven't many details. Do you have more details in some of the newer programs like the $350 million for competitive grants for mental health intervention, special education, etc.? More details?
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: I don't, but we have been in conversation with many stakeholders and partners—folks in the Governor's office, stakeholders in the community—about how those details might get spelled out. We've been in conversation with folks in the legislature. That's my way of saying that we’d like to help guide and drive some of those details. We've been talking about mental health programs for quite a while. We've been talking about social-emotional learning for quite a while. We've been talking about community schools for quite a while. And so, again I'm pleased that the Governor saw fit to create these budget allocations. And while they are general, we see it as an opportunity to really help craft what ends up in in those final proposals. And obviously we would be working with a very robust group of stakeholders and partners to help define that.
Diana Lambert, EdSource: OK, the Governor also talked about the achievement gap
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: Yes
Diana Lambert, EdSource: And the goal this year to really work on that.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: Yes
Diana Lambert, EdSource: Can you give me an update on the working group or what the CDE is doing? Is there anything new happening?
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: You know, as I mentioned, you know the Governor also referenced that there are these two dozen districts that, if you look at the data, they have trends that tell us that we need to focus our resources there. And so while the proposals he outlined in the budget didn't say specifically how get there, he made a statement of intention that we also agree with.
And we intend to offer our support in helping to flush it out. And we've offered our support to the Governor and to his entire team, to the Department of Finance all along the way as this budget has rolled out. And that's our top priority—what do we do to help close the achievement gap? And so I see an important part of that strategy in diversifying the teacher pipeline, but also providing training and ongoing support for our educators who are often in very tough circumstances.
We have to have conversations about implicit bias. We have to have conversations about how we get more coaching for new teachers. As we as we delve into the conversation about LCFF, we looked at a lot of data and a lot of reports and what they pointed to is that many districts that are struggling have the highest numbers of new teachers. And so for us that means there's an opportunity to really talk about coaching. How do we coach teachers, with experienced teachers who've been successful, to create success in the school districts in the state that need help the most?
Diana Lambert, EdSource: Speaking of LCFF, the [cost-of-living adjustment] COLA was slightly lower than expected.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: Yes.
Diana Lambert, EdSource: Are you behind a push to bring that to a higher level?
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: I'm always for more funding, always. You can quote me there any day of the week. I think you know that this week I formally announced my support for Schools and Communities First. While the department won't be actively engaged in that, I will be crisscrossing the state to see that measure pass. If that measure means $12 billion for the state and $3 to $4 billion for K-12 education, you can bet that that is going to be a top priority for me and my time and my work, educating voters about how that will help education. So all that's my way of saying that I'm a big supporter of LCFF. Always want to see more in the COLA. I get that we are tied by what revenue is generated in the state and it's a good start, but we need more. And I think the way to get there is by getting permanent funding sources in the state. And I'll be committed to that.
Diana Lambert, EdSource: Ethnic studies question.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: Yes.
Diana Lambert, EdSource: So, recently you said the new model curriculum should focus on the four ethnic roots that colleges have offered courses on. But there are people who say that European groups who consider their stories worth telling—like Jewish groups—should have their information also in the ethnic studies curriculum. What do you think?
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: I do think that it is true that lots of groups have experienced struggle. No one owns struggle only. And we will find ways to lift up those conversations for all groups. And some of the frameworks that are already in place in California do speak to that already. As it relates to ethnic studies, it is a movement founded 51 years ago, really based on the focus on those four historic groups that have experienced you know mistreatment and disadvantage. And I think we owe it to the founders and framers of ethnic studies to keep that as the guide, and keep that as the centerpiece of what the model ethnic studies curriculum will be based on.
At the same time, there are ways to include in some of the references opportunities that speak about other groups that have experienced mistreatment—to talk about the Holocaust, to talk about the experience of Jews in America and in the world, to talk about the Armenian Genocide, to talk about many groups. And so while it will while we are recommending to the IQC [Instructional Quality Commission] and the State Board that it be grounded in those four groups, there will be opportunities to have conversations about the experience and struggle of other groups.
For example we met with a number of Jewish leaders to talk about how we expand our efforts around teaching tolerance, using education to fight back on the kind of awful acts of anti-Semitism that we've seen in recent times. And so you know I think sometimes people think that when you create a curriculum, that's like the only game in town in terms of talking about how we educate. And it's not. And I think we owe it to those who founded the ethnic studies movement to kind of keep a sense of fidelity there. But please be sure that the California Department of Education will be leading conversations statewide about how we address hate, acts of violence, and how we promote the beauty of the diversity of what our students represent in this state. And so it's not limited to just what happens in ethnic studies. And we'll be making sure to have broad and inclusive conversations for anyone who's interested.
Diana Lambert, EdSource: Science test scores. They're coming out soon. We've heard that there's a wide achievement gap in the science test scores. Can you talk a little bit about that? Do you have anything to reveal?
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: I don't have anything immediately. I mean if it follows the trends that we've been seeing across state and national test scores, there have been improvements in some areas, but in other places the gap widens, and in some places there have been declines that have been hard to understand. And as you know we did start a conversation about why certain groups have seen a decline in statewide test scores and we're committed to doing that work. We've not given up on that.
I'll just mention that as we enter Black History Month we've decided to engage in the conversation and doing more than just celebrating historical accomplishments, but how do we set a path to create a new history? A history where we find ways to help African American students experience improvement. And so at the end of February we will be bringing in experts who've been working on strategies to improve African American student performance here at the CDE as part of our Black History Month celebration. But we want to go beyond this month. We want to continue the conversation. I think I said it in a meeting that you were [here for]: While I'm not directly responsible for test scores, I'm going to put it on my back, and say that we're going to keep having these conversations until we identify solutions to make the test scores better. So as the data comes in, we will be happy to engage in conversations with you about science test scores.
Kindra Britt, California Department of Education: If I could add to that, I believe they come out next week. The districts aren't previewing them now and so we'll be able to…
Diana Lambert, EdSource: Do you know when they’re coming out next week?
Kindra Britt, California Department of Education: I don’t. Dr. Gregson?
Stephanie Gregson, California Department of Education: There’s not an exact date for next week, but it is next week.
Kindra Britt, California Department of Education: We’ll keep you posted.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: What have you heard?
Diana Lambert, EdSource: I heard that there’s a wide achievement gap in the science test scores.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: I think that is consistent across multiple categories both statewide and federally. You know I am pleased that some of our districts achieved and outperformed others in the state and in the nation. If you look at San Diego Unified, as it relates to the achievement of African American students, they outperform nearly every district in the country on national tests. And so it won't surprise you that one of the co-chairs of the statewide Superintendent’s Advisory Group is Cindy Martin. We want to hear from those in her district, the work that they've been doing, and what can be replicated to help other districts.
Diana Lambert, EdSource: One more: Do you have any insight into how the $300 million allocated for the lowest performing schools and districts and the 300 million for community schools will be made available and how that will be used?
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: I don't have those details now. I think they're really being formulated. Again, we're just pleased that the governor saw fit to make this a priority. It’s a bill that we introduced last year and made it a two-year bill, and so we'll be working hard to help influence those details. But more importantly make sure that the framework meets the needs of local districts. You know, nothing bothers me more than misused allocations. And you know we really want to make sure that we hear from those with the greatest need how to best use those resources.
There's a great pilot about to launch in L.A. County. We're working closely with L.A. County and the L.A. County Superintendent is one of the members of our Superintendent Advisory Council. We want to make sure that we learn all the good things that come out of that and make sure that that's all infused into what we roll out for the entire state of California as it relates to community schools.
Diana Lambert, EdSource: Thank you.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: Yeah, thank you. Other questions?
Jane Allsopp, Co-Executive Director, the Puente Project at University of California, Berkeley: I know you’re an advocate for school counseling.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: Yes.
Jane Allsopp: And I’m wondering do you see any room in this budget for helping districts lowering caseloads for secondary school counselors.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: Thanks for the question. What I see is the opportunity to expand the number of professionals who can support students, like counselors, social workers, psychologists and others. You know we've been using the term “wraparound support” for a long time. And again given how long we've been talking about it here at the department, we're very pleased to see that the Governor also valued this and sees this as a priority. And there are resources in the budget for those kinds of wrap arounds. [It’s] too early to say specifically, but we'd love to work with you if you have thoughts about how we can be intentional and how that rolls out, so it does in fact reduce the caseload sizes.
Jane Allsopp: Thank you.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: Thank you.
Kindra Britt: Any other questions?
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: Thank you. We appreciate you being here, all of you, thank you. And we look forward to what comes in the weeks and months to come. Thank you very much.
Scott Roark: You're listening to a CDE news update on CDE Ed talks.
[End of Podcast Episode 8]