State Board sets the stage for future action on TK, assessments and more
Universal transitional kindergarten implementation faces challenges
kindergarten students gathered in classroom
Informational items focused on early learning, assessments and school climate were the crux of the State Board of Education’s Jan. 19–20 meeting agenda.

In addition, what is usually a routine action of assigning a number to an SBE-approved charter school petition might have been complicated by a lawsuit being brought against the State Board by the Napa Valley Unified School District for violating the terms of the Charter Schools Act updated by Assembly Bill 1505. The reforms in the bill allow the State Board to overturn local denials only if it finds the local districts abused their discretion in rejecting a charter. CSBA’s Education Legal Alliance has also filed a lawsuit against the State Board challenging its decision to reverse the decisions of the Napa Valley USD governing board and the Napa County Board of Education to deny the charter (Learn more about the ELA’s lawsuit on page 2). The lawsuit was not mentioned by the SBE, however, and a number was assigned.

Transitional kindergarten

California Department of Education (CDE) staff provided a lengthy overview of the development and benefits of transitional kindergarten (TK), the expansion of universal TK (UTK), the role of TK within the state’s universal prekindergarten (UPK) goals and the importance of pre-K through third grade alignment.

The state’s vision for UPK is a mixed-delivery system that aims to improve access and equity in early childhood education; support learning and development by enhancing educator competencies; incentivize early childhood career pathways; and streamline governance and administration to improve equity.

Universal access to TK is key to delivering on the promise to provide all children with a strong and early start to education through high-quality, developmentally informed, inclusive and rigorous pre-K programs, according to CDE staff. California is estimated to realize UPK by 2025–26.

As part of TK implementation, local educational agencies must consider how to integrate TK programs into the existing UPK program infrastructure and how to apply developmentally appropriate best practices for early childhood education in TK classrooms. Challenges in the field have arisen around access, class size and ratios, the teacher shortage, workforce qualifications, professional learning, instructional time and access to full-day programs that meet parent needs, curriculum and assessment quality, meeting the needs of young children with disabilities, serving multilingual learners and lack of adequate facilities — but so have examples of best practices. In-depth examples can be found in the agenda item here:

Once fully implemented, this will be the largest pre-K program for 4-year-olds in the country and have positive long-term impacts on children and school systems, said board member Kim Pattillo Brownson. “The early learning investment is an important strategy for making sure that all of that good work that’s done in the later years does not have to be catch-up — but can just be progress,” she said.

Universal access to TK is key to delivering on the promise to provide all children with a strong and early start to education.

School climate indicator and assessment status

An update was provided on the implementation status and use of school climate surveys to improve outcomes, as required in the local indicator self-reflection tool for Priority Six of the Local Control Funding Formula: School Climate. LEAs use the self-reflection tools included within the California School Dashboard to report their progress on the local performance indicator.

“School needs to be a positive place for all to be,” said Board Vice President Cynthia Glover Woods. “Our school climate data really serves as a foundation for all of the other data, because how students experience school very often shows up in many other aspects that we look at.” She and other board members cited the need for disaggregated student group data.

For instance, she noted that Black and LGBTQ youth, as well as newcomers and English learners who are at the earlier levels of English language proficiency likely need different supports. Having disaggregated data would better allow schools to target interventions, Glover Woods said.

There was also significant discussion related to developments and updates to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), also known as Smarter Balanced assessments, and the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC). Among the updates: optional Smarter Balanced Interim Assessments, which are available to LEAs to provide timely feedback teachers can use to gauge student progress, were discussed. Individual score reports and other data can also be shared with students and their families.

Board member Francisco Escobedo cited the importance of training incoming teachers on how to utilize these assessments. “As we embark on this journey, I hope that we’re reaching out to teacher preparation programs to ensure our teachers are well-prepared from the beginning in understanding how to plan and instruct our students in these types of higher-level thinking skills,” Escobedo said.

It’s a necessary step that’s proving easier said than done, explained Tony Alpert, executive director of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. “It gets complex; incorporating the tools and the resources and the training into teacher prep programs has been a challenge,” he said. “I think having a state-level goal to be able to incorporate some of these resources into higher ed curricula might be a helpful, positive force. I think that would help move things forward.”

The next State Board meeting is scheduled for March 8–9, 2023.