state board
State Board’s virtual meeting focuses on new realities, future projects and plans
At its first meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic completely changed the shape of California’s public school system, the State Board of Education on May 7 virtually addressed how the crisis will shift its own policy work, priorities and timelines. Much of the discussion focused on how the state can offer support and flexibilities to local educational agencies during this unprecedented time while also not straying from years-in-the-making accountability and assessment systems.

To frame the meeting agenda, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and State Board President Linda Darling-Hammond outlined some of the realities facing LEAs and previewed what the next school year may bring. From the 400,000-plus students who at that time needed a device at home to connect with distance learning to concerns about the exacerbation of longstanding achievement gaps, Thurmond overviewed the California Department of Education’s array of task forces to address critical issues.

Of particular interest as the 2019–20 school year winds down is a group focusing on health and safety, social distancing and personal protective equipment — all which will play a role in the 2020–21 academic year.

“We are actively working hard on answering the question on how can our schools reopen safely when the time is right and when there’s an ‘all-clear’ for schools to do so”
Tony Thurmond,
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
“We are actively working hard on answering the question on how can our schools reopen safely when the time is right and when there’s an ‘all-clear’ for schools to do so,” Thurmond said.

As the state cautiously moves forward in reopening its sectors, Darling-Hammond said it is “potentially possible” for some districts — which are ready to do so and receive clearance from county health officials — to see students return for summer school or to start next school year earlier. “These decisions will all be made through the lens of public health and local input, as that is the prime consideration,” she said.

Smarter Balanced Consortium site landing page

CDE presented a demo of a new teacher resource available through the Smarter Balanced Consortium site.

“Before that happens, guidance, as the superintendent mentioned, will be issued about how to maintain health and safety in schools, (guidance) will be prepared for the possibility that we may have to open a school and then close it again and then reopen it again,” Darling-Hammond added. “And we’ll need to be prepared for blended learning models for a more seamless transition that ensures the prospects for learning even if the places for learning are variable.”
Incorporating federal waivers; proposed workload for Dashboard, accountability
While the U.S. Department of Education approved two critical waivers for California schools — one waiving assessment and accountability requirements and the other allowing for federal funding flexibility — in the last several months, the actions were not final until the State Board ratified the waivers.

While the board members unanimously approved both waivers, several cautioned that the state be careful to not let the current situation dictate a divergence from efforts and initiatives created to address long-standing achievement and equity concerns. “I absolutely support the practical need for flexibility at this point in time. And we are working through these challenges,” board member Ting L. Sun said. “I want to ensure that we move forward with integrity on what we had initially launched our accountability system, our assessment system on.”

“I think for all of our stakeholders who are watching this closely, as is appropriate, know that COVID-19 didn’t create all of these inequities and inequalities that kids are facing. It has only made it just obvious how precarious so many of our learning situations have been across the state,” board member Kim Pattillo-Brownson added.

Despite the federal waiver allowing California to forgo assessments this year, state law requiring the annual production of the California School Dashboard and the identification of LEAs for differentiated assistance remains in effect. CDE officials updated State Board members on their progress to work with the Legislature to cancel the 2020 Dashboard. Cindy Kazanis, director of the Analysis, Measurement and Accountability Reporting Division, outlined how that would affect the key cog in the state’s accountability and assessment system.

Absent complete assessment data for the 2019–20 school year, Kazanis said the plan is that the 2021 Dashboard will use 2021 data to calculate status and 2019 data to calculate change; the calculation for change would be 2021 status minus 2019 status.

Also in her presentation on the Dashboard workplan, Kazanis said the CDE is still collecting data from LEAs on discipline, absences and graduation rates. The window for end-of-year collection runs through Aug. 28. This data, along with any applicable local indicators, can play a key role in the delayed Local Control and Accountability Plan, she said.

Kazanis also emphasized that the CDE is still committed to bringing forward a much-anticipated student growth model for State Board adoption this fall. A work group for the growth model, which CSBA participates in, will resume its meetings this summer.

Rolling out a new tool website for teachers
CDE staff also provided a demo of a new teacher resource website available through the Smarter Balanced Consortium. The CDE decommissioned the existing Digital Library on May 28 and is planning a grand rollout for Tools for Teachers for September.

Though developed well before COVID-19 and school closures, board members expressed great interest in how the CDE could tailor the resource’s launch to focus on pressing issues such as distance learning and learning loss. Board member Patricia Rucker implored the CDE to work with LEAs to ensure that all teachers know they will have free access to the website, while member Sue Burr asked that resources are targeted toward the new realities facing schools.

“I would like some assurance that — and I know a lot of people are talking about this already — these tools for teachers really are going to be incredibly helpful in a new model, and not a classroom-only model, a one-to-one student-teacher model, but what’s going to be a hybrid model as we move forward.”

Editor’s note: a more in-depth version of this report, complete with links to individual agenda items and attachments, is available at