State Board
State Board Report: Student growth model adopted
Also adopted was guidance on distance learning, assessment and standards
Child with her hair up and earphones in drawing in a workbook and referencing a tablet screen in front of her
The State Board of Education’s virtual May 12–13 meeting overlapped with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that he was proposing $93.7 billion in Proposition 98 funding for 2021–22, with increases in spending on early learning, wraparound services, community schools, nutrition programs and extended learning opportunities in the May Revision.

State Board President Linda Darling-Hammond said during the board’s meeting that the funding would “in many ways, begin the process of reinventing our public education system from TK to college, with a whole child vision in mind.” Two items on the agenda also have the potential to push California’s education system to better serve all students and prepare them for the future, she said; the long-anticipated adoption of the student growth model and the adoption of digital learning guidance that can be used even as students return from distance learning to classroom-based instruction.

California joins long list of states to measure student growth
After five years of engaging with stakeholders and exploring several different growth models, the CDE adopted a methodology that will add individual students’ progress on state standardized tests to the state’s school accountability system.

The “residual gain” model calculates differences between students’ predicted test scores and actual test scores, using previous English language arts and math scores, as well as the scores of all other students in the same grade.

Board member Cynthia Glover-Woods expressed excitement about the stability that this growth model brings to the data so that as local educational agencies are planning their Local Control and Accountability Plans, the data is stable enough to determine the correct course for students.

To get the most out of the data provided through the growth model, Board Vice President Ilene W. Straus said moving forward, the board will need to ensure LEAs are supported and understand the data when they use it to determine student supports and interventions.

The State Board also adopted the California Digital Learning Integration and Standards Guidance
The new growth model will only be applied to English language arts and math test scores in grades four through eight, as prior year data will not be available for third graders when they take their first Smarter Balanced exams, nor for students in grade 11, as they don’t take Smarter Balanced tests during their first two years of high school.

Though there are no definitive plans in place, the growth model data could eventually replace what the state now uses to measure student achievement, which compares the test results of the latest fourth graders with the previous year’s fourth graders, on the California School Dashboard. However, since the pandemic interrupted standardized testing both in 2020 and 2021, the first calculations using the new student growth model, incorporating three consecutive years of testing, won’t be released until December 2024.

The U.S. Department of Education pressed California to adopt a growth model when it approved the state’s plan for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act. According to the Data Quality Campaign, California and Kansas were the only states by 2020 that didn’t have such an indicator.

Board member Sue Burr highlighted the importance of communication in ensuring the data is meaningful, accessible and usable for stakeholders. “I think what’s going to be really important going forward for purposes of communication is, what does it mean at the end of the day at the individual student level, and what will this information mean to parents especially, and also to teachers who will want to use it for the diagnostic purposes,” Burr said.

Digital learning guidance adopted
The State Board also adopted the California Digital Learning Integration and Standards Guidance (, a comprehensive document that includes guidance on implementing research-based virtual learning practices and assessments, as well as standards guidance for math, English language arts, literacy and English language development by grade-level.

The document was a required deliverable under Senate Bill 98, which directed the Sacramento County Office of Education to develop a draft distance learning curriculum and instructional guidance for mathematics, English language arts and English language development in the era of distance learning.

However, this guidance is applicable beyond distance learning, Darling-Hammond noted, as students and teachers have more access to and expertise in using technology than they did prior to the pandemic.

She said this expansion “should not disappear, but be built upon to allow students to engage in research and inquiry with colleagues not only in their classroom but around the world; to participate in simulations of scientific phenomena; to use open education resources to develop products, tools and papers; to represent their ideas in multimedia forms; and to develop confidence in their skills.”

Board member Glover-Woods said the guidance is a “great first step in ensuring that digital learning is effectively incorporated into in-class learning, but also provides that opportunity for students and families who feel that a virtual environment is the most conducive for their benefit.”

Both Glover-Woods and Straus agreed that the rollout of the guidance will be just as important as its initial development. “The rollout will be really important,” Straus said. “A lot of agencies have created a lot of digital learning guides — there’s so much material out there for teachers and leaders, we have to help them get their heads around it and how to integrate this.”

The next State Board virtual meeting is scheduled for July 14–15, 2021.