By Kevork KURDOGHLIAN
The coming changes in curriculum and funding for K-12 public education has left many questions unanswered. The first in a series of three presentations this month by the Glendale Unified School District superintendent and staff sought to answer some of those questions.
On Jan. 15, GUSD members visited Crescenta Valley High School MacDonald Auditorium to provide the community with all available information regarding Common Core State Standards and the Local Control Funding Formula.
A crowd of about 100 parents and community members filled the auditorium to hear presentations from Superintendent Dick Sheehan, Chief Business Officer Eva Lueck, and Assistant Superintendents Lynn Marso and Amy Lambert.
Marso explained one of the major goals of Common Core, which emphasizes students’ ability to apply classroom knowledge to the real world, is to have students be “college and career ready no matter what direction they go in when they leave [GUSD] in the 12th grade.”
With the state still uncertain as to many of the details of Common Core, Sheehan admitted that the presentation was simply a general overview.
Common Core, he said, requires “complex thinking that goes beyond yes, no…the questioning is a higher level of questioning.”
The district is preparing for the changes in standards and curriculum with a core team of 54 teachers that are “learning leaders.”
A professional development team trains these teachers, who then teach their school site representatives, who go back their respective school site and teach the teachers. The teachers then implement the changes in the classroom.
Sheehan described the district’s teachers as the “safety net” in this transitional process.
“A majority of our teachers do an excellent job day to day and that’s not going to change,” he said.
With the shift in curriculum comes a shift in testing. The standardized current test known as STAR will be replaced with fully electronic Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) before the upcoming school year.
Until the new standards and testing are fully implemented, students in grades five, eight and 10 will still take the STAR test in science this school year.
Sheehan assured the crowd that Glendale Unified has a goal of achieving 100% technological proficiency for every student by third grade and that it does have the technological infrastructure to test all of the district’s students, citing a recent purchase of 1300 Chromebooks.
“It’s a computer based test…it responds to what students put in,” said Lambert.
“They answer it. It goes to the cloud. The cloud sees if it’s correct,” Sheehan added. “It’s an opportunity to move into the 21st century.”
Another opportunity to move into the 21st century comes to school districts across California in the form of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which will replace the 40-year-old Revenue Limit funding model.
Lueck noted with pride that the new funding model gives Glendale Unified “more flexibility than we’ve had in the past.” The old model gave districts funding for class size reduction in grades K-3, a fixed amount for each student based on attendance, and additional funding based on 32 categorical programs.
The new model maintains funding for K-3 class size reduction, but gives additional funding for career tech education in grades nine-12, varies the base amount per student depending on grade level, and gives districts with English learners, disabled students, foster care students, and low income students supplemental and concentration funds. In Glendale Unified, 56% of students fall into those categories.
The transition to LCFF is an eight-year process. At the end of that process, by the 2020-21 school year, GUSD expects to receive $225 million per year from the state. Despite this estimate the state has not yet finalized a calculator for districts.
Sheehan conceded that the new funding model was not an equal funding model and made clear that, though it may not be right, it is the new reality.
“Financially the biggest winner is Los Angeles Unified,” said Sheehan. “Those are the rules we’re living under.”
Though the new funding model focuses on making struggling students proficient, Dr. Deb Rinder, executive director of Education Services, told the crowd that the money is meant for early intervention, not for closing the gap.
“The money is focused on all students,” said Rinder. “We’re not going to ignore the students on the upper end.”
To guarantee that districts do focus on all students, the state mandates them to submit a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), which would provide a description of actions to be taken by the district and individual schools to meet goals identified in budget details.
GUSD held a Common Core and LCFF information session on Jan. 21 at Glendale High School and will hold one more final presentation tonight at Hoover High School at 7 p.m.
For more information on Glendale’s implementation of Common Core and LCFF, visit gusd.net.