Due to the ongoing pandemic, districts are reassessing their learning options and choosing between traditional independent study and course-based independent study to meet students’ needs. The California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) facilitated Professional Learning Community (PLC) from 2021 to 2023 for districts to collaborate. Independent Study Professional Learning Network (ISPLN) meetings focused on addressing independent study challenges, sharing best practices, and problem-solving. Key findings from these convenings include district inconsistencies in understanding policy recommendations, the need for quarterly meetings with State representatives, encouraging information sharing among districts, implementing outreach campaigns, and building statewide partnerships. Feedback from these independent study leads identifies key aspects of independent study policy that other districts may use to improve individual programs and the statewide initiative.
Key Findings and Call to Action
Provide clarification: Address inconsistencies in understanding and interpreting policy recommendations by offering clear guidance and support. Establish quarterly meetings: Organize regular meetings between district leads and State representatives to ensure clear understanding of policy updates and allow for clarifying questions. Foster collaboration: Develop and share a comprehensive list of local independent study contact information to facilitate collaboration and resource sharing among districts. Conduct outreach campaigns: Inform county, district, and charter school independent study leads about policy changes and their impact at the local level. Build partnerships: Strengthen partnerships with county offices of education to create a statewide professional learning infrastructure and support underserved locales. Collect feedback: Gather input from independent study leads to identify opportunities for sharing best practices and improving the quality of individual programs and the statewide initiative. Taking these actions will enhance independent study programs, improve student outcomes, and promote collaboration and knowledge-sharing among districts.
With the launch of CCEE’s Research Practice Partnership (RPP) initiative, five of the original CAAASA Professional Learning Network (PLN) partners have rejoined the network to continue their work to support Black student achievement through their LEA-specific problem of practice, focusing on progress monitoring activities to support the measurement of student outcomes in the coming year.
Serving the needs of our children and youth is the top priority for the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence. With so many demands at the local level, it can be challenging for Governance teams to know how to align initiatives and identify the support that may be needed by administrators, teachers, and most importantly the students. This presentation provides an overview of California‘s Statewide System of Support (52074) and better understand the services and supports that are available to support districts. Utilizing the many resources created by state, regional and local agencies, Governance teams can build capacity, and improve collaboration with educational and community partners to improve outcomes for our students and their families.
Dr. Chris Hartley, Deputy Executive Director, CCEE
Mindy Fattig, Senior Advisor, CCEE
Dr. Stephanie Gregson, Deputy Executive Director, CCEE
Ed Manansala, Superintendent, El Dorado County
Stuart Packard, Superintendent, Buttonwillow Union School District
The California Association of African-American Superintendents & Administrators (CAAASA)’s statewide Professional Learning Network (PLN) began in the Fall of 2017, with the generous support of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE). The goal of the CAAASA PLN is to identify the inequities experienced by African American students in California K-12 schools and to address them through a systems-change approach. The CAAASA PLN has worked over the past five years to surface and share best evidence-based practices that improve the educational outcomes of African American students. It aims to uncover the policy, practice, and performance that most effectively address systemic problems and lead to improved student outcomes.
During the onset of the pandemic, CAAASA worked closely with CCEE to respond to the crisis conditions in the field of education with professional development resources and forums and venues for information sharing and support. PLN members, including the three county offices, were active in this response, co-developing resources with CAAASA. In late 2021, CAAASA had the opportunity to reconvene the original seven local educational agencies (LEAs), including their superintendent leadership, for an in-depth discussion of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our schools, our students, their families, and teaching staff and school site, district, and county leadership. Led by Dr. Alicia Montgomery, Executive Director of the Center for Powerful Public Schools, we continued these important discussions throughout the spring of 2022, recording conversations and interviews on video for CCEE highlight reels and future resource development. In this brief, each of the LEAs provides highlights of their individual trajectories, reflecting on the enormous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To demonstrate the alignment of CCEE’s work with statewide agency priorities and its effectiveness in meeting statutory obligations, CCEE redesigned its Annual Report. This end-of-year report features select initiatives from each Center to highlight how the goals and initiatives, approved by the CCEE board, were achieved.
Chronic absenteeism has affected a significant percentage of California’s K-12 student population and is likely to continue to do so over the coming years due to the lasting impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. School absences negatively affect academic and socioemotional outcomes for all students – especially youth of color and other vulnerable student groups – making improving attendance a top priority for school systems.
This attendance brief aims to better understand how the issue of chronic absenteeism has been addressed by districts and what improvements could yield better student outcomes. It highlights insights and best practices collected from districts that were able to decrease their chronic absenteeism rate in the past five years and offers recommendations on how local educational agencies (LEAs) could help increase student attendance.
This learning path includes five modules, each with a video, tools, and supporting documents. Developed by the California Labor Management Initiative (CA LMI), the modules provide an overview of the CA LMI, introduce three frameworks for labor-management collaboration, and present perspectives from statewide thought leaders and practitioners.
Note: This article was featured in the January 2022 edition of the CCEE Connection. Read it here!
“The shape of leadership that yields the most productive results when we are facing a complex issue is ‘systemic leadership.’ It is very different from hierarchy or from bringing in consultants who purport to “solve” the issue. This set of leadership practices and approaches is built out of three disciplines: chaos and complexity theory; living systems theory; and the theory/practice of tapping the experiential learning of all those involved in the system or organization (collective intelligence).”
Our worldviews are getting disrupted. This is normal of course, as worldviews historically shift over time. Still, disruption is never easy. What I appreciate about the quote above is that it is a succinct summary of years of unearthing I have been doing as a Coordinator of Continuous Improvement at Butte County Office of Education to make sense of the shifts that are happening in education and beyond, surrounding change and improvement efforts.
In rural counties particularly, we wear many hats. One benefit of these multiple hats is that they allow us to make connections among the many initiatives our educational systems are implementing. What’s being revealed currently is a deep synchronicity between social-emotional learning and systems thinking that is able to support an ushering in of a different approach to leadership and change. I will speak to some of those connections below.
An impetus to our shifting worldviews is that we are living in a world of increasing complexity and uncertainty. We have been particularly affected by adversity in Butte County, and not unironically, I have found comfort in learning that there are frameworks for supporting us within that space — a sort of certainty about uncertainty. An internationally lauded sense making framework, Cynefin, is one of them that has been emerging in leadership, equity, improvement, and restorative practice circles these past couple of years and that feels critically important to understand. We are currently exploring a partnership with Sonoma County Office of Education and consultants, Cultivating Leadership, to enhance our “Complexity Fitness” and gain competence with Cynefin.
Along with Cynefin, at a recent presentation regarding Butte’s social-emotional learning (SEL) and mental wellness efforts, I shared a simplified version of a tool, the Two Loops of Systems Change, derived from the Living Systems Theory. I categorized our SEL efforts by how we are stewarding and hospicing (holding and supporting our systems and the people within it) and how we are innovating (pioneering new approaches and connecting via networks and communities of practice). This tool, the Two Loops, and the way we can utilize it to think differently, build awareness, and engage, is a part of new leadership approaches that are emerging. One place we are practicing these as Butte COE, in conjunction with some of our COE and state partners is through the S.L.O.W. Collaborative.
The “how” of many of these emerging leadership practices are being supported from awareness-based or participatory leadership methodologies such as Compassionate Systems and the Art of Hosting. So, what exactly is participatory leadership? This term was new to me a couple of years ago. The Art of Participatory Leadership (AoPL) is deeply rooted in the practice of inquiry.
“We know that there are answers to be had, but even more important are the questions we ask to arrive at those answers. AoPL does not engage in a predesigned set of exercises around current or historical realities, but rather asks questions to help us create a new future together” (Art of Participatory Leadership Workbook).
Participatory Leadership allows us to see ourselves, others, and systems more clearly, while simultaneously fostering both the conditions for learning and the SEL competencies that we desire. Outcomes of participatory practices can include:
Tapping into diverse perspectives
Cultivating leaderful communities and collaboratives
Creating cultures of equity and inclusion
Inspiring deeper levels of trust across partners
Hosting conversations for meaningful action
Exploring mindsets and norms that are keeping harmful/ineffective systems in place
Providing participants with the experience and resources to replicate the practices and tools learned
If this sounds like it is deeply aligned with SEL, equity, systems thinking, and improvement work, it’s because it is. Awareness-based systems methodologies versus traditional, hierarchical, linear, mechanistic interventions are the “how” to complexity or a living system’s “what”. When our worldviews shift, our approaches need to as well.
So let’s talk about the word Transformative and how this connects to systems thinking, complexity, and SEL. I hear the term Transformative a lot and while I understand the desire for something to be “transformative” or leaders to be “transformative”, it has been less clear to me what folks actually mean by that as well as what they are doing that will make something be transformative. So here’s my understanding of it: Transformative change happens when we change ourselves. The current world view shifts are helping us realize we are not standing outside the system and intervening as in a mechanistic model, we are inside it — part of the system; interconnected — as described in complex adaptive or living systems models. Thus, changing ourselves, because of the rich interconnection – changes the system.
“Once we can see that we are not this enduring, consistent, perfect self that we’ve constructed ourselves to be—that we see all the ways in which we don’t show up aligned with our intentions or who we want to be in the world—we start to have compassion for other people and their challenges in doing so. Once we see our complexity, we can see others’ complexity.
– Valerie Livesay
When we hear the term Adult SEL, one of four core focus areas as part of CASEL’s Systemic SEL implementation, many educators have some resistance to prioritizing this. I often hear administrators and teachers brush past this aspect of Systemic SEL and say, “I just want practices to help my students”. Practices to help our students are important, of course, but if we are going to swim “upstream” and change systems in “transformative” ways, we need to look at ourselves. It is evident adults in our society are struggling to cope in healthy ways, to view perspectives outside of their own with equanimity, and to collaborate across boundaries in order to develop solutions to complex challenges. It’s evident adults in our society need to strengthen their SEL competencies. Still, It’s easier, and natural, to think it is them that needs to change, not me or us. And yet we do. We do need time to practice alone and together to see what it is we habitually don’t see – about ourselves, others, our systems. This is why “adult SEL” is vital to all change efforts, regardless of the form of inequity or improvement needed.
We have the ability and power within ourselves to transform our systems through self transformation. According to NHS Horizons, self transformation includes:
Openness to new ideas and perspectives – even those that actively challenge their own
Ease with complexity, ambiguity and change
A resistance to simple answers in complex situations
Comfort with chaos and paradox
The realms of learning about these self-transformative capacities currently fall, I believe, within the realms of social-emotional learning and systems thinking. Systems thinking, to give us the ability to understand and work in complexity, and adult SEL, to give us the tolerance, competence, and capacity to be able to do so. We need to expand our vertical literacy. To close, I’ll share an excerpt from Joanna Macy’s rendition of the prophecy of the Shambhala Warriors that illuminates the importance of SEL and systems thinking: This prophecy discusses great warriors fighting for good during a critical “turning” who have training in the use of two weapons, both in the mind — ”one is compassion and the other is insight into the radical interdependence of all phenomena.”
Sandra Azevedo, Coordinator of Continuous Improvement, Butte County Office of Education
California schools have for years contended with a shortage of fully qualified teachers. While local educational agencies (LEAs) are no strangers to meeting staffing challenges, the pandemic has put more strain on an already stretched workforce. Adding to existing waivers and flexibilities, California has taken extraordinary steps to make it easier to fill substitute vacancies, to create alternatives to high stakes testing that have kept otherwise qualified teachers from completing their credentials, and to provide nearly $1 billion of new investment in the teacher pipeline.
LEAs always have the legal responsibility to staff classrooms with well-prepared, fully credentialed teachers to the full extent possible. As the impacts of the pandemic continue to reverberate through the educator workforce, the following opportunities are available now to help LEAs meet the need for teachers and substitutes.
Short-Term Waivers: Short-Term Waivers allow local agencies to address unanticipated, immediate, short-term (one semester or less) staffing needs by assigning teachers who hold a basic teaching credential in any field to teach outside of their credential authorization, with the teacher’s consent. These waiver types need only be authorized at the local level.
Teaching Permit for Statutory Leave (TPSL): When a teacher takes certain extended statutory leaves of absence, TPSL holders may serve as temporary teacher of record for the entirety of the leave. When more than one acceptable leave is taken consecutively, a TPSL holder may continue to serve as the interim teacher of record for the entire length of those leaves.
Local Assignment Options (LAO): LEAs that are unable to fill a staffing vacancy with the appropriately credentialed teacher for an assignment have the flexibility to use LAOs. Requirements vary by assignment, but most require the teacher to hold a full teaching credential and to consent to the assignment. LAOs cover general education assignments only.
Emergency Substitute Permits: To provide continuity in classrooms and reduce the total number of substitute teachers needed, California temporarily extended the length of time a substitute teacher can serve in the same classroom to 60 days. Normally, general education and career technical education substitutes may serve up to 30 days and education specialist substitutes may serve up to 20 days. This flexibility expires on July 1, 2022.
Testing Flexibilities: Looking ahead, California has begun to rethink the how it can reliably assess a teacher’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, and to expand options to recruit and prepare teachers. Recent statutory changes to the subject matter and basic skills requirements now allow credential seekers to meet these requirements through coursework in addition to existing testing options. Similarly, updates to the Reading Institution Competence Assessment (RICA) will phase out the existing exam and replace it with a performance assessment.
Grant Funding: The state is also investing directly in new teachers with nearly $1 billion in new funding for recruitment and retention grants that do not need to be paid back, for educators who commit to working in some of the highest need classrooms in the state. Together, the Golden State Teacher Grant, Classified School Employee Teacher Grant, and the Teacher Residency Grant aim to credential over 43,000 new teachers in the next five years.