When then-Governor Jerry Brown signed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) into law in 2013, California’s leaders were hopeful that this legislation would set high expectations for flexibility, transparency, and equity within school districts.
Both districts—Los Banos Unified School District in the Central Valley and Chino Valley Unified School District in the Inland Empire—showcase instances in which ELLs are benefitting from locally devised mechanisms and structures aimed at improving their education.
Los Banos Unified School District, located in Merced County, serves 11,075 students, with 3,200 designated as ELLs. In Los Banos, the LCFF has allowed for the creation of dialogue and advocacy spaces that did not exist before.
In its Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), Los Banos vows to provide additional professional development and assessment to track progress for ELLs. Nine specific actions in the LCAP impact ELLs directly, with five targeting them specifically.
The district set goals with regards to the involvement of ELL parents in the DELAC— likely contributing to an attendance rate increase of 16 percent in the 2018–19 school year.
A new, LCAP-funded position, ELL Coordinator, has led not only to compliance in ELL services but also to a renewed sense of community.
Both the LCAP and the ELL Master Plan are part of a coordinated process to advance the cause for equity in the district.
Moving forward, Chief Academic Officer, a new position starting in the 2019–20 school year, will increase instructional and ELL data-driven awareness among district leadership.
Chino Valley Unified School District, located in San Bernardino County, serves approximately 28,000 students, with 3,140 students designated as ELLs. In Chino Valley, the plasticity of governance structures has allowed for the development of internal coherence.
Chino Valley lists 59 actions in its LCAP that address ELL needs, though only four are exclusively targeted to support ELLs, including professional development, Designated English Language Development instruction, and the position of Access and Equity Coordinator.
Administrators are coordinating site plans and the LCAP, in order to move toward evidence-based action and greater interdepartmental collaboration.
The district has sought greater family involvement in LCAP development, including training site leaders.
The district is monitoring data, and identifiable intervention specialists and coaches support ELLs.
Chino Valley has implemented the Seal of Biliteracy and within two years is planning to open a Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program—both advocated by families of ELLs.
Overall, stakeholder engagement has increased in both districts through the LCAP process. Additionally, several key levers have an important impact on whether and how ELLs are supported by district LCAPs, including meaningful stakeholder engagement and advocates on the ground.
In both districts, the appointment of leaders in charge of ELL services has had a direct impact on the quantity and quality of services provided to ELLs and their families through LCFF funds.
LCAP stakeholder engagement is critical for delivering the promise of the LCFF, and LCAPs promote equity initiatives but can take a pace slower than that of educational reformers.
Equity and meaningful stakeholder engagement call for explicit connections between LCAP funds and ELLs.
The LCFF process has brought both districts closer to realizing a growth vision well aligned with the ELL Roadmap framework, research, and the expectations of ELL advocates.
About the Author Dr. Eduardo R. Muñoz-Muñoz is an Assistant Professor and the Bilingual Program Coordinator at the Lurie College of Education at San José State University, California. In his research, teaching, and practice, he engages with issues of linguistic access and educational opportunities from a policy ethnography stance. He regularly supports and advises districts and dual immersion programs on design and implementation issues pertaining to multilingualism.
About Pivot Learning
Founded in 1995, Pivot Learning is a nonprofit organization of K-12 education experts who work directly with districts to address their biggest challenges, including raising student achievement and closing unconscionably large achievement gaps. Pivot’s mission is to partner with educators to design and implement solutions to their greatest challenges in achieving educational justice. Pivot envisions a future where our public schools provide our most underserved students with an outstanding education.
About Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE)
PACE is an independent, non-partisan research center led by faculty directors at Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of California Davis, the University of California Los Angeles, and the University of California Berkeley. PACE bridges the gap between research, policy, and practice, working with scholars from California’s leading universities and with state and local decision-makers to achieve improvement in performance and more equitable outcomes at all levels of California’s education system, from early childhood to postsecondary education and training.
PIVOT LEARNING ACQUIRES CONSORTIUM ON REACHING EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION, INC. (CORE) THROUGH A GENEROUS GIFT FROM OWNERS
Oakland, CA – On May 22, 2017, the Pivot Learning Board of Directors approved the acquisition of the Consortium on Reaching Excellence in Education, Inc. (CORE) through a generous gift from the founder and owner Bill Honig, as well as owners Catherine Honig and Linda Diamond. This gift brings together two of the longest tenured and most respected education service providers to districts and schools in California and the nation.
Over the past 23 years, Pivot Learning has become the largest and most experienced non-profit technical assistance provider for school districts in California. Pivot’s mission is to revitalize our public school systems so that all students have the opportunity to succeed in college and career. Pivot works at the state, district, and school levels to develop systemic solutions in the areas of standards implementation, education finance, leadership development, and school redesign.
CORE is a national professional learning organization that has been serving schools, districts, and states for 23 years. CORE applies the research on best practices and effective adult learning principles to equip educators with the knowledge and skills to significantly improve academic achievement. Through targeted professional development, job-embedded coaching, principal mentorship, and careful selection of curriculum and assessments, CORE collaborates with school systems to implement high quality reading, writing, language, and math instruction PreK-12.
CORE will become a subsidiary of Pivot Learning and its CEO, Dr. Arun Ramanathan, will serve as Chairman of the CORE Board of Directors. Linda Diamond will serve as President of CORE. Pivot and CORE will continue to deliver their respective services and will work together to implement comprehensive solutions that take advantage of the unique strengths of each organization.
“CORE’s decades-long history of providing quality professional learning services to classroom teachers is a natural complement to Pivot’s long history of working in partnership with district and school leaders to transform education systems,” said Diamond. “We are thrilled by this new phase in our proud history.”
Said Ramanathan, “We are grateful to CORE’s owners for this generous gift. Together, Pivot Learning and CORE can better support schools and districts across California and nationally to achieve our mission of ensuring that all students graduate college and career ready.”
The goal of Beyond High School is to transform the secondary experience to provide equitable access for all students to career-themed “pathways” or “academies” in areas such as computer science, healthcare, tourism, and agriculture. The model is based on the four pillars of the research-based Linked Learning approach – rigorous academics, career technical training, work-based learning, and personalized student supports. SRI International’s recently released seven-year evaluation of Linked Learning in nine California districts found decreased dropout rates, higher graduation rates, and more credits earned for students in linked learning pathways. The Beyond High School program is led by Dr. Laura Flaxman, founder of the nationally renowned Life Academy High School in Oakland, California.
“Our team of secondary experts has deep experience in redesigning schools and Linked Learning,” said Dr. Flaxman. “We are thrilled to be launching this important and innovative initiative as a proof point on how to rethink secondary education in California and the nation.”
Beyond High School has several key features. First, districts are supported by Pivot experts through a change design process. “Design teams” of district leaders, teachers, students, parents, community members, industry partners, and community college leaders plan, develop, and prototype their model for secondary redesign. In two of the districts, Bonsall and Monterey Peninsula Unified School Districts the teams are redesigning their full secondary pathways from 6-12. In Oceanside Unified School District, the team is redesigning one of their large comprehensive high schools: Oceanside High School.
“We are excited to partner with Pivot to ensure that all of our students are successful both in and beyond high school,” Reggie Thompkins, Deputy Superintendent, Oceanside Unified School District noted.
Pivot is also partnering with the Linked Learning Alliance to implement two new technology tools in all three districts. The first, Linked Learning Analytics, analyses vital student data allowing districts and community members to assess the impact of their redesigned secondary pathways on student outcomes. The second, Linked Learning Certification, provides the districts and school leaders with an intuitive online mechanism to officially certify their schools as Linked Learning Pathways. Pivot is also partnering with Abl and School by Design to pilot tools to transform the use of time, including tools to streamline and facilitate the master scheduling.
California educators know that curriculum and instructional materials can have a large impact on what and how well students learn. Quality instructional materials must be aligned to national and California content standards and meet the specific needs of districts and charters.
In Pivot’s work with dozens of districts throughout California, we have found that teachers and leaders are working hard to identify quality, relevant curriculum. One teacher in our Rural Professional Learning Network (RPLN) noted that her district hasn’t yet selected Common Core-aligned materials, “so teachers piece together old curriculum (10-15 years old) and online resources.” This struggle isn’t limited to Pivot’s partners. In a 2015 report, Morgan Polikoff, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Southern California, reported that only about 50% of schools in California have adopted at least one CCSS-aligned math textbook.
Because of the large number of state approved materials, California districts have often been challenged to identify the materials that are best aligned to the Math and English Language Arts content standards. Throughout the curriculum adoption process, districts can benefit from objective, detailed reviews of state approved curriculum. Outside reviews can provide comprehensive information about the quality and alignment of instructional materials so that district leaders can make the best choice for their teachers and students.
The California Curriculum Collaborative, an initiative of Pivot Learning and EdReports.org, provides the rigorous independent reviews that districts and charter schools need. Using the independent information provided in EdReports.org, the CCC is designed to help districts and charters navigate the curriculum adoption process in California. The CCC also includes reviews of programs not included on California’s adopted programs list. Indeed, California allows districts to use off-list curricular materials (not on the state-approved list), and Dr. Polikoff found that more districts and charters are adopting off-list textbooks since the introduction of CCSS.
This spring, Pivot Learning and EdReports.org will host workshops to introduce districts to the California Curriculum Collaborative, including best practices in the adoption process and tools designed to support districts in making the right choices for their students. We hope to build informed collaboration across districts in California and bring clarity to the very important task of choosing an appropriate instructional program.
Curriculum can help drive or inhibit teaching and learning. With the right process that prioritizes high-quality, aligned materials and strong community engagement, districts and schools will be able to ensure that students have the materials they need to succeed.
Polikoff, M.S. (2015). How well aligned are textbooks to the Common Core standards in mathematics? American Educational Research Journal, 52(6), 1185–1211. doi: 10.3102/0002831215584435
Polikoff, M.S. (2016, December 9). Textbook adoption in California: Issues and evidence. [Presentation]. Retrieved from
Oakland, CA – Today, February 7th, 2017, Pivot Learning, an Oakland-based nonprofit supporting dozens of CA school districts to improve college and career readiness, launched the California Curriculum Collaborative in partnership with EdReports.org, a national nonprofit providing rigorous evidence-based reviews of K-12 instructional materials. Calcurriculum.org offers free independent analysis of K-12 Math and English Language Arts materials from national publishers as well as best practices for curriculum adoption.
California districts go through a time-consuming process of researching and adopting instructional materials in accordance with California standards. With the state having approved a large number of math and ELA curriculum products, districts, particularly small districts may be challenged to pick the ones that are best aligned with content standards. The California Curriculum Collaborative provides districts with crucial tools to support and potentially streamline their decision-making, including:
Reviews of many of the math and ELA programs adopted by the state of California
Reviews of curricular materials not yet adopted by the State of California, which districts can select by going “off-list”
Resources to support the process of curriculum adoption in school districts in California and beyond
Reviews on the CCC website has already proven to be valuable to educators across California.
“As a California high school math teacher of 15 years, I know the critical importance of having the right materials in teachers’ and students’ hands,” commented Carolyn Viss, a California high school math teacher of 15 years and current Director, Stanislaus County Office of Education. “…I see schools and districts grapple with the challenge of evaluating dozens of instructional materials to find high quality curricula. It is no small task. [These reviews] help to meet the growing demand from counties, districts, schools, and teachers for the thoughtful analysis contained in these reports.”
This spring, Pivot Learning and EdReports will host a series of regional workshops across the state where districts will be guided through the tools and process crucial to a high quality, rigorous curriculum adoption. These hands-on sessions will help districts in California strategize the most beneficial way to select instructional programs based on the individual needs of their districts. With the right process and tools, and strong community engagement, districts will be able to select instructional programs and materials that are high-quality and standards-aligned.
“California requires…materials that challenge our most proficient learners and ensure every student attains college, career, and civics readiness,” remarked Karin Foster, Language and Literacy Coordinator, Orange County Office of Education. She continued, “[The California Curriculum Collective’s] detailed reports allow teachers and district leaders to focus their attention on the needs of their students and find those materials that will help their students excel.”
Sacramento, CA – On Friday, January 27, 2017, Pivot Learning, an Oakland based non-profit, presented the first-year results of the California Smarter School Spending initiative at the annual Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) Research and Policy Conference. The Smarter School Spending model is an innovative approach to district budgeting that helps districts and charters to build strategic finance plans, find the money necessary to support their students and teachers and create more meaningful Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs).
Pivot CEO Arun Ramanathan, Ed.D. participated in a panel with district leaders Stefanie Phillips, Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified School District, and Myong Leigh, Interim Superintendent of San Francisco Unified School District, both of whom use the Smarter School Spending approach, to talk about the model and its benefits. Last year, Pivot partnered with five districts in California—Santa Ana Unified, San Francisco Unified, Tracy Unified, Pomona Unified, and Hayward Unified—on the Smarter School Spending initiative.
Using the Smarter School Spending process, Pivot and the districts identified almost $9M in potential cost savings to meet instructional goals. Tracy Unified alone located $2.1 of new revenue to potentially support their commitment to improving early literacy and ensuring 9th grade success, which are their key priorities to impact student achievement.
Brian Stephens, Ed.D., Superintendent of Tracy Unified, believes the Smarter School Spending process is vital to mobilizing districts to carry the work through from concept to program implementation. Dr. Stephens states, “Even if this work were to end tomorrow, the fundamental way we work together as a district has changed, and this collaboration will be felt for years to come.”
While California districts have received budget increases over the past several years, Governor Jerry Brown recently announcing a modest 2.2% budget increase for California public schools for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Given the slowing rate of revenue increases, increased costs for pensions and other obligations and impacts of declining enrollment, many school districts are facing budgetary challenges that complicate their efforts to the fund services and supports necessary to close opportunity and achievement gaps.
“The Smarter School Spending process helps districts turn around the impact of “initiative overload,” narrow their priorities and look inside their budgets for the funding necessary to support their instructional priorities,” said Dr. Ramanathan. “We believe that Smarter Spending should be a way that every district thinks about developing their budget and LCAP.”
Baltimore, MD – Today, Allovue, a growing force in education technology, and Pivot Learning, a California-based education professional services leader, announced a partnership to revolutionize strategic budgeting and goal-tracking for school districts.
Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Allovue and Pivot are working with pilot districts in California to automate their financial data with Allovue’s Balance platform and improve their financial management practices in ways that should support their strategic budgeting and Local Control Accountability Plan development.
Through this project, Pivot Learning and Allovue are examining the practical challenges facing districts as they develop their the Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP) — California’s required process for identifying goals, evaluating progress for student subgroups and aligning their budgets. Allovue and Pivot will use these learnings to support the potential development of a next-generation user-friendly tool to streamline the LCAP and strategic budgeting process. The LCAP is part of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), a new finance system enacted in 2013 to determine how resources are allocated to school districts.
While this project initially will be focused on streamlining California budgeting processes associated with LCAP and LCFF, the work has broader potential for improving strategic budgeting in school districts across the country.
“Through our partnership with Pivot Learning, we’ll develop new technology solutions to elevate strategic budgeting processes, not just for state reporting, but to truly help districts understand the correlations between spending and outcomes,” said Jess Gartner, CEO & Founder of Allovue.
“Allovue’s technology and keen understanding of the issues school districts face allow us to use statewide standards as an opportunity for school districts to reframe strategic budgeting toward school improvement, rather than simply meeting reporting standards. We couldn’t be more pleased to have such a pioneering partner in this effort,” said Arun Ramanathan, CEO of Pivot Learning.
Allovue is an education resource-planning platform for K-12 schools and districts that empowers administrators at every level to allocate resources to best support the needs of students. The Allovue platform integrates with existing backend financial data systems to help district officials, principals, and other school administrators to visualize, analyze, and optimize the impact of spending on outcomes in education.
About Pivot Learning Partners
Founded in 1995, Pivot Learning Partners is a nonprofit organization of K-12 education experts working shoulder-to-shoulder with schools, districts and charters to address their biggest challenges. We partner directly with more than 100 school districts, reaching over half the counties in the California and impacting the practice of thousands of educators to ultimately reach more than 1,000,000 students or 17% of students in the state. Our partners primarily serve heavy concentrations of high-need students, of whom 58 percent live in poverty, 79 percent are children of color, and 57 percent are non-native English speakers.
Oakland, CA – Today, Pivot Learning Partners announced a statewide pilot program, called the California Smarter School Spending Project, to transform instructional planning, district budgeting, and LCAP development. Over the course of the next year, with generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
Pivot will work closely with leadership in five pioneering California districts – San Francisco Unified, Tracy Unified, Hayward Unified, Pomona Unified and Santa Ana Unified – to narrow and focus their instructional priorities, fund these priorities over the long-term, and build their LCAPs into strategic finance plans that can lead to better student outcomes.
Smarter School Spending is a national movement comprised of dozens of districts. The model was developed and initially implemented in four demonstration districts – Fayette County (KY), Knox County (TN), Lake County (FL), and Rochester City (NY) – to more sharply define their strategic priorities, close budget gaps and identify savings (nearly $160 million combined). The districts were then able to direct these savings to funding their priorities over the time. The California Smarter School Spending project is designed to align Smarter School Spending and the LCAP development process.
Through this project, the partners also expect to identify best practices that can revitalize LCAP development and inform other district leaders, community members, and state policymakers.
“With the implementation of LCFF, there is no better state than California to introduce the best practices of Smarter School Spending,” said Arun Ramanathan, CEO of Pivot Learning Partners. “We are thrilled to work with leaders in five diverse California districts to help them to identify and fund their top priorities and build meaningful, actionable LCAPs.”
Oakland, CA – Today, Pivot Learning Partners launched the Rural Professional Learning Network (RPLN) with support from the S.H. Cowell Foundation and the California Education Policy Fund, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The Rural Professional Learning Network is a new initiative geared toward helping school districts in remote areas with implementation of the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, addressing Pivot Learning Partners mission: to ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed in college and career.
With over a dozen districts and county offices of education participating across four Northern California counties, RPLN is poised to address the shared teaching and learning challenges of rural educators by closing education technology and resource gaps – connecting them with national experts, resources, education technology tools, and each other. By improving educator access to cutting edge tools and supports, RPLN will clear the hurdles that prevent rural educators from benefiting from best-in-class technical assistance and professional development. The RPLN will also work to identify and publicize the unique and specific needs of rural districts in standards implementation through a two-year research partnership with Policy Analysis for California Education.
“Pivot is thrilled to work with our district and county partners to build this network of rural educators,” said Arun Ramanathan, CEO of Pivot Learning Partners. “Every child deserves a great education regardless of their location. Every school and district deserves the highest level of support regardless of their size. Through the Rural Professional Learning Networks, we have a major opportunity to support the unique needs of rural educators and the millions of student they serve.”
Pivot Learning Partners is a non-profit organization whose mission is to revitalize our public school systems so that all students have the opportunity to succeed in college and career. We partner with education leaders at all levels and provide them with the knowledge, skills, and support proven to strengthen educational systems and transform teaching and learning.