In order for districts to support the creation of a system of high quality schools, both school and district leaders must move from thinking of community engagement as an episodic event that is a requirement of particular programs to treating engagement as an ongoing, core function of the school district.
Pivot Learning Partners teamed with the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., to publish this white paper report on Strategic School Funding for Results — a new concept in education budgeting. Pivot’s SSFR process and the research behind it are available on the AIR website.
Today is a time of unprecedented change and opportunity for public education in California. Impending changes justify a dramatic departure from business as usual in school districts, particularly in the area of financial management and budgeting. It’s a chance to create improved processes and policies that empower local educators, support innovation and align limited resources more closely with new learning goals. A three-year-old project called Strategic School Funding for Results (SSFR) has provided important information about how to do it.
Although it presents serious challenges, site-based budgeting could represent a critical strategy in the new age of school district finance that appears to be on the horizon in California. And the potential pay-offs for district officials, school site leaders and students could be substantial. Mary Perry, an independent education consultant, served as deputy director of EdSource from 1993 to 2011. She has written a wide range of publications on the subject of the state’s school finance system.
In late spring of 2004, Madera Unified School District was notified of its Program Improvement (PI) status in Special Education due to poor performance on the state’s standardized tests.
The numbers reflected the grim reality for the 1,290 students receiving special education services in the district: only 4% of students with disabilities scored proficient or above in English Language Arts and only 9% scored proficient or above in math. Deeper analysis of test scores only underlined the severity of the situation with a high percentage of special education students scoring at the very bottom in the Far Below Basic (FBB) category: 54% of special education students scored FBB in English Language Arts and 32% were FBB in Math.
To many educators in Madera Unified, the PI status was not a surprise. Some simply did not expect high achievement from special education students, shrugging their shoulders with the attitude, “Well they’re special education. Of course they’re going to have low scores.”
Others, who believed that special education students were capable of learning much more, pointed to the complete lack of coherence in the instructional program for special education students.
Stated one long-time administrator: “Special Ed was an island unto itself. Special ed teachers did not collaborate with general ed teachers, didn’t attend grade level or department meetings, didn’t participate in staff meetings, or in professional development with general ed teachers.”
As for what special education teachers did in the classroom, “it was a free for all” with teachers choosing their own materials and “doing their own thing.”
However, PI status, unwanted as it was, put the spotlight on special education. It demanded action and triggered a system-wide response to the under-achievement of special education students. “We weren’t really on the radar until our PI status district-wide,” said Jennifer Gaviola, Director of Special Education.
Find out what happened in Madera in this Pivot Case Study.