D.C. are you listening?: A New Local, Community-Based Approach for Accountability

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It turns out that a new local, community-based approach to accountability is happening… I first introduced the idea of Community-Based Accountability on October 12, 2012 in the post Accountability: Are you ready for a new idea?

Here is some background from the post I am giddy!!: Community-Based Accountability

I had writer’s block all summer. I owed Professor Rich Milner and two co-authors (Dr. Muhummed Khalifa and Dr. Linda Tillman) my portion of a chapter for the upcoming Handbook of Urban Education to be published by Routledge.We were asked to write on a “direction for future work (and needs) in the field of urban education.” My co-authors had already written the theoretical underpinning (post-colonial theory) and had specified the problem (persisting achievement gap in the midst of NCLB, high-stakes testing, and accountability). So what was the alternative to NCLB in its current conception!? I thought about the school reform course I took with David Tyack at Stanford a decade ago that focused on the community-based schooling in the 1960s. Then i considered that our datasets and their interconnectedness has advanced rapidly over the past two decades. In the vein of Dewey, I considered the measurement of a child’s success in conjunction with their heterogenous pursuits. In the political sphere, i pondered that Democrats often support community empowerment and Republicans espouse local control— which conflicts with the current conception of NCLB.

I then considered….How can we blend these key ideas into a new form of accountability?

My primary line of research is high-stakes testing and accountability… Yet I struggled all summer with re-thinking accountability. In fact, I put a stack of books on top of the manuscript… so that I didn’t have to see it…. then, I went to an accountability conference in Rome and I had a break through. I am came back from the meeting inspired. My portions of the manuscript that I had struggled to write for months came flowing out in three days…

What came next in the post? I asked the question: Texas was the birthplace of NCLB. Could Texas envision itself as the birthplace of Community-Based Accountability? Turns out the answer is no. A consortium of districts seeking waivers from state and federal testing, ratings that had adopted the local approach to accountability was turned back by Michael Williams, Texas Education Commissioner.

But we were not deterred. I convened a work group of UT-Austin educational policy graduate students and faculty peers from across the United States. We released a Community-Based Accountability policy brief and executive summary pdfs in the post A New Way to Do Accountability: How to Banish NCLB’s Narrow Paradigm

But…California was listening… a source at the Philadelphia AERA conference told me last week that California modeled its Local Accountability plans for school finance after the Community-Based Accountability approach!!

WOW!! Sometimes you feel like your wheels are spinning in the policy discourse— but not that day! I first wrote about California’s Local Accountability in the post Accountability: California, the land of local control— wait, what?! I also wrote Bear in the Details: Codifying Community-Based Accountability’s Process

EdWeek then covered the Community-Based Accountability approach in the post Could Community Based Accountability Get the Federal Government Out of Our Schools? – Living in Dialogue – Education Week Teacher

So what is happening with Local Accountability in California? I presented the original Community-Based Accountability chapter from the Urban Education Handbook at this year’s AERA conference in Philadelphia. Debra Watkins, Founder and President of the California Alliance of African American Educators (CAAAE), came up after my presentation to talk to me about how the Local Accountability process was being implemented in California. Being that I am not currently California-based, I asked her to write for Cloaking Inequity. Here is her report on what is happening with Local Accountability in California:

 Democracy & the LCFF: Messy and Intense! 

After graduating from Stanford’s Teacher Education Program in 1977, I went on to work the next 35 years in one school district in Silicon Valley as a teacher, counselor, and project administrator. As an educator of African ancestry, I was disturbed early in my career by the dismal academic performance of Black students compared to the White and Asian ones in that same district. I helped start the Santa Clara County Alliance of Black Educators (SCCABE) about 30 years ago to address those disparities as a community-based organization. Twelve years ago, I founded the California Alliance of African American Educators (CAAAE) to address these same disparities statewide.

In order to affect statewide policy, I serve on a team comprised of groups like ACLU, Public Advocates, Children Now, Families in Schools, the Advancement Project, EdTrust-West, Children’s Defense Fund, CADRE and Californians for Justice. One of the main reasons this collaborative was formed is to pay attention to how the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is rolled out through the Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) required of districts serving significant numbers of low income, foster youth, and English Language Learners (ELLs).

For the first time in its history of public school funding, California has declared that local communities should have a major voice in how money is spent for the children who need the most help reaching their academic potential. This process has varied from district to district. In the East Side Union High School District where I worked, the superintendent has introduced innovations like a social worker and parent coordinator on each of its 12 comprehensive high school campuses. He has embraced the community’s feedback and incorporated much of it in his LCAP draft. After including those two features in his LCAP (along with others), he still had about $1.5 million left in what he assumed would be his “concentrated” funds allocation. He then turned to the community again and asked for input about how to best spend it. He is gathering feedback and plans to have a draft for board approval by mid-May. In San Francisco Unified, community members have also been intimately involved in making their suggestions loud and clear. They have organized locally and attended board meetings in large numbers and successfully lobbied the district to eliminate “willful defiance” as a reason for suspending students and to invest heavily in restorative justice practices through new LCAP funding.

On the other hand, some districts are circumventing broad community input and using existing parent groups essentially already “under their control” to satisfy the intent of the LCFF legislation vis-à-vis parent involvement in the development of the LCAPs. Some districts are reluctant to engage parents in the new level of decision making because they view them through a deficit lens and don’t think that they even know what is best for their own children.

Another problem that has surfaced has to do with how districts are interpreting what the concentrated funds can be used for. Los Angeles Unified is using the funds to place more police on their campuses under the state priority related to improved school climate. This has caused a firestorm of protests from local community groups and they vow to fight this until the funds are re-allocated for restorative justice practices and/or more school counselors. Some districts have proposed to use the money to increase salaries in order to attract and keep teachers in hard-to-staff schools. The ACLU has already issued legal briefs against such a practice. That alone will create serious tension in districts.

People who have seen drafts of Sacramento Unified’s LCAP and who have witnessed the process unfold in San Diego Unified are sorely disappointed. One college professor in San Diego called the implementation a “hot mess” there and summarily blamed parents for not knowing what best to advocate for while letting the district off the hook for not helping them effectively engage in the process.

Because drafts of LCAPs are just becoming public, I am confident that the more we see, the more evident it will become that some adhere to the spirit of the law and others are merely window-dressing and will not contribute to student success in schools. EdTrust-West has committed to review all 700 plus LCAPs that will have to be submitted for county approval before June 30, 2014. They will be flagging those that seem in gross violation of the LCFF legislation and calling them out. The statewide policy team on which I sit has also identified about 45 districts to “watch” because many of them have the lowest achieving students, highest poverty levels, and history of disproportionalities in suspensions and expulsions.

As “messy” as this process is for many, it is a grand opportunity to finally make democracy work for the least enfranchised in this “golden” state.

Texans are you listening? D.C. are you listening? There is a local, community-based option available for accountability. Arne Duncan (and whoever comes after him) does not have to be in control of our education system.

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Please blame Siri for any typos.

p.s. Check out my “TED-style” talk about Community-Based Accountability on PBS in the post New Community-Based Approach to Accountability Featured on PBS-TV EdTalk

 

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Categories: Accountability, Community-Based Accountability

Author:Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin.

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7 Comments on “D.C. are you listening?: A New Local, Community-Based Approach for Accountability”

  1. April 14, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    Educational Direction and Policy seems to go in circles?

    Dear Dr. Vasquez Heilig: This is exciting news. Some connections! While I didn’t personally take any courses from Dr. Linda Tillman I knew about her significant influence while she was at the University of New Orleans (UNO) during my time there as a PhD candidate. Also, UNO was part of a consortium with Dr. Henry Leven’s “Accelerated School’s Project” out of Stanford University at the time and I personally became involved with some of the workshops for parents and teachers in various schools.

    School-based management and (ACCOUNTABILITY) were based on “the school” developing a unified purpose shared by all members of the school community and having the “autonomy” to do so in the selection of curriculum materials, personnel selection and assignment, and budgeting and building collaborations between parents, students, administrators, teachers and community members.

    When I came to the “RURAL CA DISTRICT” where I continue to work as a teacher, the Superintendent, at the time, was clearly about “site based management” and “accountability” yet, in a County-Wide system to share and utilize resources across geographical distances that challenged this rural district.

    NCLB, more than any other so called reform, destroyed what had been built. Two regions of the county are now without schools under the umbrella of the Unified District – for resource purposes, and Charter Schools, with fewer resources have moved into the void left by school closures. This is a complicated potential “case study” in change. Now with your exciting announcement, it appears to me that you’re engaged in moving us around the circle to a more appropriate place, in my opinion. I’m pulling for your success!

  2. jeff Canady
    April 14, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    I hear you!

  3. April 14, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

    “As ‘messy’ as this process is for many, it is a grand opportunity to finally make democracy work for the least enfranchised in this ‘golden’ state.”

    What about adult education in California? We are one of the messy parts of LCFF. Some categorical programs were created and existed for good reason. We teach a population that is vulnerable and marginalized.

    http://www.cft.org/news-publications/newsletters/california-teacher/november-december-2013/198-article/699-adult-education-new-regional-consortia-meld-state-programs.html

    http://saveouradultschool.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/the-regional-consortia-will-work-better-with-dedicated-funding-for-adult-schools-the-local-control-funding-formula-will-work-better-with-a-broad-mission-for-adult-schools-an-open-letter-to-governor/

    http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/restore-protected-funding

    http://saveouradultschool.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/assembly-budget-subcommittee-2-hearing-april-8-2014/

    • April 15, 2014 at 3:23 am #

      Karen: You wrote: “Some categorical programs were created and existed for good reason. We teach a population that is vulnerable and marginalized.” I’m writing this in memory of a friend, the late Paul Jacobs, Director of Categorical Programs, Mariposa County and later, Director of Adult Education Vallejo USD, a position he “stepped down to” when he saw the chance to help keep Adult Education alive when categorical cuts were happening in CA. He left the CA Dept. of Education (CDE) in Sacramento simply because he “believed” as you do; in “teaching” vulnerable and marginalized populations. Teaching, NOT TESTING was his interest and while he was effectively “silenced” and personally “marginalized” in his career from time to time he continued to fight for the rights of ALL students regardless of where they are in life’s journey. Also, he was a most insightful contributor to research on the education of alternative education students in the San Joaquin Valley of CA. His contribution to research was made while he still worked at the CDE. His words echo yours with comments about the importance of community accountability and involvement. He lamented the sad fact at the time that it took being in “program improvement” i.e., designated as a failure and needing help from the Title I “trigger” to initiate such improvement and site based accountability. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-007-6555-9_38#

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. D.C. are you listening?: A New Local, Community-Based Approach for Accountability | Educational Policy Information - April 14, 2014

    […] Julian Vasquez Heilig It turns out that a new local, community-based approach to accountability is happening… I […]

  2. Local Accountability and Astroturf: Local Control without the Local Control | Cloaking Inequity - May 5, 2014

    […] sent me links to Vasquez-Heilig’s posts Accountability: Are you ready for a new idea? and D.C. are you listening?: A New Local, Community-Based Approach for Accountability. I responded, and was then asked if it was okay to publish my commentary. I requested that I be […]

  3. Devil is in the Details: Teacher Tells Us What’s Up With Local Accountability | Cloaking Inequity - June 1, 2014

    […] in the posts Local Accountability and Astroturf: Local Control without the Local Control and D.C. are you listening?: A New Local, Community-Based Approach for Accountability. Today Alice Mercer, a classroom teacher in Sacramento, reflects on the implementation of Local […]

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