07.19.10: SBE and CDE Penalize Small School Districts in Draft Low-Achieving Schools List
By David Walrath
The State Board of Education (SBE) has adopted regulations to implement the Open Enrollment Act that was passed as part of the state’s failed application for Race to the Top funds. While the state application was not adopted by the United States Department of Education, the laws that were passed to help make the state eligible are still law because they were not contingent upon the state receiving funding. One of those laws was the Open Enrollment Act which was passed as Senate Bill 4 of Fifth Extraordinary Session.
SB 4 requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to identify California’s 1,000 lowest achieving schools. The identification process contains a number of provisions. One of which [Education Code Section 48352 (a)(2)(A)] states:
(A) A local educational agency shall not have more than 10 percent of its schools on the list. However, if the number of schools in a local educational agency is not evenly divisible by 10, the Superintendent shall round up to the next whole number of schools.
This provision was developed to accomplish two goals; the first was to not overly burden a school district with significant flight of students from the district to other districts pursuant to the Act. The disruption that would occur by significant flight would create a significant penalty on those students whose parents chose to remain in the identified lower achieving school(s) and district. A second purpose was to reduce the number of students that would be transferring and, thereby, reduce the state’s cost for declining enrollment funding to the district whose students were leaving pursuant to this provision.
Clear within the law and a provision SSDA worked to ensure, is that schools with 8 or fewer schools would not have any schools identified:
(A) A local educational agency shall not have more than 10 percent of its schools on the list. However, if the number of schools in a local educational agency is not evenly divisible by 10, the Superintendent shall round up to the next whole number of schools. [This language is based on the total number of schools in the LEA, not the number of identified schools.]
The draft identification list includes schools in school districts with only one school. Consequently, those districts have 100% of their schools identified as low-achieving in a clear violation of the clear meaning of the law.
SSDA urges every school district that has eight or fewer schools and has a school identified on the draft low-achieving list to take the following actions:
- Call your local State Senator and Assembly Member to complain that the SBE has not followed the law.
- Immediately send a letter objecting to the identification. Send the letter to SPI Jack O’Connell and to SBE President Ted Mitchell.
- Send the letter to the Office of Administrative Law opposing the SBE emergency regulations unless the regulations are modified to be clear that local education agencies with 8 or fewer schools are exempted from having schools identified on the low-achieving list.
Following are links to the letters sent by SSDA: