Review finds first batch of LCAP’s lacking

Review finds first batch of LCAP’s lacking

(Calif.) The first comprehensive review of how school districts are meeting new reporting requirements tied to state aid for disadvantaged students found none that had complied with every statutory mandate.

As part of the restructuring of state support for schools adopted two years ago, local educational agencies have been required to develop plans that show how they will use the funds to improve services to low-income students, English learners and foster youth.

In a report released Tuesday, the non-partisan Legislative Analysts Office evaluated 50 Local Control Accountability Plans adopted last summer – the first year of the filing – in a pool that represented districts small-to-large, all of the geographic regions as well as the state’s 11 biggest LEAs.

The LCAP process, which many districts struggled to complete, called for a wide range of new activities and reporting demands. The Legislature set eight educational priorities and called on districts to set goals based on the priorities, describe actions they would take to reach the goals and track their progress. As part of the LCAP format, the state also outlined 24 performance metrics that fit within the priorities.

The measures were required across 12 student subgroups.

Districts were also required for the first time to formally engage parents and community groups in the process of building the school budget and the LCAP.

“Fulfilling all of these requirements is a challenging undertaking for districts to accomplish and accomplish well,” the LAO said in its report. “Though most of the LCAPs we reviewed attempted to comply with many of the statutory LCAP requirements, none complied with every statutory requirement.”

Another significant and common failing, the LAO said, was that most LCAPs did not distinguish between actions that had been ongoing and those initiatives just undertaken. Without some better description, “we could not determine whether districts were using the new funding generated under LCFF to pursue new actions to improve performance or to continue or expand prior activities,” the research team said.

The report also raised concerns that administrators were funding programs that benefitted all students at a certain school and not necessarily low-income, English learners and foster youth. Often, the LAO said, the LCAP indicated that actions taken on behalf of all students would also benefit the educationally disadvantaged.

The LAO said lawmakers should consider making some changes to the program:

  • Allow all districts to focus their plans on their highest-priority areas rather than require them to address all eight state-specified priority areas. Requiring districts to cover every priority area – regardless of local conditions – wasted time and energy, said the LAO. The emphasis should be on making the LCAP clear and strategic instead of detailed and comprehensive.
  • Require districts to indicate whether actions are new or ongoing. This distinction, the non-partisan analyst said, will provide clarity on where districts are making new investments and help identify which particular strategies may be affecting student outcomes.
  • Monitor quality of information regarding English learners and low income students.

The LAO said the state should monitor LCAP descriptions over the next few years for indications that services match expectations. As part of that process, they suggested the Legislature hold an informational hearing in the fall of 2016 – after another round of funding and reporting – to get feedback from schools and other stakeholders.

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