Shared from the California Collaborative on Educational Excellence's Newsletter "THE CCEE CONNECTION"
By Sasha Horwitz, Governmental Relations and Public Affairs
Local Commentary: Our San Mateo County School Districts, as well as the County Office of Education, are working hard to ensure that classrooms are staffed and that special education supports (such as 1:1 Aides are in place), but this is a continuing struggle, so as we come together to solve this issue, this article is highly relevant. If you're considering spending time in local classrooms, there are a number of options to consider - and I hope that you will.
For years, California schools have contended with a shortage of fully qualified teachers. While local educational agencies (LEAs) are no strangers to meeting staffing challenges, the pandemic has put more strain on an already stretched workforce. While local educational agencies (LEAs) are no strangers to meeting staffing challenges, the pandemic has put more strain on an already stretched workforce. Adding to existing waivers and flexibilities, California has taken extraordinary steps to make it easier to fill substitute vacancies, to create alternatives to high stakes testing that have kept otherwise qualified teachers from completing their credentials, and to provide nearly $1 billion of new investment in the teacher pipeline.
LEAs always have the legal responsibility to staff classrooms with well-prepared, fully credentialed teachers to the full extent possible. As the impacts of the pandemic continue to reverberate through the educator workforce, the following opportunities are available now to help LEAs meet the need for teachers and substitutes.
Full Article HERE.
I am honored to have been selected to join the San Mateo County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Recovery Commission (MHSARC) in October! This County Commission advises the Director of SMC's BHRS, as well as the Board of Supervisors, on issues pertaining to mental health needs in San Mateo County and the allocation of funds under the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). Find more information here!
What is a SELPA?
The Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) in California serve as a liaison between the Department of Education and the local school districts (or local educational agencies - LEAs).
In 1977, all school districts and county school offices were mandated to form consortiums in geographical regions of sufficient size and scope to provide for all special education service needs of children residing within the region boundaries. There are currently 122 SELPAs in California. Each region, a SELPA, developed a "local plan" describing how it would provide special education services. The governance structure of the SELPA is outlined within the local plan.
SELPAs are dedicated to the belief that all students can learn and that special needs students must be guaranteed equal opportunity to become contributing members of society. SELPAs facilitate high quality educational programs and services for special needs students and training for parents and educators. The SELPA collaborates with county agencies and school districts to develop and maintain healthy and enriching environments in which special needs students and families can live and succeed.
SELPA Administrators are responsible for ensuring: FAPE; LRE; that all regular education resources are considered, and where appropriate, are utilized on a local or regional basis to meet the needs of students with disabilities; that a system exists at the regional level for identification, assessment and placement of students with disabilities; that a viable system for public education is functioning in the community, with broad participation and interaction involving parents and other agencies serving children and young adults; an annual compliance monitoring system is implemented that continued to ensure compliance.
Recently, SELPAs have become eligible to receive Federal Grants to conduct Alternative Dispute Resolution functions to assist parents and LEAs with the IEP process.
What is a CAC?
California Education Code (Part 30, Chapter 2, Article 7, 56190) requires each Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) to establish a Community Advisory Committee for Special Education (CAC). CAC serves in an advisory capacity to the Board of Education and Special Education administration on the implementation of the Local Plan.
The Local Plan is a legal document that describes how the SELPA provides services to students with exceptional needs.
The CAC is the public accountability valve for the SELPAs, which are the liaison between the State and the LEAs.
CAC membership is comprised of parents with students who receive special education services, parents with students in general education, district staff from both special and general education, community agency representatives and any community member who is interested in special education. The member of the CAC are appointed by the LEA's School Board Trustees to serve in this advisory role. CACs typical meet about 10 months per year. Any parent of a student in the district, staff or community member may attend and participate in CAC meetings.
Assembly Bill (AB) 114 changed the process by which students in Special Education receive mental health services. Previously, under AB 3632, county mental health departments provided services. However, realignment under AB 114 requires all California school districts to be solely responsible for ensuring that students with disabilities, as designated by their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), receive the mental health services necessary to benefit from a special education program.
Students with IEPs who demonstrate behavioral health issues that impact their ability to learn and access the school curriculum are eligible for AB 114. ERMHS funds are not restricted to students who have “emotional disturbance” as their identified disability.
Services must be included in the IEP and can include: individual counseling, parent counseling, social work services, psychological services, and residential treatment. Any service agreed upon by the student’s IEP team as necessary for the student to receive a free and appropriate public education may be considered a related service and covered by AB 114 funds.
There are three primary ways districts are meeting the AB 114 requirement:
Funding is distributed from the California Department of Education directly to Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) based on the average daily attendance of all pupils in the SELPA (regardless of how many pupils have an IEP or disability). SELPAs then determine how to allocate dollars to the individual districts and schools.
Assembly Bill 114 Special Education Transition: Click to learn more.
SMCOE ERMHS Guidelines
9/2/2019 0 Comments
The San Mateo County Special Education Local Plan Area (the "SMC SELPA") will have its first Community Advisory Committee ("CAC") Meeting on October 22, 2019. You can find out more information HERE.
Is Your District Represented on the San Mateo County SELPA's CAC?
I am not sure which San Mateo County Districts have made official appointments in the past (or recently), but if you are not sure if your District has representatives serving in this capacity, it's worth asking.
The CAC meeting in the Spring of 2018, following the appointment of the San Mateo-Foster City School District's Representatives, was very lightly attended by only a few San Mateo County Districts.
Anyone is free to attend the CAC meetings without being appointed (which is great), but given the public accountability model that the State has in place for special education budgeting and planning, official appointments to the CAC will ideally be made by Districts on an annual basis.
What is a SELPA?
The Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) in California serve as a liaison between the Department of Education and the local school districts (or local educational agencies - LEAs).
In 1977, all school districts and county school offices were mandated to form consortiums in geographical regions of sufficient size and scope to provide for all special education service needs of children residing within the region boundaries.
There are currently 122 SELPAs in California. Each region, a SELPA, developed a "local plan" describing how it would provide special education services. The governance structure of each SELPA is outlined within its local Plan.
What is a CAC? Why is it important?
CACs are required under the California Education Code as a public accountability measure for budget and service planning for the local Districts' special education programs supported by the State's SELPAs.
Funds from the State for each District in San Mateo County flow through the SMC SELPA. The SELPA Governing Board, consisting of representative Superintendents from the County's Districts, approve the SELPA's Budget and Plan annually.
The CAC serves in an advisory capacity to the SELPA Governing Board in regard to development of the Special Education Budget and Plan for the entire County.
The Ed Codes sets forth that "[t]he community advisory committee shall have the authority and fulfill the responsibilities that are defined for it in the local plan. The responsibilities shall include, but need not be limited to, all the following: (a) Advising the policy and administrative entity of the special education local plan area regarding the development, amendment, and review of the local plan. The entity shall review and consider comments from the community advisory committee; (b) Recommending annual priorities to be addressed by the plan; (c) Assisting in parent education and in recruiting parents and other volunteers who may contribute to the implementation of the plan; (d) Encouraging community involvement in the development and review of the local plan; (e) Supporting activities on behalf of individuals with exceptional needs; (f) Assisting in parent awareness of the importance of regular school attendance; (g) Supporting community involvement in the parent advisory committee established pursuant to Section 52063 to encourage the inclusion of parents of individuals with exceptional needs to the extent these pupils also fall within one or more of the definitions in Section 42238.01. California Education Code, Section 56194.
The SMC SELPA refers to its CAC as the Resource Parent Council ("RPC"), but it remains subject to the requirements of a CAC under the Education Code and its own Plan.
Who can serve on the CAC?
Each School District (LEA) that is a constituent of the SELPA appoints members of its own community to serve on the SMC SELPA's CAC. These individuals are "responsible to . . . the governing board of each participating district or county office, or any combination thereof participating in the local plan. Appointment shall be in accordance with a locally determined selection procedure that is described in the local plan. . . . Such procedure shall provide that terms of appointment are for at least two years and are annually staggered to ensure that no more than one half of the membership serves the first year of the term in any one year." California Education Code, Section 56191.
The SMC SELPA's Plan (Rev. 2014) states that "[t]he Community Advisory Committee shall consist of members appointed by the LEA Governing Boards, including the County Board of Education. The appointments from each agency may include parents of students enrolled in general education, parents of students with disabilities enrolled in public or private schools, pupils or adults with disabilities, LEA personnel, including teachers, representatives of other public agencies, or other persons concerned with the needs of children with disabilities. All relevant public agencies will be invited to send a representative to serve on the Community Advisory Committee. Members appointed to represent an LEA are to be appointed by the governing board of the LEA. All parent members of the committee must reside within the geographic area of the Special Education Local Plan Area. Membership shall terminate for a member who is absent from three consecutive regular meetings without the member contacting the SELPA. A member may resign by filing a written resignation with the chairperson of the Community Advisory Committee and their LEA Board." See pp. 28-29.
How Quickly Can Appointments be made?
If your School District's Board of Trustees has not yet appointed members to the SMC SELPA for this school year (or in the recent past), it is not too late to request that this be put on an upcoming agenda so that appointees can be in place before the first CAC meeting of the 2019-20 school year, which is scheduled on October 16, 2019.
On April 19, 2018, following a request from snkids.org for a prompt appointment of stakeholders to the SMC SELPA's CAC (which had its final 2017-18 CAC meeting scheduled within a couple of weeks thereof), the San Mateo-Foster City School District's Board of Trustees appointed five (5) parents to the CAC, including: Steve Davis, Jenny McPherson, Melissa LaRue, Maggie Chen and Lisa Warren. These appointments were made within two weeks of the initial request.
The San Mateo-Foster City School District had not made such an appointment to serve on the CAC in the past 10 years. Since this issue was not addressed in 2019, it is timely again, but the Board's willingness to make prompt appointments in 2018, once they realized this requirement, is commendable.
Feel free to contact me or ask your District's Board of Trustees or Superintendent for more information.
If there is not enough time for a District to make appointments to the CAC before the October 22nd meeting, or if you're not interested in being officially appointed, you can still attend these public meetings to learn more about special education in San Mateo County.
Hope to see you there!
In 1994, I earned my dual major in Elementary Education & Psychology from Russell Sage College in Troy, New York. I returned home to San Francisco and began looking for a teaching position.
I began as a long-term substitute in Kindergarten for Mrs. Louise Anderson at Skyline Elementary School in the South San Francisco Unified School District while she was on maternity leave in the Fall of 1994, and I was then hired to teach kindergarten for the remainder of the 1994-1995 school year, for the following year and then I transitioned into teaching First Grade. I was "Miss Doerrie" and I was honored to teach some amazing students and to work with some dedicated colleagues for 4 years.
Even after I began law school in 1998, I stayed in touch with my colleagues and the families of my students, and now I am in contact with many of my students who are now my cherished millennials... they are teachers, they are counselors, and more! I could not be more proud of them. They taught me so much when I was in my mid-20's, they enabled me to be a better mom, an active PTA member, a volunteer teacher (even now) & a school board member who truly understood the love & joy, as well as the stress and anguish, that can accompany teaching.
Thank you to my students, my teacher colleagues and the many teachers I have encountered through my life for the impressions you left on my heart. You are amazing, brilliant, patient, and my guiding light each day, including in the journey I am on now to be elected to the San Mateo County Board of Education with the goal of making a difference in the education of students throughout San Mateo County!
My name is Chelsea Bonini. Beginning in 1994, I became involved in education in San Mateo County. First, as a teacher in South San Francisco at Skyline Elementary School, and then as a parent and also a School Board Trustee in the San Mateo-Foster City School District. I currently serve on the Personnel Commission for the San Mateo County Office of Education, as well as on the Commission on Disabilities for the County of San Mateo.
These experiences frame my knowledge of the systems, governance and the work of educating students in San Mateo County.
Why am I sharing this?
I am passionate about education and ensuring that kids have what they need to succeed and that they are respected in their endeavors. And as a former teacher, I am also very protective and respectful of teachers in the important and difficult work that they do.
I am building this site and starting this blog because I have realized a need for a "primer" of sorts - a quick reference - about how education is structured in our County, who the decision makers are, what they are responsible for, how Districts and the County Office of Education provide education, how funding in Districts varies and why, how special education works, what changes at the state level mean for us locally, how our local landscape of communities (cities and school districts) is unique, how entities engage and interact to help ensure that our most valuable community resource, our schools, effectively prepare our kids to become leaders, professionals, business owners, service providers and active community members.
Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, additional perspectives and facts, and other thoughts on how we "do" education in our wonderful and diverse County.
In 1994, I earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree with a double major in Elementary Education & Psychology from Russell Sage College in Troy, New York. I was in multiple practicum placements in Grades 1-5 in urban, suburban and rural schools during all of my classes, and I did my final Student Teacher placements in First and 4th Grade Classrooms in both a rural setting (near the border of New York State and Vermont) and in an urban setting (in the City of Troy, New York) in my final year of study. At this time in teacher education and training, it was the era of "whole language" reading instruction.
When I got my first position teaching kindergarten and then first grade at Skyline Elementary School in the South San Francisco Unified School District, I was thrilled -- and my immense training served my students well. We studied science and social studies themes, we created class books, we studied authors, and my classroom was infused with art and discussions that branched from subject to subject. My students are now what we fondly refer to as "millennials" and they were spectacular. The ones that I know now, as adults, are thriving with families, advanced degrees and are engaged in important work in the community -- many of them in educationally related jobs!
Teaching was a joy, but it was also one of the most difficult jobs I have ever had in my life. It was exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Teachers who are enthusiastic foster that same enthusiasm in their students, but in order to maintain energy and passion for this profession, teachers must be respected for the work that they do, and they must be allowed to express their creative freedom in teaching, inspiring and engaging students in the learning process.
By 1997-1998 when the "Standards" were being introduced in California, I was on my way to law school, as my analytic nature got the better of me. These new standards were very different, they were skills based (not theme based), they were test based (not experience based). From my perception and input from my teacher colleagues, they appeared to move everyone up a Grade -- the play-based kindergarten model turned into what had formerly been first grade (reading instruction, not just reading readiness) and so on and so forth for each subsequent grade level. My colleagues were horrified (especially the long-time kinder teachers), but they adapted... and so did the kids.
I was away from classrooms from 1998-2009, at which time my first son entered kindergarten in the San Mateo-Foster City School District. By this time, the Standards were in full force, kindergarteners were expected to read by year's end... rather than the end of first grade goal in place during my tenure as a teacher. This did not appear to be developmentally appropriate for some kids, but others came in reading, as parents were working with kids outside of school to "prepare" them, knowing this was the intended curriculum. My son did learn to read by the end of kindergarten, which I found impressive.
By 2011-2012, we learned of the introduction of the new Common Core Standards, which were going to be adopted by the State of California. These Common Core Standards espoused the use of deductive skills, reasoning and inquiry on real life topics, and they came with a focus on more non-fiction texts, rather than the typical fiction "stories," and there was a surge of the Standards-based, small, leveled books that were coded by letters and numbers for relative reading skill (which brought back memories of my own leveled reading books in the late 70's and early 80's as an elementary student myself... long before whole language). These Common Core Standards seemed to include the "basics" of phonics and leveled readers, with a concurrent desire to study "themes" and explore real topics (which reminded me of the thematic and cross-curricular tenets of the whole language era). I was intrigued.
So much so, that in 2013, I decided run for the San Mateo-Foster City School Board. I thought that my background in teaching (and especially my understanding of Whole Language - and what I saw as a relationship to the "new" Common Core) as well as my work practicing as an attorney and my love of policy and contracts law, would be a good set of skills and experience for a school board member to have. I served in this capacity from 2013-2017. During this time, I had the pleasure of visiting schools, classrooms and conferences -- and meeting teachers, staff and administrators who were passionate about their work. Many of them reminded me of my myself as a new teacher and an observer of the systems once I had moved to another profession and entered it again as a parent and PTA leader.
As I reflect on the past 30 years, my honest feeling is that, while standards will come and go, and hopefully will evolve for the better for our kids, teachers are asked to change with the tides of pedagogy, to learn new tactics, to incorporate new curriculum... but in the end, we must support their passion and love of their profession. We must make sure that they have the support to take care of themselves, to fine tune their practice of teaching their beloved students, and to maintain their energy to ensure that all kids are inspired to inquire, learn and grow. Everything that Districts do to ensure high academic achievement of kids must be accomplished by passionate and engaged teachers, so teachers must be a primary focus for all Districts when it comes to improving student learning and achievement.
A History of Addressing Equity in the San Mateo-Foster City School District
(Excerpts from a letter to the SMFCSD Board of Trustees, dated 9.13.18)
by Chelsea Bonini
What is Equity?
Equity exists when all students are provided with the opportunity to achieve at their highest potential, no matter which District school they attend or their personal attributes, as evidenced by a measurable data showing parity in learning and outcomes, across school sites and demographic groups.
Historical Segregation of Housing & Schools
History chronicles nationwide racial and social class segregation that persisted because of prejudices, racial policies of government agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration, the real estate industry, biased home loans, widespread exclusionary zoning ordinances and laws and court decisions, as early as the 1896 Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation laws for public facilities as long as the segregated facilities were equal in quality – a doctrine that came to be known as "separate but equal.”1
Racial and social class segregation in housing developments, and therefore in schools, was entrenched well before 1954 when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation in public education was unconstitutional, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited legal segregation, and when the Civil Rights Act of 1968 defined housing discrimination as the “refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of his race, color, religion, or national origin.”
Demographic Inequities in Education
We know that certain demographic groups (ethnic minorities, girls, the poor and kids with disabilities) have historically been denied equitable opportunities and parity in learning and education, and have been subject to inequitable opportunities to reach their full potential.
Unfortunately, just as in other social justice and equity-related contexts, even with new laws, policies and shifts in cultural responses, the impacts of past discrimination can persist. It may be that it is entrenched in systems, it may be a result of bias or a rationalized fear of the unknown, or we may simply fail to recognize the continuing impact, despite clear proclamations of protections, inclusion and opportunity for all.
Addressing Equity and Integration in San Mateo Schools
The discussion of equity and integration in our District began many years ago, at least as early as 1967, but likely even earlier. Your predecessor Trustees have, in many instances, fought to implement protections and opportunities, and just as you are raising this issue again today, we owe them a debt of gratitude for their courageous advocacy.
In 1967, Sue Lempert was a Board Trustee in the San Mateo Elementary School District. I have spoken with her and have heard her account of her Board’s decision to “integrate the schools.” At that time, the focus was on bringing minority students from North Central San Mateo to other schools in San Mateo by bus in an effort to racially integrate students. To my knowledge, bussing was initiated in 1967.
Development of Equity-based Policies for San Mateo Schools
On September 17, 1968, the San Mateo Elementary School Board of Trustees approved Board Policy 5020 (attached)2, entitled Integrated Pupil Learning Experience, to acknowledge the existing racial and social segregation and the degree to which it was affecting “the educational opportunities for maximum development of individual potential.” It was also noted in the subtext of the Policy that “the problem [was] one of long standing [, and that] [a]ll efforts on the part of the Board and its administrative officers must be done as promptly and judiciously as [was] consistent with educational soundness and financial feasibility.”
Board Policy 5020 was either immediately preceded or followed by the District’s “Voluntary Desegregation Plan” (actual date of Approval unknown, but a copy that I was given is attached, with annotations) and Board Policy 0110 (attached), entitled Cultural Pluralism (approved on February 4, 1975), which focuses on the appreciation of diversity, as well as the Board’s policies regarding Intra-District Transfers and Inter-District Transfer Requests.
Each of the aforementioned Policies was referenced in the Board Resolution No. 20/09-10(approved on April 15, 2010), (attached), which relied upon these Policies for implementation and approval of a revised Magnet Schools Plan, and was prepared in anticipation of potential magnet school funding from the Federal Government, which did not materialize at that time.
Further, each of these policies was part of the then-current Board’s direction concerning perceived inequity in our District and movement toward remedying it, and each one (no doubt) was hard fought and required a high degree of courage by the Board Members to make the decision to proceed at that time.
A 21st Century Vision for Equity
In 2011, when Dr. Cyndy Simms was hired as the new Superintendent of the SMFCSD, I was just starting a 4-year tenure on the PTA Board, and equity became part of our general District discussions.
Dr. Simms visited each PTA and shared her personal story and hopes for the District in her introductory meetings that Fall, and she referenced and prominently posted Dr. Richard Kahlenberg’s3 Article entitled, “From All Walks of Life: New Hope for School Integration” on her Superintendent’s webpage, which remained there for the duration of her tenure with the District.
Soon thereafter, Dr. Simms initiated the Philanthropy Committee and they pursued a discussion of equity and attempted to arrive at some solutions to address the inequity components identified among all of our schools.
The Philanthropy Committee did not reach consensus on any new or modified policy and nothing concrete was recommended to the Board of Trustees, but they did provide annual reports to the Board through 2015 (a sample report is attached from May 2015, entitled “Annual Report on the Strategic Plan and Equity Reassessment”), which focused on components of inequity at our schools including: (1) fundraising capacity; (2) PTA funded classroom aides, (3) access to music, (4) volunteer hours, (5) access to technology, (6) physical education and wellness programming, and (7) access to art. Not surprisingly, the lack of these factors was highly correlated with high percentages of socioeconomically disadvantaged students at our schools, just as we have seen the trend to be for low academic performance & high SED%.
The Philanthropy Committee met from 2012-2015 and defined “Equity” as follows: “The San Mateo-Foster City School District sets and meets baseline expectations for all students and provides equal access to maximum opportunities for each student to reach his/her potential with the support and engagement of our community.”
A Focus on Socio-Economic Balance
In the summer of 2013, the then-current Board studied and adopted new Board Policy 0411(attached), entitled Magnet Schools (Approved on September 5, 2013). The Policy set forth the purposes and evaluative criteria for continued funding of the District’s Magnet Schools. One Purpose of the Policy was to “reduce socio-economic imbalance within the District,” with a paired Evaluative Criteria of having a “socio-economic profile [that] is similar to that of the San Mateo-Foster City School District [on average].” (See attached)4
As I anticipated coming onto the Board in 2013, and then did so in December, equity was being discussed in 2 ways in regard to the Measure P Facilities Bond – (a) equity was raised in regard to benefits to SM vs. FC under the proposed measure and (b) equity was addressed in terms of Foster City having notably better schools than San Mateo, as measured by STAR test scores and API indexing year over year (thus, a perceived inequity in opportunity and outcomes for students based upon school attended). As you know, Measure P did not pass.
Discussions of Equity During and After Measure P
The Post-Measure P “Next Steps Committee” was launched in 2014, and equity was added to the scope of their review. They were to include consideration of equity in the context of Measure P and how it might impact a future bond measure addressing capacity in our District.
The Next Steps Committee and also the then-current Board of Trustees were presented with historical information, policies, and the impacts of “School Choice and School Desegregation” by San Mateo County Counsel, Tim Fox on May 15, 2014 (Attached for your reference) since the District’s current socioeconomic imbalance came up in the context of the Next Steps Committee’s discussions of use of existing facilities for programs, possible shifting of magnet schools, and the fact that a perception of not having any “choice” varied for families, depending upon their socioeconomic level.
It was also determined that until a new school could be built in Foster City, there was no opportunity to engage in socioeconomic balancing between San Mateo and Foster City, as Foster City’s schools were all at capacity, so that was to be a discussion for another day.
Two Magnet Schools Drop in Percentage of SED Students
Equity and a desire for increased socioeconomic balance also arose during discussions of theMontessori Task Force, which was assembled in 2014 to address the growth and sustainability of the Montessori Program, following the Board’s decision to transition Parkside to a single-theme of STEAM in 2014.5
Equity and socioeconomic balance arose as issues in these discussions because both College Park and North Shoreview had seen significant drops in their percentages of socioeconomically disadvantaged students in recent years, and leaders at these schools were expressing a desire for and appreciation of having a more diverse group of students from different backgrounds in attendance on their campuses.
In 2016-17, College Park’s percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged students dropped to the lowest of all San Mateo campuses, at 7%, following a steady decline from 17% in 2013-14. It is notable that in 2016-17, College Park was also the highest academically performing elementary school in San Mateo. See the attached charts evidencing our schools’ inverse correlation of high academic achievement to low percentages of socioeconomic disadvantage, and the reverse.
Rising SED at Park School
As a historical note, when College Park completed its transition to being a true magnet program, without a neighborhood, in 2009, this had a detrimental impact on the socioeconomic balance at San Mateo Park. The children from the North Central San Mateo neighborhood, many of whom were English language learners, were re-assigned to attend San Mateo Park, unless they sought a transfer to go to their (former) neighborhood school at College Park.
Over the last 9 years, San Mateo Park struggled with the influx of socioeconomically disadvantaged students with higher academic need. The number of neighborhood families attending San Mateo Park from its direct neighborhood (West of El Camino) dwindled to 2 and then 1, and maybe even now zero families.
Equity Study Session
In the Spring of 2015, following Dr. Simm’s announcement of retirement, and with Dr. Joan Rosas’ pending arrival, Karen McCormick, a parent from San Mateo Park School requested an equity/achievement Agenda Item. She and Alexandra Gillen had been fixtures at our Board Meetings from 2013-2015. They presented data at each meeting about the many students at San Mateo Park that were not achieving at grade level and the equity issues that were disproportionately impacting their school – certainly since the College Park transition in 2009.6
They were begging the Board to address the equity issue, to give direction to meet the academic needs of students who needed more support - to provide parity in learning opportunities for all students.
Dr. Simms was departing shortly, so she placed this item on the June 8, 2015 Agenda as “Socio Economically Disadvantaged Needs” (attached). The Agenda item referenced the Magnet School Policy and called for the setting of a Study Session in the near future (if the Board desired to do so) “to review, discuss, define, and enact policies that result in children from low income families . . . achieving parity in learning with children of mid and high income families [measured by standard testing, including Smarter Balanced Assessments and Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)].” The Agenda item made specific reference to the “balance/imbalance of socio-economically disadvantaged students throughout the District’s schools [being] part of the [ongoing] work” of the District.
Upon Dr. Rosas arrival, Board members renewed the request for a consensus of the Board to agree to a hold a Study Session on the equity and academic achievement disparity issue, as requested by Karen McCormick and outlined by Dr. Simms in the June 8, 2015 agenda item. The Board agreed to hold the Study Session.
I provided an outline of issues for the Study Session (see attached) to Dr. Rosas, and worked with her to set expectations for the information that would be useful for the Board to have in order to engage in a fruitful discussion.
The Study Session was held on April 14, 2016. The Board was presented with a series of “Pie Charts” showing, school-by-school “% Standard Met and Above” in ELA and Math on the 2015 CAASPP (Attached). We were paired with District Staff to discuss in the public setting in a “turn and talk” format. The numbers were dismal for schools that we knew had higher levels of socio- economically disadvantaged students.
Possibly a result of the limited information presented, there was very little discussion by the Board, and in the end, only minor direction to staff, including a request for presentation of more data as it may become available and a request for further conversation about the magnet schools and whether they are meeting the stated purposes and evaluative criteria.
So, unfortunately, the long-awaited Equity Study Session resulted in no real direction or movement toward equity, socio-economic balance or parity in achievement levels.
The concept of “Controlled Choice,” including potentially capping percentages of socioeconomically disadvantaged student permitted to enroll at school sites to alleviate segregation, was raised in a later discussion, but based upon recent demographic reports indicating trending gentrification in San Mateo and the anticipated new school site in Foster City, the Board did not have consensus to carry the discussion forward at that time.
Addressing Equity in our Middle School Math Pathways
In May of 2016 our Board had a follow-up conversation in regard to potential inequities in math course placement and acceleration in the Math Pathways, which had been approved by the Board in the prior school year. Many students in our middle schools were citing lack of challenging material, perceived inappropriate placements, denial of placement into compacted and advanced courses, with no opportunity to de-track once set on a “path.” And even more troubling was that the course enrollment data revealed a lack of a diverse array of students, including virtually no ELL and SED students enrolled in the compacted or advanced courses, exposing likely inequitable placement practices, opportunities and outcomes.
The Board gave direction to develop a policy for broader testing in 5th grade (in an attempt to capture more students in demographics that were under-represented in the compacted/ advanced classes), for appeals to be permitted to review potential mis-placements, for teacher and student input and grades to be used as factors for placement (rather than the strict test- based numerical qualification). Much of this was implemented by the summer of 2016 and in the following year, resulting in the offering of compacted and advanced math courses to a broader array of students in the 2016-17 school year. This is something the current Board would be well-advised to keep in their sight in regard to continuing and new equitable opportunities.
1 I highly recommend Richard Rothstein’s book The Color of Law (2017) to each of you, as it has many facts about de jure segregation in our region, which I feel every public official in the Bay Area should know about, if they do not already.
2 Note that when the District’s Policies were reviewed and then approved in their entirety on June 5, 2014, this Policy was not included. I followed up on this when I realized this in 2016, but to my knowledge it has not yet been addressed.
3 I highly recommend Dr. Richard Kahlenberg’s book The Future of School Integration – Socioeconomic Diversity as an Education Reform Strategy (2012) to each of you.
4 Magnet School Study Sessions were held to review the Magnet Schools’ consistency with the Purposes and Evaluative Criteria set forth in BP 0411 in the Spring of 2014 and 2015.
5 On January 8, 2015, the Board approved the Montessori One plan to have North Shoreview and Parkside house two campuses of Montessori under “one” program, with the transition of the K-5 STEAM program to a portion of the Bayside STEM Academy campus.
6 See attached Board Statement and Charts presented at multiple meetings during 2013-2015 by Karen McCormick and Alexandra Gillen.