Local educators weigh in on state’s historic ethnic studies guide for high schools – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Local educators on Friday weighed in the state Board of Education’s approval of guidelines to help local high schools develop or enhance ethnic studies courses, classes that researchers say can improve graduation and college-going rates among all students — and especially teens of color.

From the Vacaville Unified board president to area superintendents to ethnic studies teachers, they say there is a need to offer students, increasingly racially diverse in numbers, instruction about other cultures, knowledge that can be life-changing for all.

In their responses to Reporter questions, the local educators more or less reflected what state schools chief Tony Thurmond said Thursday after the state board voted unanimously on the model curriculum guidance. This ended years of often divisive debate over ethnic studies in California’s K-12 schools and how to show the histories, struggles, and contributions of Asians, Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians — and the racism and marginalization they have experienced in the United States — to millions of students.

Source: Local educators weigh in on state’s historic ethnic studies guide for high schools – The Reporter

$240,000 in Grants to Address Education Inequities – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today announced that the California Department of Education (CDE) has selected 12 recipients of mini grants, totaling more than $240,000, that will fund local efforts across the state to address equity and opportunity gaps through supporting educator and student needs in distance learning, in-person instruction, and hybrid models.

Since the applications were announced in December 2020 as part of CDE’s ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s continued impact on students, more than 400 schools and districts across California applied for the grants, which are funded by contributions from philanthropic partners. The funds must be used to advance equity and close opportunity and access gaps. The grantees are given discretion to decide how they will address the topic of equity. The list of grantees is at the end of this press release.

Source: $240,000 in Grants to Address Education Inequities – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

Rapid COVID Testing to Facilitate School Reopening – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosted a statewide webinar today with health experts and educators that addressed the use of rapid COVID-19 testing as a tool to safely resume in-person learning on school campuses.

“I strongly believe that while we wait for a full vaccine roll-out, we also need to be moving toward a strategy for the deployment of rapid COVID testing that is cost-effective for schools,” Thurmond said. “This is one tool in our tool box—but an important one. Rapid COVID testing is a game-changer. With mounting data that students are suffering from mental health issues and learning disruptions, rapid testing is a real help for districts looking for ways to get students safely back into classrooms.”

During the presentation, Thurmond shared how the use of BinaxNOW COVID-19 Cards, which provide test results in 15 minutes at a cost of $5 per test, will be used at the California Department of Education’s (CDE) three State Special Schools to safely return students to in-person instruction.

Source: Rapid COVID Testing to Facilitate School Reopening – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

Response to Legislative Deal on School Reopening – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today issued the following statement in response to a legislative deal announced by Governor Gavin Newsom and lawmakers that is designed to help more schools open classrooms for in-person learning:

“There is no question that students learn best when they are together with their peers and educators in a physically and emotionally safe school environment. Our schools need every resource possible to implement the layered safety measures that will facilitate a safe return to in-person learning for students, school staff, teachers, and their families.

“I want to thank Governor Gavin Newsom and our leaders in the Legislature for crafting a proposal that will provide our school districts and educators additional resources to help resume safe in-person learning and invest in expanded learning and academic interventions to help students accelerate learning and recover from the impacts of this pandemic.

Source: Response to Legislative Deal on School Reopening – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

State ed board wants flexibility on fed school assessments amid pandemic – The Reporter

After comments by state schools chief Tony Thurmond earlier this week, the State Board of Education voted Wednesday to seek relief from certain federal testing, accountability, and reporting requirements and directed staff to explore other ways to size up student learning progress amid the ongoing pandemic.

The board’s decision is in response to federal guidance released Monday that allows states to ask for latitude to account for the impact of the pandemic on schools. Unlike last year, the U.S. Department of Education will not invite states to apply for blanket waivers that would allow states to opt out of annual testing altogether, citing the role testing data plays in supporting students.

Source: State ed board wants flexibility on fed school assessments amid pandemic – The Reporter

CDE chief Thurmond to feds: Standardized testing results ‘too narrow’ to help educators amid pandemic – Times-Herald

State schools chief Tony Thurmond on Tuesday quite plainly expressed his disapproval of the latest guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on administering statewide standardized tests in the COVID-19 era.

In a statement issued by the California Department of Education, he called the tests “imperfect measures at best and often provide snapshots of student performance that are far too narrow to help educators in any given year, let alone during a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic.”

“Most years, the results of statewide testing simply reflect the deep and systemic inequities that have placed generations of students at a historic, ongoing academic disadvantage,” he added.

Source: CDE chief Thurmond to feds: Standardized testing results ‘too narrow’ to help educators amid pandemic – Times-Herald

Grading Guidance for Progress in Distance Learning – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced today the release of guidelines that address grading student progress and the ongoing issue of equity in distance and hybrid learning environments. Resources that support local control are included in the new guidance, allowing schools to make the best decisions for their respective student populations.

“As the majority of California’s public schools continue to respond to distance learning needs, we should reflect on how student progress is measured and consider how to shift to more equitable grading systems and policies, whether the instructional setting is in-person, virtual, or hybrid,” Thurmond said. “This is an opportunity to make a significant change.”

The new guidance includes research-based approaches to grading that may be especially helpful if students are not in class and access to technology and learning supports may be unequal. These include replacing grading quantities, such as the extent to which students have completed assignments, with grading qualities in student work that reflect students’ current achievement level at the time, and using flexibility in timing the collection of evidence for grading decisions so students are graded on the learning they do, not when they do it.

Source: Grading Guidance for Progress in Distance Learning – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

2021 U.S. Senate Youth Program Students Announced – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today announced two outstanding high school students to represent California in the 59th annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP), sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

Jamaal Willis of Barstow (San Bernardino County), a senior at Barstow High School in the Barstow Unified School District, and Sathvik Nori of Atherton (San Mateo County), a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School in the Sequoia Union High School District, were selected for their exceptional leadership skills, remarkable commitment to their schools and communities, and scholastic achievement as California’s delegates in this highly competitive program.

“I could not be prouder to recognize these students for this honor. These young scholars will represent our state on a national stage, and I’m confident they will one day rise to leadership positions that help advance the dreams, aspirations, and ambitions of Californians for years to come,” Thurmond said. “I am impressed and inspired by their strong leadership and passion. From advocating for racial equity and civil rights to working on mental health awareness and increasing civic engagement among their peers, these students desire to empower the disadvantaged and improve the lives of others, which fills me with great optimism for our future.”

Source: 2021 U.S. Senate Youth Program Students Announced – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

Thurmond’s Statement on Governor’s Proposed Budget – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today issued the following statement in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed education budget for the fiscal year 2021–22:“

At a time when a global pandemic has created extraordinary challenges for our students, families, and educators, the weeks and months ahead represent the most important moment for public education in a lifetime. The investments we choose must help our schools urgently and immediately recover from this crisis and accelerate learning for the students and families hardest hit by a global pandemic that has deepened historic inequities. Our priorities should not only help our schools emerge safely from the impacts of COVID-19, but should immediately double down on our efforts to level the playing field for a generation of students.

“I want to thank Governor Gavin Newsom for proposing a budget that—until our educators, school employees and communities are vaccinated—addresses main areas of need as public schools consider how to safely resume in-person instruction. Today’s budget proposal also represents a strong start at tackling the growing access and learning gaps experienced most severely among our students of color, low-income households, children with disabilities, and students learning English.

Source: Thurmond’s Statement on Governor’s Proposed Budget – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)

Mini Grants to Address Equity Now Available – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today announced that California school districts and charter schools can now begin applying for mini grants to address equity and opportunity gaps in student learning.

Announced earlier this month as part of its ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s continued impact on students, the California Department of Education (CDE) will award grants of up to $20,000 each to schools, districts, and charter schools that can demonstrate how they will address equity and opportunity gaps by utilizing the funds to target educators’ or students’ needs in distance learning, in-person instruction, or hybrid models.

The application process and criteria were emailed to all county and district superintendents and charter school administrators in California earlier today, and the deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Friday, January 8, 2021. The grants have been funded through a $200,000 contribution from the Stuart Foundation External link opens in new window or tab..

Source: Mini Grants to Address Equity Now Available – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

2019-20 High School Graduation and Dropout Rates – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

The California Department of Education (CDE) today released high school graduation data that showed rates remained largely steady overall in 2019–20—and some of the state’s highest-need students saw increases—during a school year in which the majority of California’s schools abruptly shifted to distance learning midway through their spring semesters due to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

“The COVID-19 crisis upended the senior years of hundreds of thousands of high school students throughout California, and I am proud of the resilience of these young adults and of the educators who went above and beyond to help keep them on track to graduate,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

Among all students statewide who started high school in 2016, 84.3 percent graduated with their peers, compared to the 84.5 percent from the year before. Rates for many student groups remained level year-to-year, though some experienced decreases (Asian, Filipino, White) while others, including some of the state’s highest-need students, saw increases (American Indian or Alaska Native, English Learners, Foster Youth, Students with Disabilities). (See Table 1).

Source: 2019-20 High School Graduation and Dropout Rates – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

New Grants and Training to Address Learning Gaps – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced Tuesday that the California Department of Education (CDE) is launching additional virtual educator trainings and mini-grants designed to accelerate ongoing efforts to address equity gaps, strengthen distance learning, and support students’ social emotional wellness during the pandemic.

The latest professional development webinars and the new grant opportunities are the latest efforts to build on the CDE’s training, guidance, and direct assistance provided to schools and educators throughout the months-long pandemic.

“Like all educators, I am concerned about the pandemic’s continued impact on our students, especially those students already pushed to the margins by historic and systemic inequities that have existed for generations and created persistent barriers to educational opportunity,” Thurmond said. “We know that until we eradicate the COVID-19 virus, some forms of remote learning will remain necessary in the weeks and months ahead for our schools to continue safe teaching and learning. That means we must continue putting resources into supporting our educators who are going above and beyond to engage all students.”

Source: New Grants and Training to Address Learning Gaps – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

Master Plan for Early Learning and Care – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond issued the following statement in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s release of the Master Plan for Early Learning and Care: California for All Kids External link opens in new window or tab., a roadmap for building a more equitable, comprehensive early learning and care system in California.

“We know that bold investments early in a child’s life can pay remarkable returns throughout their education and their careers. We applaud the recommendations outlined today that we know can level the playing field and make all the difference for children, such as providing universal preschool and ending disproportionate suspensions for students of color in early care.

Source: Master Plan for Early Learning and Care – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

FSUSD breaks ground for $6M performing arts building at Oakbrook Academy – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

The value of the arts, which supports creative and critical thinking skills so highly prized in a 21st-century economy, is getting more than symbolic due in Fairfield-Suisun Unified.

The district, the county’s largest with some 22,000 students across 30 campuses, recently broke ground on a $6 million performing arts building at Oakbrook Academy of the Arts in Fairfield. When completed in August, the structure is projected to enhance the TK-8 school’s mission of commingling core academic subjects with a wide array of arts offerings, from the visual arts and dance to music and theater.

The news comes 11 months after state schools chief Tony Thurmond cited the Oakbrook Drive school for its “exemplary arts education,” one of 13 California schools that demonstrated a high level of arts education programs and practices as it transformed into an arts academy. The academy also was a 2020 recipient of the distinguished California School Boards Association Golden Bell Award, given to creative programs and meet the needs of a diverse population of students.

Source: FSUSD breaks ground for $6M performing arts building at Oakbrook Academy – The Reporter

2020 Classified School Employees of the Year – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today honored six outstanding classified school employees for their dedication to California’s public-school students. He also nominated one of the six for the inaugural Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award, a national honor which will be announced by the U.S. Department of Education in spring 2021.

“This has been an extremely difficult year, and meeting students’ basic needs as well as their social and emotional needs has been more important than ever,” said Thurmond. “Thankfully our classified employees have made heroic efforts to step up and support California’s students so they can continue to learn. These dedicated employees make sure that kids have healthy meals, safe transportation on school buses, and have someone to talk to during difficult and unexpected changes—helping them stay safe and supported in their lives and in their education.”

Source: 2020 Classified School Employees of the Year – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

New Multilingual Education Publication Announced – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced today the release of the new California Department of California (CDE) publication, Improving Education for Multilingual and English Learner Students: Research to Practice. The publication is designed to support local educational agencies (LEAs) to implement the English Learner Roadmap Policy in schools and improve instruction for both English learners and other students learning multiple languages.

“This publication will serve as a valuable resource for teachers, administrators, and other educators who serve California’s 2.5 million multilingual and English learner students,” said Thurmond. “It highlights research-based practices implemented by districts and schools, grounded in the English Learner Roadmap principles. This book is a needed resource for continuing to improve the education of the diverse student population we serve.”

Source: New Multilingual Education Publication Announced – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

New Attendance Data to Address Chronic Absenteeism – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced today that the California Department of Education (CDE) has released, for the first time, statewide absenteeism data that provides information about the types of reasons students are absent. The “absenteeism by reason” (AR) reports available on the CDE Dataquest website offer an extensive statewide view of absenteeism numbers that can assist local educational agencies (LEAs) in their efforts to develop targeted attendance intervention strategies and support.

“Knowing why students are missing school is a crucial step in helping them stay in school,” said Thurmond. “These data add an extra layer of transparency to existing absenteeism information and a level of detail that school districts can utilize as they evaluate the effectiveness of existing attendance plans and compare absenteeism rates with other districts. It also creates an opportunity for school attendance staff throughout the state to collaborate and share best practices on methods to improve attendance, identifying specific actions that can help students and their families overcome attendance barriers.”

Source: New Attendance Data to Address Chronic Absenteeism – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

2021 CA Teachers of the Year Announced – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today named five exceptional educators as the 2021 California Teachers of the Year. These educators are ambassadors for the profession and serve as representatives of the state for the calendar year. Thurmond, who began his career as a social worker, said he is thrilled to honor five outstanding and talented teachers who go above and beyond to educate, inspire, and empower students, families, and communities.

“In a year that might be the most challenging in all of our lives, these five inspiring teachers have made profound differences in the lives of their students and communities,” he said. “I’m proud that these educators are receiving this prestigious honor for their continued effort to rise above the challenges and connect with students even during unimaginable circumstances.”

Presented by California Casualty and supported by the California Teachers of the Year Foundation, the California Teachers of the Year Program began in 1972 to honor outstanding teachers and encourage and inspire new teachers to enter the profession.

Source: 2021 CA Teachers of the Year Announced – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

COVID-19 Guidance in the Child Nutrition Programs – Nutrition (CA Dept of Education)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued nationwide federal waivers and approved state specific requests intended to provide temporary flexibilities to certain regulatory requirements of the Child Nutrition Programs (CNP). The CNPs referenced are the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Seamless Summer Option (SSO), School Food Service Program (SFSP), and the Child and Adult Food Program (CACFP). The California Department of Education (CDE) is assisting Program Operators of the CNP by posting policy guidance and waivers, providing information on how to operate the programs during the pandemic, directions on how to claim for reimbursement and COVID-19 funding, providing bi-monthly Townhall webinars for questions and answers and best practices, connecting program operators with resources, answering Frequently Answered Questions (FAQ), and providing contact information for additional assistance. The CDE is striving to continue to support and protect access to nutritious meals for children and adults in California.

Source: COVID-19 Guidance in the Child Nutrition Programs – Nutrition (CA Dept of Education)

Tools for Teachers – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond today announced the availability of Tools for Teachers External link opens in new window or tab. from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. This easy-to-use website features lessons and strategies to support instruction, save teachers time in developing quality lessons, and help prepare students for college or career success.

“No one is working harder than our teachers right now. They are learning new technologies, engaging in educator trainings, and putting in the work to reach our students,” Thurmond said. “The more tools we can provide our teachers, the better. I am pleased the California Department of Education can fund access to this resource for all local educational agencies with no cost to the teachers themselves.”

The Tools for Teachers website focuses on the formative assessment process External link opens in new window or tab., which helps teachers identify where students are in their learning, where they are heading, and how they will reach their learning goals. All of the website’s resources include recommended teaching strategies that support diverse learners and can be modified by teachers to meet instructional needs during in-person or distance learning.

Source: Tools for Teachers – Year 2020 (CA Dept of Education)