Building Cohesion Among Current Frameworks and Initiatives Statewide for Optimal Student Success – A Blog Series

Building Cohesion Among Current Frameworks and Initiatives Statewide for Optimal Student Success – A Blog Series

by

May 2024

Nancy Bailey, MPP, William S. Hart Union High School District

In the last decade, California has made significant investments in supporting student achievement at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. Research by the Learning Policy Institute has shown that sustained funding to school districts is directly linked to increased student success as evidenced in 2013 when California implemented the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). This resulted in improved findings across key metrics, ultimately increasing the likelihood of students’ finishing high school better prepared for college. While sustained funding initiatives are important, the need to learn from previous efforts in a way that allows for a consolidation of the myriad of ongoing initiatives and builds cohesion within institutions is equally important. The results of such efforts have the potential to transform educational structures and policies in support of students’ needs, particularly those belonging to marginalized groups.

Laura Lara-Brady, Ph.D., WestEd

A deeper exploration into secondary and postsecondary systems, reveals the potential of coordinating a diverse set of funding to transform systems and support academic success, particularly of marginalized populations. Within the K-12 system, California concurrently offers grants such as Perkins V, CTEIG, K12 Strong Workforce Program, the Golden State Pathways Program, and the College and Career Access Pathways Grant. Not only do these initiatives result in equivalent key efforts; they also require a large administrative burden to apply, coordinate, and meet reporting requirements. Additionally, many competitive research and outcome-based grants require the use of action research and data implementation, tasks that many school districts are not readily equipped to undertake. This kind of work requires schools to employ staff with advanced training in research methodology. Instead, administrators and teachers whose time would be better served by working directly with students, are tasked with piecing together these funding sources. 

Within the postsecondary sector, the community college system in particular has received funding in support of alternative instructional models within transfer level courses (AB705), closing equity gaps (Student Equity); and, more recently Vision 2030, which merges the 2017 Vision for Success and the 2022 Governor’s Road Map. Other intersegmental grants support the collaboration between systems by focusing on Dual Enrollment, and K16- Collaborative grants. While these initiatives provide much needed support to ameliorate decades of systemic oppression and create systems that help students thrive, many of these funding opportunities require additional coordination, measures, and reporting. By adding additional support and collective knowledge gained from previous efforts, it can create the cohesion and streamlined resources where they are needed most – in support of students’ academic achievement.

The increase in funding opportunities in educational systems in recent years, particularly in the community college system, has provided an opportunity to move beyond coordinating for requirements, metrics, and competing reporting timelines. We have an opportunity to develop programs and elevate an equity-based lens to build cohesive and aligned systems of support centered around students needs. At the most recent 2024 PACE Conference, Roneeta Guha presented a model to address the fragmentation and build coherence across K-12 systems. This model addresses four (4) elements of fragmentation: 

  1. Cultivate trusting relationships by engaging stakeholders and people closest to the solutions.
  2. Change behaviors at scale by connecting mindsets to behaviors and setting clear expectations.
  3. Provide equitable ways of thinking and working by understanding the root causes of inequalities.
  4. Prioritize needs and work to remove obstacles.

A model from the Center for Urban Education’s Student Equity Planning Institute (SEPI), takes this a step further and challenges community colleges to develop intentional and meaningful plans by centering race and leveraging the collective wisdom of researchers, faculty, administrators, and GP Regional Coordinators. These approaches have the potential to create real transformational change at a regional level, leveraging resources toward a common goal. 

Equally as important as establishing sustained funding is providing support to school leaders in aligning and harvesting learnings from the number of frameworks and initiatives they are currently navigating. For example, centering initiatives into larger statewide frameworks such as Guided Pathways and Vision 2030, can provide a more stable way to track and measure progress, increase collaboration, decrease duplication of work, break down silos, and leverage funding in support of students’ needs. Current models in both secondary and postsecondary systems that address this fragmentation center key initiatives towards systems change and racial equity to support student success. Addressing the fragmentation between the numerous frameworks and initiatives can help to alleviate administrative burdens and ultimately leverage resources to tackle systemic inequities in support of student achievement.

This blog post is part of a three-part series of blogs within the broader “Fellowship Insights” blog series. This blog series will explore the ways in which both secondary and postsecondary systems can harvest learnings from previous implementation/initiative efforts and leverage funding sources to build a system that promotes and ensures pathways for students to thrive, particularly marginalized students. To explore one of these initiatives in more detail, the next blog will explore career and technical education efforts and their alignment between K12 and post-secondary education.

This blog series was created as part of the California Education Policy Fellowship Program Fellowship (EPFP). CA EPFP is part of a national program that aims to explore and collaborate around complex challenges impacting our public education system. Its focus is to engage a diverse and collaborative community of strategic leaders to promote equitable education policy. The emphasis in California is placed on connecting people across four main sectors: K-12, postsecondary education, policy, and practice. The content of the sessions have been around understanding the policy process, identifying our strengths as leaders, and how policies can serve to unite and strengthen communities. Our fellowship will culminate with a trip to the annual Washington Policy Seminar, hosted by The Institute for Education Leadership in Washington D.C.