This year marks the 10-year anniversary of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which was set in place in 2013 to direct more funds to districts with the most high-need students and to give local districts more flexibility in how to spend the money they receive.

As part of the LCFF, all districts are required to complete a Local Control and Accountability Plan or LCAP, a three-year, district-level plan, updated annually, which specifies how their expenditures are supporting high-needs students, including low-income students, English learners and foster children.

The LCAP is a state requirement, but it is also an incredibly useful tool for districts as they plan how to spend their funding in a way that promotes equity by focusing on the state’s highest-need students.

In our work with school districts in California and across the country, we have heard time and time again about the important role data plays in helping district leaders make informed decisions about what programs to fund. This also applies to the creation of LCAP plans.

We participated this year in a webinar “Reaching LCAP Goals: A Data-Driven Approach to Student Learning, Wellbeing and Attendance,” in which we discussed some of the LCAP requirements and we shared examples of how the right types of data can help California districts meet their LCAP goals to improve student learning, support the social and emotional wellbeing of students and reduce chronic absenteeism.

As we mark the 10-year anniversary of LCFF, we wanted to share some of those examples to help districts plan.

Three ways data can support LCAP plans

1) Providing student voice

The LCAP requires districts to engage with the community to obtain insight. This includes getting input from students. Giving students a chance to share their voice has many benefits. It empowers the students, and also helps the district better understand what students need, and determine whether the district is meeting those needs. Surveys are a great way to get students’ viewpoints and insights. Student surveys should be easy-to-administer, and researched-based. Surveys should also provide districts with student, classroom and grade-level data. Renaissance Fundamentals (formerly known as PASS) is a good example of a survey that meets these criteria.

  • Case in point: One California district identified a need for more social workers to provide Tier III services to students based on the data from their Renaissance Fundamentals student survey. Another school district realized, based on their student survey data, that students didn’t have positive feelings about school. Identifying these gaps helped these two districts plan solutions. For the first district, the answer was as simple as hiring more social workers. The second district, in order to improve students’ feelings about school, designed a day for teachers to “flaunt their passion.” On this day teachers do mini-lessons about things they enjoy. One does a class on knitting. One does a German workshop, etc. Students select what session they want to attend. It allows the students to see their teachers in a new light and builds stronger, more positive relationships. By surveying students, these districts were able to identify what the barriers to their success were and allocate resources and funding to programs that would fill those gaps.

2) Supporting specific student groups:

One of the required components of LCAP is to describe plans for improved services for foster youth, English learners and low-income students. Therefore, it’s important to be able to identify gaps for these specific groups of students. To do that, districts need data on the subgroup-level. Student surveys allow districts to drill down to up to six different subgroups including those required for LCAP.

  • Case in point: In one school district that serves a significant number of English language learners, data revealed that those students don’t see themselves in the curriculum. That kind of data can help inform a district’s plans when it's purchasing instructional materials and ultimately will help it better serve that group of students.

3) Identifying barriers to learning

LCAP is all about ensuring districts have strategies and are utilizing resources appropriately to support students. Universal student screeners can provide great data on everything from attendance to wellbeing. And data is power.

  • Cases in point:
    • Student “Amy” seems like she’s doing okay on the outside, but her survey data indicates some areas of concern. The data flagged her as having low confidence in her learning and as feeling unprepared. By identifying these trouble spots, the school can provide interventions to support her areas of need. For instance, one suggested strategy is for the teacher to set aside time in the first 10 days of school specifically to connect and work with Amy. The teacher spends two minutes a day one-on-one with her for 10 days in a row. Just that small amount of time can make a big difference in helping Amy feel more connected and confident.
    • Data shows trends where students are having low feelings about school. One thing we might recommend is having students design artwork as a way to help them engage. In one school, when students exhibit positive behavior, they are able to earn the opportunity to design a ceiling tile. This is really motivating and helps those students feel more connected to school.

In both of these cases, having the right data helps school districts:

  • Reveal the underlying reasons for academic struggles, challenging behavior, and poor attendance.
  • Identify students who are at-risk before they fall off track.
  • Save time and money by directing the right supports to the students who need them.

Simply put, having the right data allows districts to make better decisions about how to allocate their resources. They can spend more time putting the interventions in place, rather than guessing who might need it, which not only helps with LCAP planning, it also helps provide a better learning environment to support ALL students.

About the authors:

Jonathan Strout is a former school principal with 24 years of experience working in public education. Jodi Peters has extensive experience in EdTech. Both authors currently work for Renaissance Fundamentals (formerly known as PASS), Strout as an educational consultant and Peters as a sales manager.