California Developing Evaluation Rubrics To Improve Educational Outcomes for Foster Youth
By Annie Lee
The development of new accountability measures tied to school funding in California presents a powerful opportunity to put the spotlight on the academic achievement and progress of students in foster care. The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) is helping to develop rubrics to ensure that school districts are doing all they can to support this long underserved student population.
Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is California’s landmark school funding formula passed in 2013 that increases school funding and directs more resources to the state’s highest-need students. Starting with the 2014-15 school year, school districts have been required to adopt written plans, known as Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP), describing how they will use LCFF funding to improve student outcomes in eight state priority areas.
As LCFF heads into its second year of implementation, the State Board of Education (SBE) is working to adopt evaluation rubrics. Though the LCFF statute originally required the SBE to adopt the rubrics by October 1, 2015, the California Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown recently extended the deadline by one year, to October 1, 2016. The rubrics provide an opportunity to hold school districts and county offices of education accountable for improving the educational outcomes of foster youth.
LCFF Evaluation Rubrics: Background
Under Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), the rubrics “shall reflect a holistic, multidimensional assessment of school district and individual school-site performance and shall include all the state priorities.” The state has set eight priority areas for school districts: basic services, implementation of Common Core State Standards, parent involvement, student achievement, student engagement, school climate, course access, and other pupil outcomes (county offices of education have two additional priorities: expelled youth and foster youth). The state must adopt standards for district and school-site performance and improvement in each of the state priorities.
Local Control Funding Formula identifies three entities, each of which uses the evaluation rubrics for different purposes.
First, a school district, county office of education, or charter school may use the evaluation rubrics to assess its strengths, weaknesses, and areas that require improvement. Members of the SBE have emphasized this particular purpose, and they have expressed a desire that the rubrics encourage growth rather than highlight failure.
Second, the county superintendent of schools may use the evaluation rubrics to identify school districts and charter schools in need of technical assistance. According to California Education Code Section 52071, the evaluation rubrics are one of three triggers for technical assistance from a county superintendent to a school district. If the evaluation rubrics indicate that a district failed to improve pupil achievement across more than one state priority for one or more LCFF student subgroup (including ethnic subgroups, low-income pupils, English learners, pupils with disabilities, and foster youth), then the county superintendent shall provide technical assistance. Technical assistance includes assigning an academic expert or team of experts to identify and implement effective programs, or requesting that the Superintendent of Public Instruction assign the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) to provide assistance to the district.
Third, the Superintendent of Public Instruction may use the evaluation rubrics to identify school districts in need of intervention. According to California Education Code Section 52072, the rubrics help establish the first of two necessary elements that trigger Superintendent intervention in a school district. First, intervention requires that the evaluation rubrics show a school district did not improve the outcomes for three or more pupil subgroups for more than one state or local priority in three out of four consecutive school years. For districts with fewer than three pupil subgroups, the trigger for intervention is a failure to improve outcomes for all the district’s subgroups for more than one state or local priority in three out of four consecutive school years. The second prerequisite for Superintendent intervention is that the CCEE provided advice and assistance to the district and submitted one of these two findings to the Superintendent: either that (1) the district failed (or is unable) to implement the CCEE recommendations, or (2) the district’s inadequate progress is so persistent or acute as to require intervention. 
Once the two elements for intervention are met (rubrics indicated shortcomings and CCEE findings), the Superintendent may, with approval from the SBE, intervene in the form of: making changes to the district’s LCAP; developing and imposing a budget revision that the Superintendent determines would allow the district to improve outcomes for all pupil subgroups; staying or rescinding an action that prevents the district from improving outcomes for pupil subgroups (provided the action is not required by a local collective bargaining agreement); or appointing an academic trustee.
LCFF Evaluation Rubrics and Foster Youth
The development of the LCFF evaluation rubrics presents a potent chance to highlight the academic achievement and progress of foster youth. NCYL has been actively involved in developing the rubrics to so that they become useful tools that enable school districts to assess and meet the needs of their foster youth populations.
NCYL has been working with and providing feedback to WestEd, the non-profit research and development agency tasked with rubric creation. Early iterations of the evaluation rubrics show a “data dashboard” with disaggregated data for foster youth on all eight state priorities (see below). Although the rubrics will likely change from this early version, the emphasis on disaggregated data for foster youth is critical. By highlighting foster youth educational outcomes, the rubrics provide useful information on how foster youth are performing in schools, and the rubrics can measure progress as districts try new actions and services to improve educational outcomes for students in care. Additionally, the rubrics allow districts and community members to see how foster youth are performing relative to other student groups, so we can work collectively to close the foster youth achievement gap.
The data that already exists on foster youth educational outcomes in California is bleak even when compared to English learners and low-income students: foster youth are more likely to test below basic on English language arts and math, more likely to drop out of school, and least likely to graduate from high school.
It is expected that the evaluation rubrics will also reveal these abysmal foster youth test scores and graduation rates. The early drafts of the rubrics revealed an emphasis on “lagging indicators”; metrics such as graduation rate and dropout rate that provide data confirming existing trends, but do not necessarily provide much information for deciding where to focus resources in order to reverse those trends. In contrast, looking at “leading indicators” provides information that allows districts to assess progress towards a goal. A June memorandum to the State Board of Education from SBE staff and WestEd summarizes several reports on leading indicators for secondary and post-secondary success. Since rubric development began, NCYL has been advocating for inclusion of leading indicators relevant to foster youth. For example, research shows that remaining in the same school through the middle school years is an indicator of secondary and postsecondary readiness, and school stability is especially important for foster youth, who change schools frequently due to placement changes. Other leading indicators, such as “overage/under-credited” and “attendance and suspensions,” are powerful leading indicators for foster youth who, as a group, often lose credits due to school changes and face disproportionate school discipline.
By highlighting foster youth outcomes based on leading and lagging indicators, the rubrics allow districts to direct targeted resources to improving outcomes for students in care. WestEd envisions that the rubrics will contain a toolkit with research-based best practices in the eight state priorities and for the various pupil subgroups. Such practice guides unique to foster youth will be particularly useful for districts as they evaluate the data from leading indicators and work to improve foster youth achievement in the eight state priority areas.
NCYL has been at the forefront of ensuring foster youth inclusion in LCFF and continues to work on LCFF implementation including the creation of these evaluation rubrics. NCYL has participated in numerous regional and policy input sessions held by WestEd. At these input sessions and through testimony before the SBE, NCYL has emphasized the need for foster youth-specific indicators in addition to the state-mandated indicators in Education Code Section 52060. These foster youth-specific indicators, such as percentage of foster youth who transferred schools within the district one or more times during a single school year, allow a district to analyze unique challenges facing foster youth.
Additionally, NCYL has advocated for inclusion of best practices for serving foster youth in the rubric’s toolkit and practice guide portion since districts will likely need support in serving their foster youth populations. Many of these best practices were piloted in NCYL’s FosterEd initiative. They include creating an individualized education plan based on a child’s strengths and needs and forming an education team, consisting of a child’s social worker, caregiver, teacher, and other key adults, who collectively support the child’s educational goals. Another best practice for improving foster youth educational outcomes is increasing the capacity of a child’s educational rights holder through training so that he/she can become a strong advocate for the child’s educational growth.
Given the one-year extension to the SBE in adopting the rubrics, NCYL will have additional opportunities to ensure the rubrics emphasize foster youth. According to the SBE July 2015 Agenda, the SBE, California Department of Education, and WestEd will develop evaluation rubric prototypes from July through September 2015, with the goal of presenting rubric recommendations and leading a discussion about standards and expectations for improvement at the September SBE meeting. Then, from September through December 2015, a representative sample of school districts will participate in a pilot test of select components of the evaluation rubrics (known as “User Acceptance Testing”). Feedback from User Acceptance Testing will be reported to the SBE at the November 2015 SBE meeting. The SBE hopes to see a final design of the rubrics at their January 2016 SBE meeting. Throughout the spring of 2016, WestEd will collect feedback from school districts, county offices of education, and community stakeholders on the final version of the evaluation rubrics. Ultimately, the SBE hopes to adopt the LCFF evaluation rubrics at their July 2016 meeting. NCYL will participate throughout this process to ensure foster youth are prominently featured in the new state accountability system.
The spirit of LCFF and the evaluation rubrics is progress, not punishment. Few areas in California education need more improvement than foster youth educational outcomes. With these evaluation rubrics, we are one step closer to ensuring students in foster care can thrive in school and enjoy an education that enables them to fulfill their dreams.
Annie Lee is a 2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Oracle Corporation and Bingham McCutchen. She is working in Alameda County, CA to improve foster youth educational outcomes by focusing on the implementation of California’s new Local Control Funding Formula’s foster education provisions.
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52064.5(a).
 AB 104 (Chapter 13, Statues of 2015).
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52064.5(b).
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52060(d).
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52064.5(c).
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52064.5(a)(1).
 SBE Meeting on 3/11/2015 and 5/7/2015.
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52064.5(a)(2).
 The other two triggers are (1) the country superintendent does not approve the school district’s LCAP or Annual Update and (2) the school district requests technical assistance. Cal. Educ. Code § 52071(a).
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52052(a)(2).
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52071(b).
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52071(a)(1)-(3).
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52064.5(a)(3).
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52072(b)(1).
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52072(b)(2)(A)-(B).
 Cal. Educ. Code § 52072(c)(1)-(4).
 Barrat, V.X. & Berliner, B. (2013). The Invisible Achievement Gap, Part One. The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd.
 Foley, E., Mishook, J., Thompson, J., Kubiak, M., Supovitz, J., Rhude-Faust, M. K. (2008) Beyond test scores: Leading indicators for education. Providence. Brown University, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, RI. See also Memorandum from Staff (WestEd, and State Board of Education) on Research to Inform the Development of Local Control Funding Formula Evaluation Rubrics to Members of the State Board of Education (June 24, 2015) (available at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/pn/im/documents/memo-sbe-jun15item01.doc).
 Memorandum from Staff (WestEd, and State Board of Education) on Research to Inform the Development of Local Control Funding Formula Evaluation Rubrics to Members of the State Board of Education (June 24, 2015) (available at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/pn/im/documents/memo-sbe-jun15item01.doc).
 Hein, V., Smerdon, B., & Samnolt, M. (2013). Predictors of Postsecondary Success. Washington D.C.: College and Career Readiness and Success Center at American Institutes for Research. See also Memorandum from Staff (WestEd, and State Board of Education) on Research to Inform the Development of Local Control Funding Formula Evaluation Rubrics to Members of the State Board of Education (June 24, 2015) (available at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/pn/im/documents/memo-sbe-jun15item01.doc).
 Supra note 20.
 Courtney, Mark E., Terao, Sherri, Bost, Noel (2004) Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth: Conditions of Youth Preparing to Leave State Care, Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, 42.
 WestEd, “Evaluation Rubrics Conceptual Example” (Jan. 21, 2015), available at: http://lcff.wested.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/EvalRubricsConceptOverviewJan2015.pdf
 State Board of Education, “Item 1: Attachment 4,” available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/yr15/documents/jul15item01.doc, 3.
 Id. at 3-4.
 Id. at 4
 Id. at 5.