The Orange County Department of Education has developed a plan for the upcoming school year that aims to expand access to technology, increase college and career readiness opportunities and strengthen parental and community engagement.
OCDE’s Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, was unanimously approved by the Orange County Board of Education at its regular meeting on June 28. The plan outlines initiatives and programs the department will create and expand in coming years to help improve outcomes for the 6,485 students OCDE directly serves.
The LCAP is part of the new state education funding model, which, in exchange for granting greater control over how state funds are spent, requires districts and county offices of education to first reach out to parents, teachers, students and community members for their perspectives on student achievement and school improvement.
In an LCAP, school districts and county offices must itemize goals to meet academic objectives and other priorities for all students and for each student group, including students with disabilities, English learners, and those from low-income and minority groups.
“We always like to come back to the fact that underneath these numbers are individual students that are being served by these programs and whose lives are really being affected,” Jeff Hittenberger, OCDE’s chief academic officer, told the Board of Education.
OCDE’s LCAP for 2017-18 targets three overall goals. They are:
This includes continuing to upgrade and improve technology infrastructure to support 21st-century learning skills; providing additional computers and devices to continue to improve the student-to-device ratio; implementing additional programs and services targeting low-income students, foster youth and English learners; and increasing the number of student assignments that incorporate technology.
A major focus of this goal is to continue to expand the number of personal devices, such as Chromebooks and other handheld systems, that are available to students. OCDE has already made significant progress in this area, improving the device-to-student ratio in its community schools and day schools to 1:1 in 2016-17, compared to 1:6 in 2014-15.
In a survey, students reported that they used technology in the classroom 61 percent of the time in 2016-17, compared to 26 percent of the time in 2014-15.
Parent and stakeholder engagement and collaboration
These goals include expanding parent and student engagement opportunities to improve school climates; increasing the number of parent classes and events; expanding adult placement options for individuals who are severely disabled; and improving communication with students, parents and families via School Messenger, Aeries.net and other outreach systems.
The LCAP also proposes increased outreach through surveys of parents and community members to ask how well OCDE’s schools are doing in terms of providing a safe and clean school climate and learning environment.
College and career readiness
Under this goal, OCDE aims to provide more funds for four college and career readiness counselors; continue to hire tutors and English language development aides to assist students in mastering career and college preparation skills; purchase standards-aligned social science textbooks for grades 6-12; increase the number of students enrolled in college coursework; and provide expanded access to public transportation to increase attendance.
Previous efforts in this area have led to lower dropout rates and higher graduation figures, officials said.
The LCAP is part of OCDE’s $242.6 million spending plan for 2017-18, which was also approved unanimously on June 28.
Renee Hendrick, OCDE’s associate superintendent of administrative services, said the budget takes into account a projected deficit in coming years because of less state funding proposed for schools by lawmakers along with declining enrollment in student programs and a projected increase in pension and medical benefit obligations.
“We will continue to closely monitor the (state) budget and will be paying close attention to vacant and new positions and hope we can avoid reductions in force through attrition,” Hendrick said.
The governor has stated agencies should be cautious for future budgets since the state’s economy is slowing and officials anticipate growth will be slow or could decline by 2018, she said.