OCDE receives $15 million to partner with UCLA center to continue work aimed at improving school climate statewide

The state Department of Education has awarded an additional $15 million to a partnership led by the Orange County Department of Education to further expand California MTSS, which aims to better support the academic, behavioral and social needs of students statewide.

The funding will allow OCDE, working jointly with the Butte County Office of Education (BCOE), to partner with UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools to expand the state’s Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) framework to develop evidence-based tools and training for educators and school systems. This work will include expanding restorative justice, bullying prevention and positive behavior interventions, as well as minimizing the use of emergency interventions.

teachers works with student at during classroom lessonOCDE and the Butte County Office of Education in consultation with the executive director of the State Board of Education, Karen Stapf Walters, selected UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools to develop and identify existing resources, professional development activities and other efforts currently available at the state, federal and local levels, designed to help agencies create positive school climates.

OCDE, BCOE and the Center for the Transformation of Schools will collaborate to create a pilot program to assist local education agencies to promote positive school climates by improving pupil-teacher relationships, increasing pupil engagement and promoting alternative discipline practices.

In April 2016, the California Department of Education awarded OCDE with an initial $10 million in funding, authorizing it to serve as the lead agency to support districts in California as they scale up their MTSS frameworks. The following August, the governor’s budget allocated an additional $20 million to support the scope of work, which includes establishing tiers of trainers.

“MTSS is of critical importance in schools because it clearly enhances students’ academic, behavioral, social and emotional skills,” said Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County Superintendent of Schools. “The state of California has invested $45 million to assure that schools are providing this support for all students, and UCLA’s Center for Transformation of Schools will add another invaluable layer of expertise to this initiative. It will help us reach our goal of creating a culture of collaboration and unanimity among stakeholders.”

Dr. Pedro A. Noguera, founder of the Center for the Transformation of Schools, said a primary focus for the pilot program will be to help move schools away from traditional approaches to school discipline, particularly across race, class, language and cultural differences.

“This initiative is important for connecting the goal of reducing school suspensions to the effort of improving academic achievement,” Noguera said. “It is important for schools to see the connection between discipline and student learning, and to understand that all efforts to improve school discipline must be based on efforts to deepen academic engagement.”

He added that CA MTSS represents an ambitious effort to make California a national leader in positive discipline approaches.