News Briefs | FYI
December 4, 2023
Portillo appointed as chief deputy superintendent
On Nov. 8, Nancy Portillo was appointed as Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction during the California State Board of Education meeting. Portillo will serve alongside Chief Deputy Mary Nicely as a co-chief deputy superintendent at the CDE.
Portillo began serving at the CDE in 2022 as deputy superintendent of the Student Achievement Branch overseeing the Student Achievement and Support Division and providing support to the Whole Child Division leadership. She has quickly established herself as an invaluable strategic advisor to Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and has proven to be an exceptional manager and critical thinker with a track record within the CDE of developing teams to solve complex issues. Portillo will supervise the deputy superintendents overseeing the Student Support Services Branch and the Instruction, Measurement & Administration Branch as well as the state literacy directors, the statewide teacher recruitment coordinator and the Superintendent’s Scheduling Office and field representatives.
Study: CA students lose 605,275 days to suspension
Students with the highest needs are also the ones pushed out of school most often, according to a recent analysis of out-of-school suspensions in California done by the UCLA Civil Rights Project and the National Center for Youth Law.
Released in October, “Lost Instruction Time in California Schools: The Disparate Harm from Post-Pandemic Punitive Suspensions” finds that in 2021-22, out-of-school suspensions (OSSs) caused students in the state of California to lose 605,275 days of instruction, which translates to a rate of 10.3 days per 100 students.
When looking at specific student groups, foster youth lose 77 days of instruction due to OSSs per 100 enrolled students — 7.5 times the rate for all students. Without considering race/ethnicity, homeless youth are the second-most-punished group, losing 26 days of instruction per 100 students.
“We find it disturbing that two high-needs groups — foster and homeless youth — had the highest rates of lost instruction,” the authors write. “The implications of prohibiting foster and homeless youth from attending school for disciplinary reasons are grave, as these children already have unstable homes and often have experienced trauma. One can assume that, when foster and homeless youth are denied permission to attend school, they are exposed to greater risks than their counterparts with more stable living conditions.”
When considering student race/ethnicity, the authors find that of all groups, African American youth are done the most harm — African American foster youth lose 121 days of instruction per 100 enrolled students, while African American homeless youth lose 69 days per 100 enrolled students.
“These rates of lost instruction were much higher than for White foster and homeless youth, although they too had very high rates, at 79 and 36 days lost per 100 students, respectively,” according to the report. “We encourage readers to take a closer look at the data from their own district, but warn them that the findings may shock their conscience.”
The report also contains district-level rates of suspensions, which the authors say can often contain greater disparities due to district-level policies. According to the report, 14 percent of California districts have what the authors deem “high” rates of suspension (20 or more days of lost instruction per 100 students). Data also show that nearly half of districts have high rates of suspension for students with disabilities.
To address the disparities highlighted throughout the report, the authors suggest investing in alternative behavior interventions, such as restorative practices, and teacher training that focuses on improving student engagement.
Download a copy of the full report at www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/school-discipline/lost-instruction-time-in-california-schools-the-disparate-harm-from-post-pandemic-punitive-suspensions.
Improved FAFSA will help more students receive Pell Grants
On Nov. 15, the U.S. Department of Education released new state-by-state data and details showing that the simplified, streamlined, and redesigned 2024–25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid form will help 610,000 new students from low-income backgrounds receive Federal Pell Grants. The new FAFSA form will also help 1.5 million more students receive the maximum Pell Grant — bringing the total number of students eligible for the maximum Pell Grant amount to more than 5.2 million.
The changes to the FAFSA form represent the most ambitious and significant redesign of the processes to apply for federal student aid and the formulas used to determine aid eligibility since the Common Financial Aid Form — the FAFSA form’s predecessor — was introduced in the Reagan era. The better FAFSA form will be available for students and parents by Dec. 31, 2023. Because the better FAFSA form is a major transition for students, families, schools and other partners, the Department looks forward to working with schools, states and college access organizations to support students and their families.
“When students and families fill out the better FAFSA form, they will find that applying for college financial aid is simpler, easier, and faster than ever before,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, in a news release.
This overhaul is critical as students and families often struggle to complete the FAFSA form, which may be unfamiliar and confusing. Even simple questions such as, “who is my parent for the FAFSA?” can be difficult to answer. That’s why the Department has embedded a new “Who’s My FAFSA Parent?” wizard to the form to reduce the burden of one of the most frequently asked FAFSA topics. Also new in the 2024–25 FAFSA form, applicants will be able to skip as many as 26 FAFSA questions, depending on their individual circumstances. Some applicants will have to answer as few as 18 questions on the form, down from 103 possible questions on the 2023–24 FAFSA form. This not only saves time and reduces anxiety for students and their families, it means more students will successfully complete the form.
In March 2023, the Department launched the Better FAFSA Better Future Roadmap to provide resources to help students, their families and the college access organizations that support them navigate the revamped FAFSA experience. Find more information at financialaidtoolkit.ed.gov/tk/announcement-detail.jsp?id=better-fafsa-better-future.
Model SARB applications are due Jan. 14
Applications are now being accepted for the 2023–24 Model School Attendance Review Board Recognition Program, which is sponsored by the CDE and the California Association of Supervisors of Child Welfare and Attendance. The application has been revised to prioritize and elevate multitiered attendance improvement programs at the district or county level that emphasize nonpunitive, comprehensive student and family support.
The Model SARBs will serve as coaches and mentors for developing SARB programs. The application is available on the CDE Model SARB Recognition Program web page, www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ai/sb/modelrecognition.asp and applications are due by 4 p.m. on January 12, 2024. Send any questions to Felicia Thomas-Hill, Education Programs Consultant, Whole Child Division, at cwa@cde.ca.gov.
Student film contest raises mental health awareness
The CDE is pleased to support the annual Directing Change Program and Film Contest, which is sponsored by the California Mental Health Services Authority. This statewide program invites California students from grades six through 12 to create 60-second films about suicide prevention, mental health and other health-related topics to support awareness, education and advocacy. Film submissions are due by Friday, March 1, 2024. For more information, visit directingchangeca.org, or contact Stan Collins, Directing Change program coordinator, at stan@suicideispreventable.org.
ACSA Virtual Networking Events coming in January During 2023-24, several of ACSA’s Committees and Councils will offer Virtual Networking Events where administrators will be able to join others similar in their job position or interest to network and learn. These meetings are open to ACSA members as well as non-members. Upcoming meetings include:
  • Business Services Budget Reaction Meeting, Jan. 16, 2024, 2-3 p.m.
  • Middle Grades, Jan. 16, 2024, 9:30-10:45 a.m.
  • Retirement, Jan. 18, 2024, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Secondary Education, Jan. 18, 2024, 9:30-10:45 a.m.
  • Career Technical Education, Jan. 23, 2024, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
  • Elementary Education, Jan. 30, 2024, 9:30-10:45 a.m.
Please visit www.acsa.org/committees-councils#tab4 for registration links and the most up-to-date information. Free on-demand dyslexia training available The California Dyslexia Initiative presents a free, statewide professional learning bundle for California educators offered in partnership with the Sacramento County Office of Education and Glean Education. This three-part online course covers the topics of understanding dyslexia and dysgraphia, intensifying instruction for struggling readers, and serving students with dyslexia for school psychologists. Participants have until Oct. 1, 2024, to complete the coursework. Visit https://courses.gleaneducation.com/bundles/CDI.
Submit proposals for CEL Institute by Dec. 11
The ACSA 2024 Classified Educational Leaders Institute Planning Committee is looking for presenters for the institute, to be held Feb. 21-23, at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. If you are interested, please fill out the form online at bit.ly/47flFe9. Proposals are due by 12 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11.
LEAs asked for feedback on school climate indicator
In January and March 2023, the California State Board of Education took a deep dive into the Priority 6: School Climate measure on the California School Dashboard. At the January meeting, the State Board of Education requested that additional work be undertaken to explore the possibility of implementing a small set of standardized survey questions that could be added to existing school climate surveys. To assist in this process, the State Board of Education is inviting LEAs to view a brief presentation followed by a short survey. This will take no longer than 15 minutes and feedback will help inform next steps. The recording is available at bit.ly/47xaHke. The survey is available at bit.ly/sbeschoolclimate. Input is requested no later than Dec. 8.
Deadline extended to apply for REACH Network grants
The REACH Network will work across California to reduce suspensions that disproportionately affect historically marginalized students in grades TK-12. Pre-K through 12th grade public school sites, including public charter schools, are eligible to apply to join the network. Grant awardees will receive up to $25,000 each and will be notified in January 2024. Grants will be distributed on July 1, 2024. Apply by Friday, Dec. 8 by visiting bit.ly/47I2Ccb.