Earlier this summer, parents and community members took action by sending a message to Governor Newsom and California state legislators to tell them to support providing quality education to all students this fall. 

Shortly after they took action, the Legislature and Governor reached an agreement (Senate Bill 98) that established certain requirements for school districts in California. 

The good news: several of the items in our letter made their way into that agreement, and, overall, the agreement calls on school districts to provide quality instruction to all students in the fall. Specifically: 

  • Districts must implement a plan for distance learning that will “ensure pupils have access to a full curriculum of substantially similar quality regardless of the method of delivery.” It must include:
    • A description of how districts will  ensure every student is equipped with a computer and internet access, take daily attendance, and have some form of live interaction with students every day.
    • An explanation of how staff will receive training, resources, and technical support.
    • Extra academic support for those who have had the most difficulty adjusting to distance learning, including English learners, students with special needs,  and students experiencing homelessness. For students with special needs, districts must ensure IEPs (including instruction and services) can continue via distance learning, and IEPs must include a description of how services will continue under “emergency conditions” when in-person interaction is not possible.
  • Districts must explain how they will implement distance learning in a new report they must write, present at two public hearings, and adopt by Sept. 30. This report is called the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan. As they form this plan, districts are required to reach out to parents to ask, among other issues, what distance learning should look like.
  • Districts must plan to take action to help students who have experienced significant learning loss due to school closures. They must specifically address the needs of English learners, low-income students, foster youth, students with special needs, and students experiencing homelessness. They must also say how they’ll measure the effectiveness of what they are doing. (Additionally, Gov. Gavin Newsom has provided $4.5 billion from the federal CARES Act to address student learning loss. The money must be spent by Dec. 31).
  • Districts must plan efforts to monitor and support students’ mental health and social and emotional well-being to address the effects of the pandemic.
  • Districts must implement strategies for connecting with parents (and this must be made available in multiple languages). This effort must kick in when students fail to participate online for three or more days in a week.
  • Districts must conduct summative assessments of English proficiency for English learners by October 30, 2020. Results will be used for reclassifying students from English learner to English proficient. 
  • Districts must comply with everything required in the agreement in order to receive state funding. 

We are proud that this action had a positive effect on the requirements created by the state! Unfortunately, though, our work is far from done.

The not-so-good news: the agreement lacks specifics in some areas, and does not meet our full list of demands. Specifically:

  • The agreement does not explicitly require districts to provide one device per child, nor does it mention parent training for technology use. Some, but not all, districts have committed to providing one device per child.
  • The agreement is vague about teaching requirements.
    • Schools are required to provide a minimum number of  “instructional minutes” per grade (for most grades, the requirement is at least three hours per day). The agreement suggests that these should be via direct live instruction, but if that is “‘not feasible” alternative plans are allowed. 
      • For the 2020–21 school year, the minimum instructional minutes are as follows:
        • Kindergarten: 3 hours
        • Grades 1-3: 3 hours and 50 minutes
        • Grades 4-12: 4 hours
        • For students in 11th and 12th grade enrolled in for-credit classes part-time at a UC/CSU: 3 hours 
        • Continuation high school students: 3 hours
    • Some sort of daily interaction between teachers and students is required, but there is no clear minimum or explanation of what this means. And, if districts can demonstrate that “daily live interaction” is not “feasible,” it seems they can opt out of live interaction and satisfy this requirement with something else, including a homework assignment. 
  • The agreement is vague on support for families as co-educators, vague on targeted outcomes, and doesn’t provide guidance to districts about how to assess where students are given learning loss.
  • Though the agreement requires districts to include plans for professional development for teachers regarding use of technology for distance learning, restorative justice and trauma of COVID 19, it does not provide specifics about the amount and type of professional development districts should provide or require.
  • The agreement does not explicitly require weekly wellness check-ins by the district for students, but leaves a lot of flexibility for the districts to determine what support and outreach to students will look like. In addition, the budget allocations for monitoring and supporting the mental health of staff and students seem vague and possibly unreliable.
  • The agreement is vague on how districts must communicate and collaborate with parents on an ongoing basis (including how often they must communicate with parents). 
  • The agreement is vague on what additional supports English learners will receive in a distance learning environment. 

As you have likely heard, most districts will be starting the school year with distance learning. It is likely this will continue for some time, so it is essential that districts implement strong distance learning plans. With the start of the school year fast-approaching, now is the time to let state legislators and local school board members know what you want and need to see happen for your kids this fall. The state has left a lot up to local officials, so this is a good time to take action at the local level. Continue to call and email your elected officials, attend school board meetings, and get involved in the development of your district’s Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan.

If you would like to join our efforts in San Francisco, Redwood City, East Palo Alto, San Jose, or Los Angeles, please reach out to smahan@innovateschools.org.


Senate Bill 98