Introduction: Purpose, Overview, and Methods

Purpose

This report offers a detailed account of how one California school district, Pomona Unified School District (PUSD), is using the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to drive more equitable and ambitious outcomes for every one of its students. This study focuses on the voices and the perspectives of multiple stakeholder groups, highlighting the complexity of both scale and stages of implementation of change in a midsized district.

There are several studies that have begun to look at both the impact of LCFF,1 the Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP),2 lessons learned from LCFF,3 and other important components. Our effort, leveraging the strengths of qualitative research, seeks to take a deeper dive into how school districts across California are responding to the LCFF opportunities. We do so by exploring stories, narratives, and the voices and experiences of those on the ground to deepen our understanding of how educational policy is interpreted, enacted, implemented, negotiated, contested, and ultimately experienced by people.

This case study is the result of multiple visits, interviews, observations, and analyses that occurred during the 2017–2018 school year in an urban district of more than 23,000 students located in Southern California. We seek to inform educators, practitioners, leaders, and policy makers, contributing to understanding of how educational policies along with their guiding principles and intended impact can be more successful.

Overview

In 2013, LCFF was signed into law, marking an important development in the fight for equity in educational funding. Departing from California’s long-standing method of resource allocation based on an equal per-pupil revenue, LCFF utilizes a weighted formula to allocate resources to districts. LCFF, in an effort to improve educational outcomes, complements base grant funding with supplemental grants and concentration grants that are based on the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch (i.e., low-income students), English Learners, and foster youth. Additionally, LCFF is designed to provide districts more flexibility and, consequently, possibilities to create transformational work. However, the complexity of implementing system-wide change has presented both challenges and opportunities for districts across the state. Currently, little is known about how LCFF has shifted practices and educational outcomes across the state.

This research is part of a larger set of case studies across the state highlighting the work of six districts, three from Northern California and three from Southern California, that have worked to improve outcomes for students through LCFF.

The goal of this study is to explore “In what ways has PUSD operationalized equity through LCFF? How have these strategies resulted in improved outcomes for students?”

To answer this question, this case study illustrates how PUSD, as part of a comprehensive strategy to bring about change, has leveraged Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and teacher-led professional learning as efforts towards more equitable and responsive schooling for students. Through the stories of stakeholders, we explore how these two initiatives showcase specific ways in which complex educational systems can translate initiatives into action. Additionally, through these two initiatives this case study captures some of the nuances of implementing educational change.

First, the case study begins with a background section, which describes the state of PUSD at the time LCFF was signed into law. This section will briefly outline some of the contradictions and complexities in trying to negotiate the intentions of the law (i.e., LCFF) and its implementation in a fiscally complex time. Additionally, the background includes different factors before LCFF that were outlined in a comprehensive strategy for change presented in the Promise of Excellence Plan.4 That plan was based on certain key principles like the alignment of resources based on student needs, trust and collaboration to drive continuous improvement, and PUSD’s evidence-based and data-driven decision making.

Second, the authors explore the implementation of PBIS, highlighting its history in PUSD and three key areas through which PBIS has contributed to a larger strategy for equity:

  1. the development of school leadership teams;
  2. a shift to educating the whole child; and
  3. PBIS, Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), and a broader strategy for equity.

Third, the study explores another key initiative tied to LCFF and PUSD’s commitment to equitable schooling, teacher-led professional learning.

Fourth, the case study concludes with some of the challenges PUSD continues to face along with a brief summary and final implications.

Methods

PUSD was identified by several professional organizations and agencies as a district we should consider for this study. District size and geography were taken into account in selecting PUSD, as one of a set of districts to highlight throughout the state.

The research team reviewed a variety of district-produced documents, including the district’s LCAP, its strategic plan, its budget, student outcome data, and a pre-visit survey completed by the district. The research team then conducted a two-day site visit to the district and school sites within PUSD. We interviewed more than 50 stakeholders, including students, teachers, principals, district officials, union representatives, school board trustees, and community members. The research team transcribed and analyzed all interviews and notes and produced an in-depth case study, focused on a particular set of themes related to positive student outcomes for PUSD.

Summary of interviewees:

Education StakeholdersTotals (n=53)
Students10
Principals/Site Administrators8
Labor Partners2
Central Office Staff12
Parents10
Teachers11

References

  1. Humphrey, D. C., Koppich, J. E., Lavadenz, M., Marsh, J. A., O’Day, J., Plank, D. N., Stokes, L., & Hall, M. (2017). Paving the way to equity and coherence? The local control funding formula in year 3. Stanford, CA: The Local Control Funding Formula Research Collaborative.
  2. Olsen, L., Armas, E., Lavadenz, M. (2017). A Review of Year 2 LCAPS: A Weak Response to English Learners. Californians Together, The Center for Equity for English Learners, Loyola Marymount University.
  3. Koppich, J. E., Humphrey, D. C. (2018). The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF): What Have We Learned After Four Years of Implementation? Policy Analysis for California Education.
  4. Pomona Unified School District (2015). The strategic plan: A promise of excellence 2015–2020. Pomona, CA: Author.