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 Differentiated Assistance Supports Districts in Need

Elipse-shaped graphics of state system in support and federal accountability​The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is supporting some local school districts through a new type of support called Differentiated Assistance (DA). 

Instead of prescribing the same set of changes to every district with areas of low performance, the new state system of support focuses on local control and decision-making. 

To support local district leaders in uncovering and addressing the challenges preventing all students from success, county offices of education are tasked with building capacity in local leaders. 

Nearly two dozen teams of people from the Learning and Leadership Services, Student Services and Programs, and Innovation divisions are working with 22 districts in DA to assist them through the process. The teams bring expertise in leadership skills; curriculum; continuous improvement; coaching; data and assessment; and supporting students with special needs, including those who are learning English, in foster care, experiencing homelessness, or having behavioral issues. 

“This is a new role for county offices of education,” explained SDCOE Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jeanette Chien. “In the past, we have provided fee-based services and learning opportunities. But now, our work is supported by the state, free to eligible districts, and can be a more holistic and customized experience for each district.” 

Through DA, SDCOE brings eligible districts together to look at their data, learn collectively, and implement action plans to improve student outcomes. One goal is to uncover the root cause of the low performance area. This means if the district is in DA for high suspension rates for students who are foster youth, the solution should not be to simply suspend fewer students in foster care. There should be a careful analysis of all data around suspensions with an investigation into student schedules and teacher training around suspensions.

The DA process, and the California system of support, is about making system changes that result in an education that is designed for every student to succeed, versus a quick fix.

Executive leadership coaches familiar with working directly with district leaders say this is an opportunity for district teams to implement plans and evaluate their efforts using the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). An LCAP is the district’s plan showing how funding will be used to address improving students outcomes. It includes stakeholder input and review. 

SDCOE supports are designed differently for districts in their first year of DA versus their second year. In 2019-20, charter schools will be included for eligibility. 

“Bringing our experts together to support districts as they examine their whole system of academic, social-emotional, and behavioral supports is one way SDCOE is continuing to build its own operational culture and increase communication to ultimately benefit students,” said County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold.