Giving Compass' Take:

• Carl Cohn explains how the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence is working to build a system of support for California schools, beginning with issues including prison education and special education. 

• How can funders help this effort succeed? How can other states learn from and emulate this program? 

• Learn about California's prison education system

Earlier this year, a representative of a California advocacy and civil-rights organization asked me if the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, the new state agency that I head, has a “genuine sense of urgency” about its work in getting the right kind of help and assistance to districts, charters and county offices of education.

I told him that the very first meeting that we had in the very first district that we agreed to take on was at Ironwood State Prison, which is located within the boundaries of the Palo Verde Unified School District in the city of Blythe on the California-Arizona border.

As part of the state’s landmark reforms of its accountability system to give local districts greater decision-making authority over how they spend state funds — and hence over educational strategies in their districts — my agency has been charged with developing a new approach to assist school districts to improve, emphasizing support for improvements rather than punishing them for failure.

We will take the lead in coordinating the work of a new Special Education Collective that will pull together existing California Department of Education and other state resources. In addition, we will partner with existing models of exemplary practice in this area at El Dorado, Orange, Butte, Napa, Sacramento and Santa Clara counties.

Read the full article about California schools by Carl Cohn at EdSource.