Helping California Develop its Approach to Differentiated Assistance for Low Performing Schools

Data collected from state, county, and district leaders after the first year of implementation of the System of Support were overwhelmingly positive. i.e. Leaders across the system noted “collaboration, communication, and coordination among system actors as one of the most valuable aspects of the System of Support.”


Over the three iterations of California’s State ESSA Plan and corresponding guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, California has created a new accountability and support system. The California Comprehensive Center (Center) has provided support to California in the development, alignment, and coordination of the Statewide System of Support. Through the Center’s support, the state has operationalized statutory language by creating a collaborative, multi-level, cross-agency system that works to build the improvement capacity of counties, districts, and schools.

Technical Assistance Activities

The Center has provided wide-ranging support for the design and implementation of the System of Support, focused on building the capacity of system actors to support improvement. In addition, the Center has supported lead agencies to collect data on early implementation of the System of Support to spur continuous improvement. Specific areas of support include:

  • Co-convening and co-facilitating workgroups, ensuring the integration of stakeholder feedback into the development of the differentiated assistance structure and resources;
  • Co-facilitating ongoing planning group and stakeholder meetings to ensure the coordination of service offerings between various state, county, and local education agencies to support schools in identifying and addressing the root cause(s) of student underperformance and implementing continuous improvement processes;
  • Co-developing effective communication tools and strategies to support the evolving landscape of accountability and support;
  • Coaching for state leaders on effective facilitation of multiple stakeholder groups to coordinate input on the design and implementation of the System of Support, as well as technical assistance in aligning accountability and support policies and reporting structures with existing policy and reporting requirements;
  • Policy analysis and technical expertise on state and local resource allocation, strategic planning, accountability, and continuous improvement techniques to support improved student outcomes at the local level;
  • Collecting feedback data from county offices of education and local education agencies (LEAs), and other stakeholders, on early implementation of the System of Support to inform the ongoing improvement of the system.


The System of Support and the provision of differentiated assistance to eligible school districts based on student performance has fundamentally shifted the state’s approach to improvement, accountability, and support. The current approach builds capacity at the local and regional levels and allows for practitioners to own and cultivate their improvement efforts.

At the local level, implementation of the System of Support includes:

  • Adoption of a continuous improvement approach at the classroom, site, and district level to ensure that local actors become experts in their systems and address the root causes of student underperformance;
  • Development and use of continuous improvement tools and techniques to help build capacity at the county and LEA level;
  • Alignment of policies from the state to site level on issues of strategic resource allocation and goal-setting, reporting requirements, and accountability measures.