Celebrating the Release of the California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy

Blueprint for Environmental Literacy

Today, on September 15, 2015, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is unveiling a blueprint to strengthen the environmental literacy of California’s K-12 students. GPG is extremely proud to have supported this work for the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDEF) from June 2014-May 2015.

The California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy is the result of a statewide task force that met during 2014 and was composed of a wide variety of stakeholders including K-12 classroom teachers; school and district administrators; science, environmental, and outdoor educators; higher education faculty; and educational leaders from government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Superintendent Torlakson convened the task force to develop recommendations for how resources for environmental literacy should best be improved, expanded, coordinated, and integrated with new academic standards, and how these efforts should be financially supported.

Given the urgent need to address climate change, California’s drought, and other environmental problems, the time is ripe to put more energy, thought, and resources towards educating all California students about the environment.

There were several unique aspects to this effort. The task force included numerous staff from the California Department of Education (CDE), who attended all task force meetings and collaborated closely with task force members throughout the duration of the project. This collaboration sets California’s effort apart from similar efforts in other states. In addition, the task force occurred during a pivotal moment in California public education, with the adoption of new state standards that change how students are taught and the implementation of a new system of school financing that increases local control and flexibility over how dollars are spent. These sweeping changes, among others, provide important foundations for many of the recommendations in the Blueprint.

The Blueprint lays out a vision for integrating environmental literacy instruction with all other academic subjects, including social-science instruction and new California standards for English, math, and science; environmental literacy should no longer be a standalone topic, but rather a hands-on and compelling lens through which students can learn other subjects and be critically engaged in important issues in their community and the broader world. In addition, the report argues that all students must have access to the many kinds of experiences that build environmental literacy, including in the classroom, on school grounds, on field trips, and in the outdoors.

GPG was deeply involved in facilitating the work of the task force and developing the final blueprint. Between June 2014-May 2015 we:

  1. Planned, designed, and facilitated four in-person meetings of the task force;
  2. Facilitated six small task force work groups in developing content memos on specific topics such as access to different learning environments, professional learning, instructional materials, system integration, assessment, and sustainable funding;
  3. Designed and facilitated two listening sessions at major statewide conferences to gather input from other stakeholders;
  4. Facilitated several rounds of feedback with task force members and the CDE on the final report; worked to build consensus among members around key ideas; and incorporated feedback into Blueprint drafts; and
  5. Provided writing, research, and project management to develop the final California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy, which contains actionable, detailed, and comprehensive recommendations for building a statewide system that supports environmental literacy for all K-12 students.

For a digital copy of the California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy please visit: http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/sc/environliteracyblueprint.asp

For the CDE press release about the Blueprint, please visit: http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr15/yr15rel71.asp

GPG extends deep thanks to those who participated in or supported this project, including the highly dedicated task force members and co-chairs, staff from the CDE, and the funders that supported this project: the Pisces Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, and Ten Strands.

West County Health Centers Receives a New Access Point Grant

Mary Szecsey, Executive Director of West County Health Centers (WCHC), has announced the receipt of a U. S. Department of Health Services grant to provide comprehensive primary care, mental health services, dental care, and access to drug and alcohol treatment for homeless people living in the lower Russian River area. The area has no permanent homeless shelters and a significant homeless population. The new permanent health clinic in the Guerneville area will be co-located with a year-round, day-time drop-in center providing a range of phased-in services as well as a seasonal emergency shelter serving single adults eighteen years and older.

The grant will allow WCHC to improve access to primary medical care, mental health services, dental care, and substance abuse treatment, strengthen the coordination of care among homeless service providers in the area, and address complex clinical and social needs through focused clinical case management. WCHC will work collaboratively with neighboring health and social service agencies.

The total grant award is $717,977 for a 19-month program. The County of Sonoma supported the work of GPG in preparing the successful application.

CDE Releases A Blueprint for Great Schools: Version 2.0

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July 24, 2015 marked the official release of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s A Blueprint for Great Schools: Version 2.0 (Blueprint 2.0), a new plan to guide California education over the next four years. The plan is an update to Torlakson’s 2011 Blueprint that outlined a vision for transforming K-12 education in California.

In Spring 2015, the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation convened the Blueprint 2.0 Planning Team to develop recommendations for Superintendent Torlakson in five strategic priority areas: California Standards; Teaching and Leading Excellence; Student Success; Continuous Improvement and Accountability Systems; and Systems Change and Supports for Strategic Priorities. The team of 29 California education leaders and experts was co-chaired by Martha Infante, a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District; David Rattray, Senior Vice President of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; and Chris Steinhauser, Superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District. The planning process was highly successful, bringing together diverse stakeholders to identify shared priorities and develop recommendations for what the next four years should bring for California education.

The resulting Blueprint 2.0 highlights significant shifts in California K-12 education. One of these is California’s thoughtful strategy to transforming the education system, including the “sensible, gradual, and collaborative” approach to implementing the Common Core State Standards, which was highlighted in a recent New York Times article. This approach, dubbed The California Way, is gaining momentum in California. With diverse stakeholders coming together to collaborate around a common agenda for the next four years, the Blueprint 2.0 Planning Team is a part of this broader shift.

In addition, the report provides recommendations for realizing other significant changes underway in our state’s education system, including the transformation of California’s education accountability systems from the “‘test and judge’ methods of the past to the ‘support and improve’ approaches of the future.” One of Superintendent Torlakson’s first steps in implementing Blueprint 2.0 will be to launch an Advisory Task Force on Accountability to follow-up on recommendations related to remodeling the state’s accountability system.

GPG coordinated and facilitated the Blueprint 2.0 Planning Team, including two in-person meetings and several conference calls dedicated to deeper discussions on specific strategic priority areas. GPG also provided research, writing, and production support for the report.

Many thanks to the Packard Foundation for making this project possible. GPG is honored to have been part of this important work and excited to see what lies ahead for the state’s education system!

See what others are saying about the release of Blueprint 2.0:

San Francisco Chronicle
California Department of Education press release

Upcoming Changes at GPG

We are very excited to announce that our current President and Founder, Glen Price, has been named as Chief Deputy Superintendent of the California Department of Education (CDE) along with Michelle Zumot. You can read more about Superintendent Torlakson’s new leadership in the CDE News Release.

In July 2015 Glen will be resigning as President of GPG. This move will ensure that GPG can continue to support our clients without any conflict of interest. Glen has written a letter further explaining his transition which we have linked to below.

A new GPG leadership team has been put in place: Aaron Price will become President and Caitlin Lawrence-Toombs will become Vice President. Together, Aaron and Caitlin have over 10 years of experience working with GPG.

GPG will continue to uphold and build our strong commitment to realizing high quality outcomes for our clients and partners.

We look forward to continuing to support you. If you have any questions about this transition please do not hesitate to contact Aaron (aaron@glenpricegroup.com) or Caitlin (caitlin@glenpricegroup.com).

Please click here to read the letter from Glen.

Supporting Labor-Management Collaboration in California

“This symposium far exceeded my expectations. I now am more committed than ever to developing strong partnerships in my district to improve student achievement. Most importantly, I feel I have information to share with my unit members on ways to begin the journey moving forward, not wallowing in the past.”

The Glen Price Group is pleased to highlight the success of the recent California Labor-Management Initiative Symposium on May 8th and 9th in San Diego. Building on key recommendations from the Blueprint for Great Schools and Greatness by Design, (publications from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) 2011 Transition Advisory Team and 2012 Educator Excellence Task Force), SSPI Tom Torlakson and the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDEF) convened the CA Labor-Management Initiative (CA LMI) in 2013.

The CA LMI seeks to build a collective knowledge base for supporting local labor-management collaborations in California; build capacity and resources at the state, regional, and local levels to support local labor-management collaborations; facilitate learning and sharing of promising labor-management practices among local labor-management teams; and improve a wide range of educational outcomes. To advance the Initiative, CDEF convened a planning and steering committee, made up of representatives from partner organizations and members of the California education community with experience in labor-management collaboration.

Advancing the Labor-Management Initiative

As a major step towards advancing labor-management collaboration in California, SSPI Torlakson invited teams from California school districts to participate in the state’s first Labor-Management Symposium. The Symposium was co-sponsored by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), California Department of Education (CDE), California Federation of Teachers (CFT), California School Boards Association (CSBA), California School Employees Association (CSEA), California Teachers Association (CTA), and the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDEF).

Sponsors of the California Labor-Management Initiative Symposium

Sponsors of the California Labor-Management Initiative Symposium

The Glen Price Group worked with the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation to provide ongoing coordination support, facilitate ongoing planning efforts, and manage symposium registration, logistics, and management. The convening was designed to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Facilitate networking among district teams to foster inter-district learning;
  2. Highlight specific best practices, tools, and strategies used by district partners to build collaboration;
  3. Support collaborative learning and planning for district teams; and
  4. Provide a showcase for collaborative efforts.

Demand for this opportunity was high, with over 100 district teams having applied to attend the Symposium. Due to space and funding constraints, 50 district teams attended the event along with a number of representatives from the co-sponsoring organizations. Each district team was composed of the District Superintendent, a School Board member, the Teachers Union or Association President, and the Classified Employees Union or Association President.

California Labor-Management Initiative Symposium

Welcoming participants to the first ever California Labor Management Symposium at the Handlery Hotel in San Diego

Welcoming participants to the first ever California Labor-Management Symposium at the Handlery Hotel in San Diego

In an effort to reduce the amount of paper used for the Symposium, a mobile-friendly website was created for participants to use throughout the event. The website, www.cdefoundation.org/lmi/symp, contained the Symposium agenda, detailed information about all Symposium sessions, and links to live polls and a feedback form. Prior to the event participants were encouraged to respond to an online poll indicating what they were most looking forward to about the Symposium. Their responses generated the word cloud below.


Throughout the two days of the Symposium, participants attended plenary sessions, several small-group breakout sessions, a role-alike discussion group, and had unstructured time when they were encouraged to build relationships and spend time talking to their fellow district team members. One participant commented, “You had an impeccable use of time. This conference was incredibly well planned and executed.”

As is GPG’s standard practice, all Symposium participants were asked to complete an evaluation form to provide feedback on their experience and indicate interest in various types of potential additional CA LMI activities. Overall, participants indicated that they had a very positive experience. In initial evaluation results, 95% of participants indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed that the conference was useful and informative and 94% indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed that they would recommend future CA LMI events to their colleagues.

Building on the momentum of the Symposium, the CA LMI hopes to provide additional opportunities for district teams from around the state to participate in the initiative. The Glen Price Group is proud to continue to support this effort. For more information, please visit the CA LMI website, subscribe to the email list, and follow the initiative on Twitter and Facebook.

The GPG Labor-Management Symposium Team with SSPI Torlakson

The GPG Labor-Management Symposium Team with SSPI Torlakson

State Superintendent Torlakson Invites California District-Union Teams to Participate in a Labor-Management Symposium

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today invited school district-union teams from throughout California to participate in the first California Labor-Management Initiative Symposium (CA LMI), an event focused on improving students’ education through labor-management partnerships. The symposium will take place May 8-9 at the Handlery Hotel in San Diego.

Going Paperless in Big Meetings

Meetings comprise such an integral part of many of our work lives, and so often these meetings rely on paper agendas, resource documents, packets, forms, etc., not to mention large paper flip charts for taking notes on group discussions.

The Challenge(s)

The Glen Price Group (GPG) frequently designs and facilitates meetings with representatives from many different organizations – each with their own systems for electronic file storage and sharing. Some meeting participants arrive with a laptop, tablet, and smartphone all running Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and SugarSync; others bring a pencil and pad of paper. These meetings also frequently have remote participants dialing in by phone or joining through a webinar. So, how do we reduce or eliminate paper in these meetings without compromising (and maybe even improving!) participation, engagement, and efficiency?

The Experiment

anonymousanimlas2In January 2015, GPG facilitated a meeting for a group of David and Lucile Packard Foundation grantees with approximately 20 in-person participants and 20 remote participants joining via webinar. The design for this meeting included a number of key questions for all participants to respond to and discuss. To accommodate this, GPG created a set of Google Documents with one document for each key question or topic, and set the sharing settings for these documents so that anyone with the link could make edits in real time. In-person participants were requested to bring an Internet-connected device so they could access and edit Google Documents in real time while their virtual counterparts did the same remotely. GPG employed two strategies in advance of the meeting to support successful implementation and use of the Google Documents:

  1. Grounding the Meeting in Shared Knowledge: In order prepare participants to contribute to the key questions, GPG facilitated pre-meeting cross-sharing of organizations’ short- and long-term objectives, deliverables, and initial thinking around upcoming opportunities. This information was collected through a pre-meeting survey, which was then compiled and shared before the convening. This allowed the group to maximize their time together and begin contributing to the Google Documents and discussion immediately.
  2. Previewing the Technology: In advance of the meeting, GPG provided access to the Google Documents and instructions on how to view and edit them so participants could test the technology and join the meeting with some foundational knowledge on how to use this tool. These instructions were reviewed at the onset of the meeting and GPG provided support both online and in the room for participants that needed assistance in accessing and contributing to the Google Documents.

GPG staffed the meeting with three facilitators: two in person at the meeting venue, and one focused exclusively on supporting the participants joining by webinar. Two meeting sessions utilized the Google Documents:

  1. “Flip Chart” Switch: Participants were divided into three groups (two in-person and one on the webinar) to respond to two questions. For the first portion of this session, the in-person groups discussed question 1, noting ideas and key points in a Google Document for this question while the webinar group did the same with question 2. After approximately 20 minutes, the groups switched questions, reviewing and working from the existing notes in the Google Documents. During these group conversations, GPG facilitators took notes on the discussions while participants added or expanded upon existing notes from their own computers or tablets. The relevant Google Document was projected in the room (or broadcast through the webinar) in each group for participants who preferred to discuss and view the notes without editing them.
  2. Ideas and Hopes for the Future: All meeting participants were invited to simultaneously add their ideas and hopes for the future of their work to a Google Document. Watching the real-time, rapid generation of ideas and notes was pretty spectacular!

How Well Did it Work?

Overall the use of Google Documents to facilitate a paperless meeting worked well! We ended up with more notes and detailed, high-quality content than we would have with a more traditional meeting design. This approach allowed meeting participants to expand on or clarify notes in real time while the discussion progressed to other topics, leveraging participant knowledge more efficiently. It also provided a mechanism for participants to continue contributing rich ideas or points of clarification even after the meeting was over, which is not possible with the traditional use of flip charts. Participant feedback was largely very positive with comments including:

  • “Great use of technology.”
  • “This comes to mind as the best meeting using a blend of technology and in-person interaction I’ve experienced- very well done!”
  • “[What I liked best was] being able to use Google Docs to be able to contribute in real time while at a remote location”
  • “Great start on using mixed online and in-person meeting techniques together”
  • “Creative use of technology, Google docs, in-person and on-line.”

The Way Forward

For many meetings, especially those with in-person and remote participants, the use of collaborative web-based document editing may become more common. At GPG, we have created and started testing a simple meeting website (affectionately called “Meeto”) where Google Documents for real-time notes, background documents, meeting logistics, and any other pertinent information can be aggregated on a single website.

While this approach may not be appropriate for every meeting, it shows promise and is something that GPG will continue to test and refine.

Tom Torlakson Launches Second Term as State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Tom Torlakson launched his second term as State Superintendent of Public Instruction by announcing an ambitious Agenda for Excellence, highlighting the key initiatives the California Department of Education (CDE) will undertake during the next four years. Superintendent Torlakson seeks to continue striving to realize the mission he articulated in his first term with the goal of “providing a world-class education for all students from early childhood to adulthood.”

Believing that achieving excellence requires the execution of excellent plans, Torlakson has convened two important planning groups. The first, a group of statewide education leaders, will provide recommendations for refining and implementing the vision put forth in Torlakson’s first term plan, Blueprint for Great Schools. The Blueprint provided CDE with a direction and roadmap for change and supported the development and implementation of many far-reaching education change initiatives over the last four years including the Local Control Funding Formula, early education expansion, and increased career education. The Blueprint 2.0 Action Planning Team will be co-chaired by Chris Steinhauser, Superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District; David Rattray, Senior Vice President of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; and Martha Infante, Teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District.

The second group, Torlakson’s Second-Term Planning Team, will be chaired by Glen Price. The Glen Price Group (GPG) has supported comprehensive institutional development work within the CDE since 2011and Glen Price and the GPG team have worked collaboratively with several CDE departments to develop innovative plans and initiatives, including support for the development of the After School Division’s groundbreaking strategic plan. The Second-Term Planning Team will focus on recruiting talent for open leadership positions at CDE, support the Blueprint 2.0 Action Planning Team, and develop the next generation of CDE institutional strengthtening activities. Members of the team include Glen Price and current and former CDE staff including Becca Barrett, Craig Cheslog, Erin Gabel, Jennifer Peck, Jason Spencer, Rich Zeiger, and Michelle Zumot.

Torlakson believes that the best is yet to come for California’s students and their schools. The planning groups that he has appointed will work to ensure that California schools meet the needs of the 21st century economy and help students realize their dreams by becoming college and career ready.

California Communities Receive $64.1 Million for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships

On December 10, 2014, President Obama hosted the first ever White House Summit on Early Education, a convening of business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, elected officials and other stakeholders from across the country, kicking off a national campaign to build high-quality early childhood programs for children from birth to age 5. Prior to the summit, the departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced the recipients of $750 million in new grants for early learning programs.

Communities across California were awarded $64.1 million for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grants. These grants will allow new or existing Early Head Start programs to partner with local child care centers and family child care providers serving low-income infants and toddlers.

With the support of stakeholders that included the California Department of Education, First Five California, the California Head Start Association, the California State Head Start Collaboration Office, and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Glen Price Group assisted California applicants in preparing highly competitive applications for EHS-CCP grant funding. Support was offered in the following key areas: 1) Technical assistance and support to statewide applicants in the form of webinars and online resources that helped participants develop a compelling core for their applications; 2) Proposal development support to individual organizations seeking EHS-CC Partnership funding; and 3) Support for the CDE-Early Education and Support Division in the develop of a state of California application.

GPG worked with the CDE Early Education and Support Division to determine that the focus of the California application would be to enhance and expand quality infant and toddler services in rural counties experiencing significant shortages of high-quality early learning and care opportunities: Butte, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Mendocino, Sutter, Trinity, and Yuba. Although California has some of the largest cities in the United States, it also has extensive and vast areas of small rural communities. These Northern Counties are sparsely populated, but home to cherished family farms, small rural towns, and areas of beautiful wilderness. They are also home to some of our nation’s highest rates of unemployment, teen births, child abuse and neglect, and substance abuse issues. Access to basic services can be limited, as families have to travel longer distances to access food, gas, clothing, and medical care. California is strongly committed to providing high-quality early education and support programs throughout the state. This funding will address areas where need is the greatest. For additional information, see the press release issued by the CDE.

GPG’s work in supporting California’s applications for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships not only expanded access throughout the state, but also confirmed the value of collaboration by statewide stakeholders in responding to major funding opportunities. The model of public-private funding that enabled this work has great promise for future synergy and success.

California Submits its Federal Preschool Expansion Application

The California Department of Education, through a collaboration involving the Department’s Early Education and Support Division and Special Education Division, in partnership with First 5 California, submitted an application to the United States Department of Education for $140 million (approximately $35M per year for four years) to support development of high-quality, inclusive state preschool programs. This funding, if awarded, will support California to provide over 3,700 new and improved preschool spaces for children. Through this work, California seeks to build and support a culture and community of inclusion from the earliest point possible for children, especially children with disabilities. The Glen Price Group was happy to provide facilitation, research, writing, and production support for this work. To learn more about California’s exciting proposal see http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/ne/yr14/yr14rel105.asp