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Frequently Asked Questions

Improving Teacher Quality - Partnerships and Eligibility

An LEA used to be designated as high need and now it is not. What happened?

The eligibility determination is made using the most current US Census data available at the time of the competition. If new US Census data has been made available, the data may have changed in such a way that the LEA is no longer considered eligible (even though it was in previous census years). Similarly, districts that did not qualify in previous years may become eligible. (Note: a partner LEA will remain eligible throughout the life of the grant if it qualified as high-need at the time the grant was awarded, even if updated Census data shows a rate of poverty below the threshold.)

Are private schools eligible to participate in partnerships?

Yes, both private Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) and teachers or principals in private K-12 schools may participate. Whether or not a private IHE participates, there must be two mandated IHE partners—a school or division that prepares teachers and principals, and a school of arts and sciences. Private K-12 school teachers and principals may also participate to the extent that the partner LEA uses funds to provide for professional development for teachers and others. (Additional information on private school participation is available in the Title II-A Non-Regulatory Guidance, Section H.

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Are there specific rules for the structure of a partnership?

There is no cookie-cutter design by which partnerships must be structured, except an eligible partnership must include the three federally-mandated partners. The partnership needs to have a coherent plan that prioritizes service to teachers serving high-need students, but it may organize itself and designate its leadership to best meet project requirements. For further information see: Partnership Guidance for Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) Program Grants.

Can a community college be a mandated partner? Can it be a project lead?

Generally, community colleges cannot meet the federal requirement as "mandated" partners unless they provide teacher preparation that leads to a credential—a condition that few California community colleges meet. They also do not qualify as arts and science partners because they do not award baccalaureate degrees. However, community colleges may be additional partners in any project, may be designated as project lead by the partnership, and may even receive the project award. Their participation is encouraged.

Can a county office of education be a mandated partner? Can it be a project lead?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, because a county office of education is not the same kind of funding recipient as a school district and because its "high-need" status cannot be determined through U.S. Census data, it cannot be considered a mandated partner. However, a county office of education may be an additional partner in a project, and may be designated as project lead by the partnership. As with community colleges, the participation of county offices of education is encouraged.

Can a Subject Matter Project or a university-based institute be a mandated partner?

These types of entities may participate as a mandated partner ONLY if they are part of a College or School of Education and/or of a College or School of Arts and Sciences. The project director may be from such an entity if it is associated with a mandated partner IHE. The application must be signed by the university administrator who represents the School of Education or Arts and Sciences, not the director of the institute or project. If this entity is not officially part of the required IHE schools, it may still participate and may even play a lead role, but the mandated partners must also be included. Care should be taken to assure the proposal reflects ITQ priorities and grant requirements, notwithstanding the routine work of the entity that may play a lead role in proposing and implementing the project.

Do both IHE partners have to be from the same institution?

No. It is permissible for a partner IHE school or division that prepares teachers and principals and a partner IHE school of arts and sciences to be from separate IHEs. Additional IHEs may be optional partners.

Do rejected proposals receive any feedback?

Yes, CPEC does provide summaries of the readers' comments upon request. This usually happens sometime after proposers are notified that they have not advanced to the next stage. Please allow 8-10 weeks for a response.

Do you dictate the level of involvement of the second department?

We do not dictate a specific level of involvement for any of the partners, but the partnership and collaboration should be genuine and NOT only in name. The involvement of each partner should be a coherent part of the overall intervention in the school and should not be "tacked on" as an afterthought.

How is poverty determined? How flexible is this determination?

With regard to the mandated partner LEA, only U.S. Census data may be used for the poverty determination, the first of two tests of "high-need" for the district. The requirement specifies that EITHER 10,000 students OR 20% of the students age 5-17 living in the district must come from families living in poverty. This is not a flexible requirement regarding the LEA. An up-to-date Excel table that lists California LEAs meeting this requirement should be consulted when determining the LEA to be included in your partnership. See the Improving Teacher Quality pages for the latest information.

NOTE: 20% means 20%--not a lower figure that can be rounded up.

While only U.S. Census data may be used to determine LEA eligibility, indicators such as eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch or low school performance may be used to support the need for a project, and may also be used to designate the high-need school or schools which must be served by the project.

Is the Project Year Schedule flexible?

No, the Project Year Schedule specified in the final award is not flexible. For clarity, a distinction should be made between programmatic scheduling and budget/fiscal/administrative scheduling. Although a project must follow CPEC's project year schedule for budget and fiscal administration, proposers are free to structure and schedule program activities as they wish. CPEC closes out each year fiscally, but there is no need to interrupt project activities when transitioning from one year to the next. In terms of their budget, projects must adhere to the project year schedule provided in the application documents. Each year's budget is considered a separate "pot" of money, which means:
  • The budget must be structured to follow the given project year schedule (but activities may overlap project years).
  • The project will submit mid-year and Annual Fiscal Reports on the schedule provided.
  • Program activities that occur during a given project year must be paid for out of funds from the same year's approved budget.
  • Commission approval is required to carry unspent funds over from year to year.
Proposers should schedule activities as they determine best for the project's needs. The costs for the activities, depending on the dates they are incurred, should be allocated to the appropriate year's budget. If necessary, unanticipated schedule changes or other administrative issues can be accommodated by carrying over unspent funds to a subsequent year, with Commission approval.

May an Extension Division of an IHE coordinate or lead a grant?

An Extension Division or other IHE organizational unit may be an additional partner in a grant and may assume responsibility for grant management. However, the mandatory partners of a School of Education and a School of Arts and Sciences must also be included in the grant.

May an IHE outside of California participate in a grant?

There is no prohibition against a non-California IHE participating as a partner in a grant, even as a mandated partner (either education or arts and science). However, the grant will be awarded only to a California-based IHE, which must also be part of the partnership.

May charter schools participate in the grant? May a charter school serve as the high-need LEA?

Charter schools that are under the jurisdiction of a participating school district (assuming that district or another within the proposed partnership is a "high-need" LEA) are definitely eligible to participate. Schools chartered under the authority of the state or a County Office of Education may participate, but the County Office may not be considered the "high-need LEA" partner. Charter schools that are direct-funded and meet California state requirements as independent LEAs may be considered for participation as the high-need LEA. The conditions for eligibility in terms of student poverty and teacher qualifications are still being determined through consultation between CPEC and the California Department of Education.

Since actual awards are not generally made to community colleges, how can community college staff be involved?

The law does not state who must do the work involved in a grant, and there is no limitation on the tasks that community college staff might share with mandated IHE staff. Normally, the award goes to the mandated IHE partner, but CPEC would entertain proposals that made the community college the grant recipient, so long as the two mandated IHE partners are also part of the grant. Community college staff could design and deliver the professional development activities, assisting with evaluation, and any other project element the overall partnership determines to be appropriate.

What do "mandated partner," "principal partner," and "lead partner" mean?

"Mandated partner" is one of three entities that federal statute requires be a participant in a partnership under the Improving Teacher Quality Program. It means the same as "required partner" but CPEC uses the term "mandated." The mandated partners are a school or division in an IHE that prepares teachers and principals, a school of arts and sciences in an IHE, and a high-need LEA. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) refers to the statutorily mandated partner as a "principal partner." The "lead partner," though not an official term, refers to the partner that assumes responsibility for operating the project, and may or may not be a "mandated" partner.

What happens between the submission of the grants and announcements of awards?

The proposals submitted will be distributed to peer reviewers drawn from university, K-12, and evaluation backgrounds. Each proposal will be read and scored by several reviewers. In early July, readers will convene in panels to identify all proposals that may be fundable; these proposers will be invited to interviews with ITQ staff and selected panel members. That process will result in a final list of recommended grantees that will go to the ITQ program administrator, who will submit recommendations to the CPEC Executive Director for approval of the grant awards. If necessary, ITQ and CPEC staff may negotiate budget changes with selected projects before the award is finalized.

What is meant by "mandated partnerships" to receive a grant?

In order to be funded, a project must be provided by a partnership that includes, at a minimum, a school or division that prepares teachers and principals in an Institution of Higher Education (IHE); a department within a school of arts and sciences in an IHE (representing the content area that is the focus of the project); and a high-need Local Educational Agency (LEA). Other ("optional") partners may be involved, including another LEA, a public charter school, an elementary or secondary school, an educational service agency, a nonprofit educational organization, another IHE, a school of arts and sciences within that IHE, the division of that IHE that prepares teachers and principals, a nonprofit cultural organization, an entity carrying out a pre-kindergarten program, a teacher organization, a principal organization, or a business.

What is meant by a "high percentage" of teachers who are teaching outside their certification or whose credentials are not permanent?

Since NCLB required all teachers to be "highly qualified" by 2005-06, the percentage of these teachers has declined, but has not reached zero. Applicants will be required to report the percentage of teachers they have in both categories. Based on 2006-2007 data from the California Department of Education, 95% of teachers statewide are fully credentialed. Therefore, a percentage of 5% or more teachers who do not have full credentials in the partner LEA will automatically be deemed to be a "high percentage." LEAs with a percentage lower than 5% but greater than zero will not necessarily be disqualified, and may be determined to be eligible depending on the circumstances. (NOTE: the percentage of teachers in the district who have not met "highly qualified" requirements may also be submitted, but is not necessarily the same as the two items above). The project should identify these numbers for the district as a whole and for the required "high need" school and submit both to CPEC, which will determine whether the teacher requirement is met. To get district information, visit the California Department of Education's Data Quest Portal.

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What is meant by the "high-need LEA" requirement?

The mandated Local Educational Agency (LEA) partner MUST be a high-need LEA. This definition has two elements:
  • The LEA serves at least 10,000 children from families below the poverty level OR at least 20% of the children in the district are from families below the poverty level (based on district population—the number of children ages 5-17 living within the district boundaries—NOT on school enrollment), AND
  • There are a high percentage of teachers who are not teaching in the academic subjects or grade levels that the teachers were trained to teach, OR there are a high percentage of teachers with emergency, provisional, or temporary certification or licensing.
IMPORTANT: At least ONE school to be served by the grant must also fit the requirement for "high-need." However, as U.S. Census figures are not available by school site, the applicant may use other indicators, such as percent of free and reduced lunch AND a high percentage of teachers teaching outside of their certification or with provisional, emergency, or temporary credentials.

Which partner receives the funding?

Only California institutions of higher education (IHEs) may be designated as grantees. This includes colleges and universities in the University of California (UC) system, California State University (CSU) system, and accredited private universities within the state. California Community Colleges may also be designated by mandated partners to receive a grant although they are only optional partners. Any partner in the grant may act as the fiscal agent, although normally that is the role of the IHE receiving the grant. Also, any partner in the grant may act as the lead partner responsible for project management. Funds awarded to IHEs may be provided to other members of the partnership as subgrants or through contracts or interagency agreements. No single partner in the grant may BENEFIT from more than 50% of the funds in the grant (see additional information under Funding Questions).

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