Fresno Unified and Sacramento City Unified are among the five districts nationwide highlighted by the Education Trust for creating environments in high-poverty schools where teachers can thrive and stay. The report – “Building and Sustaining Talent: Creating Conditions in High-Poverty Schools That Support Effective Teaching and Learning” – found common themes behind their success: “a focus on strong leadership, a campus-wide commitment to improving instruction by analyzing student data and reflecting on practice, and a collaborative environment that values and rewards individual contribution.”
Fresno Unified was praised for its Skillful Leader Project, an effort to better train principals and create a pipeline for future school administrators, which Superintendent Michael Hanson started in 2006. Hanson had found a lack of consistency in how principals evaluated and supported teachers across California’s fourth-largest district. Winning the confidence of teachers in their principals was key, the district found, to encouraging them to work openly and collaboratively.
Sac City Unified was cited for its Priority Schools, Superintendent Jonathan Raymond’s initiative, now heading into its third year, to focus attention on a half-dozen low-performing schools. In enticing strong leaders to transfer to the schools, the district gave them more autonomy in hiring teachers, extra resources, and instructional coaches. Teachers received extra training in using data to analyze student work.
The district exempted staff in the schools from layoffs by seniority – a move that the Sacramento Teachers Association has challenged in court.