ELR Illustrative Example: Improving OpportuntiesEnglish Learner Roadmap Illustrative Example from Fresno Unified School District on Improving Post-Secondary Opportunites by Addressing System Inequity.
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Illustrative Example Overview
The Fresno Unified School District has approximately 73,000 students, with English learners comprising 21 percent of the population. In 2009, then-Superintendent Mike Hanson formed the Equity and Access Partnership with the University of California (UC), Merced, to address areas of inequity in the system and to improve the post-secondary opportunities of Fresno students. In the words of the Superintendent, the purpose of the partnership was “to provide all students with an equal opportunity to graduate with the greatest number of postsecondary choices from the widest array of options.”
Within the district, the Office of Equity and Access, led by Jorge Aguilar (now Superintendent of Sacramento City School District), began by developing a data dashboard to identify students who were not applying to California State Universities (CSUs) and UCs, although they were qualified to attend. Upon further investigation, Equity and Access team members identified the root cause of this mismatch—Fresno Unified School District seniors were not always aware of all the college options that were available to them based on their academic profile.
In response, the district developed I Am Ready college packets that provided individualized information to students and their families about the colleges and universities for which students were eligible. High school counselors participated in two days of training to learn about student eligibility to CSU and UC campuses so that they could better inform students about their post-secondary options.
The combination of the I Am Ready packets and follow-up conversations by high school counselors with Fresno Unified School District seniors led to an increase in student applications to UC/CSU campuses outside of Fresno. Applications increased from 382 to 578. Encouraged by these results, the Office of Equity and Access continued to use data to drive school improvement. As a result, the district has seen the four-year cohort graduation rate increase from 69 percent in 2009–10 to 79 percent in 2013–14 and twelfth grade students’ A–G completion rates rise from 32 percent to 48 percent.
Principles, Elements, and Priorities Addressed
Principle Three: System Conditions that Support Effectiveness
Each level of the school system (state, county, district, school, pre-school) has leaders and educators who are knowledgeable of and responsive to the strengths and needs of English learners and their communities and who utilize valid assessment and other data systems that inform instruction and continuous improvement. Each level of the system provides resources and tiered support to ensure strong programs and build the capacity of teachers and staff to leverage the strengths and meet the needs of English learners.
Element 3A: Leadership
Leaders establish clear goals and commitments to English Learner (EL) access, growth toward English proficiency, and academic engagement and achievement. Leaders maintain a systemic focus—beyond compliance via the EL Master Plan and English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC) and District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC) regulations—on continuous improvement and progress toward these goals.
Element 3D: Capacity Building
Capacity building occurs at all levels of the system, including leadership development to understand and address the needs of English learners, professional development and collaboration time for teachers, and robust efforts to address the teaching shortage and build a recruitment and development pipeline of educators skilled in addressing the needs of English learners, including bilingual teachers.
Principle Four: Alignment and Articulation Within and Across Systems
English learners experience a coherent, articulated, and aligned set of practices and pathways across grade levels and educational segments, beginning with a strong foundation in early childhood and appropriate identification of strengths and needs, continuing through to reclassification, graduation, higher education, and career opportunities. These pathways foster the skills, language(s), literacy, and knowledge students need for college- and career-readiness and participation in a global, diverse, multilingual, twenty-first century world.
Element 4A: Alignment and Articulation
EL educational approaches and programs are designed for continuity, alignment, and articulation across grade levels and system segments beginning with a strong foundation in early childhood (preschool), and continuing through elementary and secondary levels onto graduation and postsecondary education and career preparation.
Local Control and Accountability (LCAP) Priority One: Basic (Conditions of Learning)
- Rate of teacher misassignment as relates to equity, professional learning, resource alignment, and teachers.
- Student access to standards-aligned instructional materials as relates to curriculum, instruction, and resource alignment.
- Facilities in good repair as relates to culture and climate and resource alignment.
LCAP Priority Two: State Standards (Conditions of Learning)
- Implementation of academic content and performance standards adopted by the state board for all pupils, including English learners as relates to assessment, curriculum, equity, instruction, and professional learning.
LCAP Priority Three: Parental Involvement (Engagement)
- Efforts to seek parent input in decision making and promotion of parent participation in programs for unduplicated pupils and special need subgroups as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.
LCAP Priority Four: Pupil Achievement (Pupil Outcomes)
- Performance on standardized tests, score on Academic Performance Index, share of pupils that are college and career ready, share of English learners that become English proficient, English learner reclassification rate, share of pupils that pass Advanced Placement exams with three or higher and share of pupils determined prepared for college by the Early Assessment Program as relates to assessment, curriculum, equity, and instruction.
LCAP Priority Five: Pupil Engagement (Engagement)
- School attendance rates, chronic absenteeism rates, middle school dropout rates, high school dropout rates, and high school graduations rates as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.
LCAP Priority Six: School Climate (Engagement)
- Pupil suspension rates, pupil expulsion rates, and other local measures including surveys of pupils, parents, and teachers on the sense of safety and school connectedness as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.
LCAP Priority Seven: Course Access (Conditions of Learning)
- Pupil enrollment in a broad course of study that includes all of the subject areas described in Education Code (EC) section 51210 and subdivisions (a) to (i), inclusive, of EC section 51220, as applicable, as relates to curriculum, equity, and professional learning.
LCAP Priority Eight: Other Pupil Outcomes (Pupil Outcomes)
- Pupil outcomes in the subject areas described in EC Section 51210 and subdivisions (a) to (i), inclusive, of EC Section 51220, as applicable as relates to curriculum, equity, and professional learning.
Evidence of Effectiveness
The Characteristics of Examples Web Page includes information on the criteria used to evaluate illustrative example submissions.
Standard 1 (supported by an existing research basis)
The central theoretical motivation for this work is in the continuous improvement model most recently synthesized in the improvement science work of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Standard 2 (local metrics of system implementation and adult learning outcomes)
Jorge Aguilar and his team note a careful, deliberative process undertaken by the team in understanding the root cause of their problem: “Before developing and testing specific solutions to this problem, the Fresno team sought to understand the problem as it was experienced by the user, in this case the District’s college-eligible students. The Equity and Access team worked closely with school counselors to understand the experiences of their students. They interviewed students to document (a) why certain students applied to more colleges than others and (b) what interventions had already been tried by counselors. This allowed district leaders to understand the variation in performance across schools, as well as challenges and opportunities for improvement” (Aguilar, J., Nayfack, M., & Bush-Mecenas, S. (2017). Exploring Improvement Science in Education: Promoting College Access in Fresno Unified School District [PDF]).
Standard 2a (local metrics of student learning supports and processes)
Specific to English learners, the Fresno team noted that in the course of analyzing A–G completion by student subgroups, that these students were disproportionately lacking foreign language credits and that, for a large number of students, this was the only deficiency for the students to complete their A–G requirements. This led the district to create UC-approved Spanish for native speakers as an avenue to meet the A–G foreign language requirement.
Standard 3 (student learning outcomes)
The district has looked at the four-year cohort graduation rate (increasing from 69 percent in 2009–10 to 79 percent in 2013–14) and twelfth grade students’ A–G completion rates (rising from 32 percent to 48 percent during this same time period). In addition, the district has recently created partnerships with the local community college and Fresno State University to share data with the aim of improving student progress from the primary through secondary grades and toward higher education degree completion.
Fresno I am Ready Program
This Web page, from the Fresno Unified School District, includes information about Fresno Unified School District’s citywide I Am Ready campaign.