Across the state, schools and districts are proving it’s possible to serve high-need students well and achieve at high levels on a variety of performance indicators. Our data analysis has identified a number of higher performing, higher poverty districts achieving success across a number of indicators. Ed Trust – West staff have visited a number of these districts to learn more about the policies and practices they believe have made their successes possible.
Consistently, district and school leaders point to not one, but several strategies operating simultaneously that propelled their improvement and achievement gains. “There is no silver bullet”, said Alain Guevara, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Support Services in Lake Elsinore Unified in Riverside County. “It’s just about getting things to be more consistent and to have a laser-like focus on always improving.”
When visiting and talking with district and school leaders, several common themes emerge:
1. There is strong, supportive district leadership that establishes a singular focus on excellence in instruction and high expectations for student performance. A focus on standards-based instruction, common assessment, and coordinated pacing is aligned at the district offices, with the districts providing supports to their school sites. For more on where we saw this in action, read our profile of Val Verde Unified in Riverside County.
2. There is a consistent focus on delivering high-quality instruction and leveraging time with their faculty to learn and refine research-based instructional strategies. Deep professional development and staff collaboration, including professional learning communities build teacher and principal capacity to function toward a common, student-focused goal. For an example district, read our profile of Sanger Unified in Fresno County.
3. There is a culture of data use to inform decision-making, which includes a consistent practice of using data to assess student performance relative to content standards. Specifically, there is an unrelenting effort to ensure students receive targeted supports based on data analysis at every level of the system – from classroom teacher to grade level teams, and from school to school as well as across the district. For more on a district employing a culture of data use, read our profile of Desert Sands Unified in Riverside County.
4. Districts engage students and parents with up-to-date information on students’ academic progress to strengthen home-school connections and proactively address students’ social or academic needs. For more about a district that places great importance in their parent engagement efforts, read our case study of Baldwin Park Unified in Los Angeles County.
On April 11, 2013, Ed Trust - West hosted a webinar where district leaders from top-performing districts shared the strategies that have contributed to student success. Click here to view and/or download a recording of this event, and here to download the related power point presentation.
2012 List of Grades for All Districts: This document provides a full listing of grades for all districts in the 2012 district report cards.
Equity Alert: 2011 California District Report Cards:This data brief summarizes findings and trends from the 2011 report cards. At the end of this brief, you can find a full listing of grades for all districts.
A Report Card on District Achievement: How Low-income, African-American, and Latino Students Fare in California School Districts (2010):This report provides a comprehensive analysis of our methodology and 2010 results. It surfaces examples of higher-poverty districts earning top grades on a number of indicators, and it provides case studies of three districts that are proving it’s possible to serve high-need students well.