Perspectives of District Leaders (Special Series on the Fresno-Long Beach Learning Partnership)

Helen Duffy, Jim Brown, and Jennifer O'Day

This fourth and final brief in the California Collaborative on District Reform series examines how the Fresno-Long Beach Learning Partnership uses data to inform work across and within the districts.

The Partnership is a collaboration that aims to improve student outcomes, accelerate achievement for all students, and close achievement gaps by capitalizing on shared systemic capacity-building across two high-need districts. The districts agreed that their common goal should be to “prepare all students to be ready for success in higher education or a career with significant economic growth potential.” Prompted by a concern about dropout rates and the inadequate preparation students were receiving for higher education and meaningful career opportunities, leaders from the two districts began to identify key strategies to improve student performance. These strategies initially focused on English learners, mathematics instruction, and leadership development.

Building capacity for that challenging work is what the Fresno Unified-Long Beach Unified Learning Partnership is all about. The Partnership is a joint effort of the third- and fourth-largest districts in California to pursue common goals, measure student outcomes, share professional knowledge, learn from each other, and support each other’s progress. It differs from other networks or professional associations in the level of joint commitment across the two systems, the deep engagement in common activity, and the strong agreement about the leadership practices that are most likely to make a difference for student achievement. It also differs from other strategies to assist low-performing districts or schools because it involves shared learning between districts rather than external technical assistance to fuel improvement. As a learning initiative, the Partnership is an experiment that holds promise not just for these two districts but also for other urban systems and for the state as a whole.