Fresno Unified School District and Fresno State University: Shared Vision for Partnership

This case study appears in our publication Partnering on Prep: A Toolkit for Building Strong District-Teacher Preparation Program Partnerships. You can access the full publication here.

Effective partnerships often start with a mutual recognition that things need to change. Though Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) and Fresno State University (FSU) had been longtime neighbors, they agreed on a crucial point: it was time to build a new team approach to preparing strong teachers and to stop assigning blame.

They began by articulating a clear vision that “every classroom has a highly effective teacher or leader where students thrive.” That vision was paired with the goal to create—together—a clear path and coherent continuum for teacher development. With those fundamentals in place, FUSD
and FSU were able to begin building the Fresno Teacher Residency Program (TRP).

But sharing an overall vision wasn’t enough—they also needed to agree on how to get there. And that started with calibrating on and building a shared language around what great classroom instruction looks like. So FUSD and FSU started doing school walkthroughs together once a month. The principal hosting the walkthroughs provided context for the classrooms visited and then district and teacher preparation program leaders observed classrooms. After the walkthroughs, they debriefed, which helped them develop common expectations for novice teachers and think about whether what they had seen had any implication for their preparation programs. Eventually, the partners co-created an observation tool based on state teaching standards, allowing them to use common language and shared expectations for teacher residents.

It hasn’t all been easy, though—there were many difficult discussions, especially around aligning each institution’s expectations for teacher performance. But these have only strengthened the partnership. As FUSD Teacher Development Administrator Teresa Morales-Young puts it, “We’ve had many hard conversations, but those of us who have been in the work for a while know they were the right ones to have.

Today, their relationship is stronger than ever. FUSD and FSU engage in quarterly curriculum meetings and walkthroughs. FSU offers some courses at FUSD schools. And FUSD district leaders co-develop and co-teach courses with FSU faculty to ensure that pre-service candidates understand the perspective of staff in the district they have a high-degree of possibility of being hired into. The partners also hold joint interviews for prospective teacher residents, allowing them to further calibrate their expectations, and FSU provides district mentors with rigorous training.

By dedicating themselves to working toward a shared vision, FUSD and FSU have created a strong partnership that is getting stronger. Three hundred residents from the TRP have been placed in FUSD schools, supplying 30 percent of the district’s pipeline needs—and that percentage is growing. Though the work isn’t always easy, the payoff has been
unquestionably worth it.

 

 

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