Twin Rivers Unified is one of four California school districts being studied by Canadian education expert Michael Fullan to evaluate how they attract, train and use staff.
“Twin Rivers is an interesting one to look at because it has been a struggling district” that has a new superintendent who wants to install changes, Fullan said.
Long Beach Unified, Whittier Union High School and Fresno Unified school districts also will participate in the study, which is funded by the Stuart Foundation, a philanthropic organization that focuses on improving the school system in California.
Fullan, a renowned researcher and author, said California’s top education leaders, including state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, have visited Canada to see the work he has done in the Ontario provincial school system, considered one of the best in the world.
Over the next three years, researchers working with Fullan will visit district schools, interview and survey staff, review district documents and set up online focus groups. Fullan said the research team members will arrive in February to acquaint themselves with the district. The study will measure the effectiveness of staff training by looking at benchmark tests, student and teacher engagement, and the quality of collaboration in the district, he said.
Fullan and his team will advise Twin Rivers administrators how to develop systemwide policies to train and utilize teachers and staff. The district will be able to use data generated by the study to improve professional development.
Superintendent Steven Martinez said the district will begin offering training to all of its staff, from janitors to administrators, next school year. The idea, he said, is to provide “opportunities for everyone in our school district to get better. To develop a culture of continuous learning.”
Martinez said that Fullan contacted him about participating in the study after talking to Peter Senge, another education expert working with the district. Senge’s philosophy of systems teaching is designed to help staff members see beyond their belief systems so they can communicate effectively with others.
“It gets at some of those things that are holding this system back,” Martinez said of the district created seven years ago by the unification of four school districts. The district pays $60,000 annually for Senge’s systems learning training.
“We truly believe we are going to increase student achievement by improving the staff,” Martinez said.