For the 2007-8 and 2008-9 school years , California’s Fresno Unified School District accomplished historic gains in math achievement for K-6. The superintendent attributes the fast pace of success to a unique collaboration with California’s Long Beach Unified School District, using Cisco TelePresence.
The Fresno Unified and Long Beach Unified K-12 school districts have much in common, including tight budgets, high poverty rates among student families, and a strong commitment to improving student math scores. Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson and Long Beach Unified Superintendent Chris Steinheuser shared ideas when they saw each other at conferences, but realized that an effective partnership would require more frequent collaboration. Traveling the 250 miles to each other’s districts was not an option because of time and budget constraints, and telephone conversations come up short for strategic discussions.
Sharing Lessons Learned Without Travel
The districts found their solution in Cisco TelePresence. Each district has a Cisco TelePresence system, which provides a live, face-to-face experience over the network. A large, ultra-high-definition display and high-fidelity audio quality create an experience that rivals in-person interaction. And launching a Cisco TelePresence session “is as easy as it gets,” says Superintendent Hanson. “We push a button and Long Beach is on the other side.”
The Proof is in the Numbers
In spring of 2009, Long Beach Unified sent a group of math teachers to Fresno. While there, they and their counterparts from Long Beach joined a Cisco TelePresence session with other Long Beach teachers to talk about a common assessment framework. “In one day we completed a project that would have taken months without this technology,” Steinhauser says, noting that the two districts are “accomplishing more, faster, and at lower cost.” The results were swift and impressive. In the 2008-9 school year, 2000 more elementary school students in the Fresno Unified School District scored proficient or advanced in mathematics than in the prior year. “That’s 2000 lives, futures, and sets of promises that we now have to hold as they move through the system,” Hanson says. Long Beach Unified School District also gained from the collaboration. “[Cisco TelePresence] takes professional development to a level we haven’t seen,” Steinhauser says.
Muliplying the Gains
Now Fresno Unified is looking forward to replicating its math gains in middle school, as the first students to benefit from the collaboration move up. The district will capitalize on a winning formula by using Cisco TelePresence to get new ideas for the curriculum and learning strategies. California’s Garden Grove Unified and Oakland Unified School Districts are implementing their own Cisco TelePresence systems and will join the partnership, so that all four districts can learn from each other’s experiences.
For more info, watch the video of Superintendent Mike Hanson and Superintendent Chris Steinhauser discussing collaborating on math achievement with Cisco TelePresence.