As part of its strategic planning process, South San Francisco Unified School District (SSFUSD) Superintendent Dr. Shawnterra Moore recently led members of SSFUSD’s strategic planning committee on a tour of Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD) on February 2, 2023.
“There were approximately 25 of us who attended and left feeling truly inspired about our observations and conversations and the culture we observed,” said Dr. Moore.
Located in California’s Central Valley, LUSD is an example of a school district that learned how to reverse historically low achievement and graduation rates by taking a new approach to student learning.
“Lindsay Unified began their journey in 2006,” said Dr. Moore. “They acknowledge it takes a long time to get where they are, but they’ve transformed their system to prioritize students and their learning needs.”
In 2006, only about 67% of LUSD students graduated from high school. Today that number is 95%.
The turnaround began, said Moore, when LUSD decided to meet students where they were instead of where they expected them to be.
Specifically, Lindsay Unified eliminated traditional grades and replaced them with a four-point scale that rates students on how well they have mastered various academic concepts.
This meant that LUSD also had to move away from a time-based, instructional system, where students have a limited amount of time to accumulate a certain number of academic credits, to one where students have more time to accumulate knowledge and demonstrate what they have learned.
These changes have, in turn, forced students to take on more responsibility for their education.
At Lindsay Unified, students are responsible for: (1) determining how well they have mastered certain concepts; (2) determining what other concepts they need to master; (3) figuring out what they need to do to master them; and (4) assessing their own progress.
“It was an amazing thing for me to see how the students directed their own learning,” said Patricia Murray, vice president of SSFUSD’s school board, who participated in the visit to LUSD
Murray was accompanied by Board Clerk Mina Richardson, South San Francisco Classroom Teachers Association President Heather Burns, Sunshine Gardens Elementary School Principal Leticia Gonzalez, Alta Loma Middle School Principal Nina Mendez, various certificated and classified employees, and even some parents.
“The biggest differences from other districts that I’ve seen and this district was the culture,” said Murray. “Everything was about the student and the students not falling through the cracks.”
Dr. Moore said SSFUSD can learn a lot from Lindsay Unified.
“As we embark upon our strategic plan, we absolutely believe it is a perfect time to engage our entire community in this pursuit of reimagining the ways in which we are going to transform this district.”
Jason Brockmeyer, SSFUSD’s director of innovation, community outreach, and special projects agreed.
“Lindsay’s commitment to establishing and sustaining a culture that prioritizes learners above all else was truly inspiring,” said Brockmeyer. “I look forward to working with the school community to cultivate an uncompromisingly learner-centered environment where all learners thrive and flourish.”
Dr. Moore has called on students, families, educators, employees and community members to fill out a new survey on February 17 to provide feedback on what SSFUSD graduates should know by the time they leave high school.
“SSFUSD has been on a journey of district transformation to excellence and equity for all of our students,” said Dr. Moore. “We want to hear and learn more from our community about the best ways to build our future.”
SSFUSD also organized a virtual town hall from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM on March 1 to obtain additional feedback on what SSFUSD graduates should know after leaving high school.
A second town hall on March 4 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM was also organized for those who preferred to attend in person.