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Role of Networks and Partnerships

**WestEd. (2015). District-to-district partnerships: A research brief. Available at

This brief summarizes research examining four district-to-district partnerships located in California, Massachusetts, and Ohio. Through document review and interviews with key partnership staff, the researchers found several common elements among the partnerships that participants described as successful: creating the partnership in response to a common need, the active involvement of district superintendents, engaging stakeholders throughout the district, the involvement of a third-party facilitator, and taking time to build relationships and trust among the districts. The primary perceived challenges included maintaining district autonomy while still pursuing common goals, the geographic distances separating participating districts, and turnover in district leadership and staff.

Ruiz de Velasco, J. (2015). The CORE districts and deeper learning. Available at John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities website:

This article provides background on the history and advantages of deeper learning, a shift toward a broader definition of student success than mere academic proficiency. Research suggests that deeper learning's focus on college, career, and civic readiness might provide more equitable access to quality education. The article goes on to describe the efforts of the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) districts to design and implement the School Quality Improvement System (SQII), an accountability framework with a focus on deeper learning. Key aspects that promoted the perceived success of this collaboration included leadership from the California Collaborative, broad engagement from district staff, support for adult education within the districts, and the use of data to inform inquiry.

Marsh, J., Bush-Mecenas, S., & Hough, H. (2016, October). Local control in action: Learning from the CORE districts’ focus on measurement, capacity building, and shared accountability (PACE Policy Brief 16-4). Available at PACE website:

As members of CORE, six California school districts received a waiver from some of the requirements of No Child Left Behind in order to develop their own accountability system. This new system tracked both academic and non-academic outcomes, and aimed to promote greater collaboration between schools and districts in two ways: by pairing low-performing schools with higher-performing peers, and by grouping schools with similar needs into Communities of Practice. This policy brief describes the system and its potential lessons for other schools as they move toward the new requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and, in California, the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). The CORE administrators appreciated the move toward a whole-child approach to accountability—as opposed to one exclusively focused on academic measures—as well as the opportunity to form connections with schools and districts facing similar challenges. The authors provide several recommendations for schools and districts, including choosing collaboration partners carefully and building a culture of data use.

California Collaborative on District Reform. (2012, June). Series overview (Special Series on the Fresno–Long Beach Learning Partnership). Available at CA_Collaborative_Fresno_LB_Overview_1.pdf

This brief summarizes a series of briefs detailing the unique partnership between the Fresno and Long Beach Unified School Districts. Traditionally, professional collaboration has focused at the classroom and school levels in the form of professional learning communities (PLCs). The Fresno-Long Beach learning partnership widened this practice of PLCs to function across district lines and has provided the field with insight into how this type of collaboration functions. The authors examine key lessons learned from the Fresno and Long Beach partnership to expand knowledge sharing and reduce collective cost. Among these are the importance of defining common goals and systems of accountability, aligning progress to district strategic plans, developing trust, and allowing for change over time. The authors conclude by examining the roles that policymakers, funders, and researchers can play in supporting this kind of cross-district collaboration.

Gates, B. (2017, October 19). Our education efforts are evolving [Web log post]. Available at

In this address to the Council of Great City Schools, Bill Gates details a shift in education investment strategies for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to focus more on local improvement efforts. He begins with a review of the Foundation’s historical investments in K-12 education, which have included areas of focus such as the qualities of successful teachers, professional development, and teacher evaluation systems; innovative charter school support; and the creation of strong Common Core curricula. Moving forward, the Foundation will continue to evaluate these teacher quality initiatives and promising charter schools and will continue to invest in the development of Common Core-aligned curricula and professional development. However, Gates also emphasized a pivot to focus more on locally-driven solutions, supported by networks, driven by data, and striving for continuous improvement, arguing that individuals familiar with challenges specific to local contexts are best suited to craft solutions. Finally, Gates described an expanded investment in services targeting underserved students.

**This document is considered a priority reading.