WHITTIER, CA – The Whittier Union High School District is one of four school districts across the state selected to participate in a three-year case study administered by one of the world’s leading educational researchers and reform advocates who will observe the District’s successful use of collaboration to improve student achievement.

Michael Fullan, a Canadian educational researcher and former dean of the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, selected Whittier Union to participate in the project, which builds on his ongoing work to study how collaborative cultures support teachers and increase student achievement and learning.

“Dr. Fullan is a renowned authority on educational reform, works with school systems internationally and has extensive involvement in California schools,” said Whittier Union High School District Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson. “It is a real testament to our staff’s work to have someone as notable as Michael Fullan select Whittier Union to further his efforts to improve and transform educational systems.”

Fullan and his team have already analyzed Whittier Union’s student achievement data and will collect additional data via interviews with teachers, focus groups and observation of classroom and teacher professional learning activities Feb. 23-24. Through this process, Fullan will be able to both validate and recommend improvements in the collaborative work being done at Whittier Union.

“Whittier Union has a history of providing our students with a quality education in large part by building the capacity of and supporting teacher teams as they assess students weekly. This ongoing collaborative process results in continual improvement of instructional practice and student achievement,” Thorstenson said. “Our ‘Whatever It Takes’ initiative supports teamwork, collaboration and student growth.”

Fullan is noted for his expertise in education and advising state and national policymakers, local school leaders and California school districts on systems reforms, including a 10-district collaboration under the California Office to Reform Education (CORE).

“It’s a fantastic time right now for California,” Fullan said at a May 2014 EdSource Symposium, where Thorstenson also served as a guest speaker. “California is the most interesting, provocative living laboratory for whole system change that we’ve been working on. I am so excited to be part of this movement and see fantastic results come out of this state.”

The Stuart Foundation, a San Francisco-based education advocacy group, awarded Fullan a grant to partner with the four school districts – including Fresno, Long Beach and Twin Rivers – to conduct case studies focused on district approaches to developing a professional capital model.

Professional capital includes three interrelated components: human capital, defined as individual talent; social capital, the collaborative culture of a group; and decisional capital, the ability of educators and school leaders to make better expert diagnoses and decisions over time to meet the needs of students.

This project will help districts align values, systems and programs to improve teaching and learning in the classroom.

By participating in this three-year case study, districts will receive strategic advice from Fullan and his team concerning system-wide policies and strategies to stimulate the creation and circulation of professional capital at the district, state and national levels.

“This project provides Whittier Union with an excellent opportunity to showcase what our teachers and staff have long been doing to ensure the success of our students,” Thorstenson said.

Photos of Fullan are available on his website.