March 2014 Monthly Newsletter

Graduation 2.0: Los Angeles Unified  & Sacramento City School Districts

Los Angeles School of Global Studies teachers Jacqueline La Torre and Kimberly Dawson design a defense of learning for their students.

A Generous Gift

Thanks to a generous grant from the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation and matching funds from Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and

Sacramento City Unified School District
(SCUSD), both districts have a unique opportunity to redesign their schools or pathways to align with a
graduate profile (i.e., what students are expected to know and be able to do to graduate) in partnership with Envision Learning Partners (ELP). Teachers and school leaders in nine high schools are redefining what it means to graduate based on Envision's deeper learning student performance assessment.  


Redefining What It Means to Graduate

Traditional graduation requirements are based on course completion, credits, and grades. While these are measures important and necessary, they are insufficient for preparing students for a successful transition to post-secondary education or the workplace. It is now widely accepted that deeper learning skills (i.e., 21st Century skills), such as critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration, are valued as critical assets for success in college, careers, and life.


Both LAUSD and SCUSD are redefining what it means to graduate by redesigning their graduation requirements based on a clear set of common expectations about what a student should know
and be able to do. In both districts, teachers, school leaders, and district leaders are creating graduate profiles and performance assessment systems with a strong emphasis on measuring performance (i.e., what students can do). They are asking, "How do we measure this?" How can a student demonstrate that he or she has accomplished this? Can we and should we build this into our portfolio defense system?" For example, in January, LAUSD teachers, coaches, and district leaders worked collaboratively, examining draft graduate profiles and holding them up to this standard of evidence-centered design. 

SCUSD and LAUSD teachers are designing student defenses.   Akin to a dissertation defense, a student defense is a culminating performance assessment, in which graduating seniors demonstrate how their portfolio of college ready work meets the outcomes described in their school's or district's graduate profile. During these defenses, students present an evidence-based case of what they know and can do and why they are ready to graduate.


Go Small to go Big

Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are big districts! LAUSD is the second largest district in the nation and the largest in California. SCUSD is bigger than most of California's 1,043 districts. Together, these districts serve 710,037 students!


Both districts chose to go small to go big. They started with select pathways and schools where teachers and school leaders were interested and committed to the redesign process.  See the list of participating schools in the box below. Imagine the impact once these districts go to scale!  


Partnering for Coherence

LAUSD and SCUSD have the benefit of partnering with Envision Learning Partners (ELP) and

ConnectEd California . Both ELP and ConnectEd   
are working collaboratively to ensure coherence within both districts. ELP and ConnectEd co-design and co-plan sessions to ensure integration between Envision's deeper learning student assessment system and ConnectEd's Linked Learning pathway core components (e.g., rigorous academics, real-world technical skills, work-
based learning, and personalized supports).
Teachers construct a student defense synthesizing components of a deeper learning student assessment system aligned to their graduate profile.   


Blazing Trails for the Future

Pathways participating in this work are blazing the Common Core and deeper learning trails for the future. These trailblazers are creating a foundation, and by the end of academic year 2015-2016, they will have established a graduate profile to

drive instruction, assessment, and curriculum; developed rubrics and performance assessments to measure progress toward those graduate profiles; and held calibrated student defenses of learning that embody the school's graduate profile in a unifying, academic rite of passage. Having this in place for the participating pathways establishes a foundation for each district to move the work forward in the future.


Theresa McEwen, interim director of High School Reform Initiatives, says it best in her comment to participating teachers: "The work you are doing here; what's happening at your schools, is what we'd like all the schools in Sacramento to be doing in five years. We are grateful to you for blazing this trail for us."


What's Happening in Envision Learning Partners?   

Envision Learning Partners (ELP) is proud to have been selected as part of the District Reform Support Network, which is a team working under the leadership of the U.S. Department of Education and their technical assistance contractor Applied Engineering Management. This team is dedicated to providing technical assistance to the 21 Race to the Top-District grantees across the nation.


Dr. Sally Kingston, executive director of Envision Learning Partners (ELP), is part of team designing and leading the District RSN Leadership and Management Community of Practice (CoP). The goal of this CoP is to support the exchange of information, consultation with experts, and sharing of successful practice in the areas of leadership and management among grantees. This work is unfolding through webinars, convenings, and the production of publications and tools.


To learn more about the District RSN, go to: 


Since 2012, the US Department of Education has awarded 21 grants to districts across the nation in two rounds of the Race to the Top District competition. Totaling over $500 million dollars, these districts' local reforms are aimed at personalizing learning, closing achievement gaps, and preparing students for college and careers. Learn more about these districts here: 


Learning Opportunities 
Join us this May for our Defense Design Studios at Envision Schools.  Click the image below to register and find out more detailed information. Space is limited.

Defense Design Studio              

Visit Envision Schools!

Come see Envision Schools in action. Email Emily Leach at to set up your visit. 

Note: Spring Break dates are below and the schools are on vacation.

City Arts and Tech: 4/1-4/4
Envision Academy: 4/14-4/18
Impact Academy: 4/14-18
In This Issue

Tools and Resources

Quick Links
Partnering for Success 

Inspire: Capture and share student and teacher success! Email your stories, photos and videos and we will share them in a future newsletter.  Email Rachel Maida, program manager,  

Inform: Learn more about Envision Learning Partners (ELP) and partnership opportunities. Contact Rachel Maida, program manager,

Involve: Participate in Envision Learning Partners (ELP) events. To be on ELP's mailing list, contact Rachel Maida, program manager,

Influence: Spread the word about Envision Learning Partners. Forward this newsletter to colleagues and friends. Encourage them to sign up at

Invest: Interested in investing in Envision Education? Contact Kate Schwass, director of development,    

Envision Learning Partners | 510-451-2415 ext. 156 | |

111 Myrtle Street
Suite 203
Oakland, CA 94607


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