Teacher-education leaders from universities across the nation learned about a California State University, Fresno collaboration with the Sanger Unified School District that is helping children for whom English is a new language improve achievement scores.

Sanger Unified officials made a presentation at the 19th annual fall conference of The Renaissance Group, which met Oct. 5-7 in Arlington, Va. Also part of the conference agenda was a panel discussion of politics in education among university presidents, including Fresno State President John D. Welty.

The Renaissance Group is a Fresno State-based consortium of 32 universities nationwide devoted to teacher preparation.

Sanger Unified Superintendant Marc Johnson, Deputy Superintendant Rich Smith and Dr. Sylvia Hill, the district director of special projects, outlined a dramatic turnaround in Academic Performance Index (API) scores in the eastern Fresno County district.

They credited Sanger Unified’s collaboration with Fresno State’s Kremen School of Education and Human Development and the district’s English Language Learners (ELL) program strategies and assessment plan with the student improvement. More than three-quarters of Sanger Unified students are ELL students, a high percentage of whom also are impoverished.

Fresno State and Sanger Unified work closely to close the student achievement gap through multiple partnerships involving teacher education. They include curriculum and instruction master’s degree cohorts, teacher professional development institutes, the university-headquartered Central Valley Educational Leadership Institute and Springboard (after-school programs) coaching for administrators.

Faculty and coaches from the university collaborate with district leaders on strategies to meet the challenges of teaching English learners through a systemic approach that includes Fresno State, Sanger Unified, schools and teachers.

In the presidents’ discussion of politics, Welty joined peers Ruben Armiñana of Sonoma State University, Patricia Cormier of Longwood University in Farmville, Va., John Counts of Western New Mexico University and J. Michael Ortiz of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, a former Fresno State provost and vice president for academic affairs.

During the conference, The Renaissance Group’s former director, Dr. Richard Firpo, was honored by for his service. He is a Fresno State education professor.

Fresno State has been home to the Renaissance Group since 2005. Dr. Michael J, Giovannetti is the organization’s executive director.

Related link: Renaissance Group at Fresno State