SDSU Part of $102 Million Nationwide Initiative on School Principals, Equity Gap

The College of Education project will focus on the Fresno district, where the student population is predominantly Latinx.

Friday, October 1, 2021
Principal Beth Beuttner greeted students at Fresno's Eaton Elementary School, part of a district partnering with SDSU on an equity project.
Principal Beth Beuttner greeted students at Fresno's Eaton Elementary School, part of a district partnering with SDSU on an equity project.

San Diego State University has been selected by the Wallace Foundation to join a $102 million initiative to build pipelines of school principals who are better equipped to meet the changing needs of diverse districts nationwide.

SDSU’s Department of Educational Leadership will join San Diego-based National University and the California Department of Education in a five-year partnership with the Fresno Unified School District. The project is based on research showing comprehensive principal pipelines can boost student achievement.

“We’re particularly excited to be able to address the needs in an area like Fresno where there is a high level of need for principals as well as the need to address the equity gap,” said Alejandro Gonzalez Ojeda, assistant professor of educational leadership at SDSU. “This work is very near and dear to our purpose as a department focused on the preparation of equity-driven leaders.”

As part of the initiative, SDSU faculty will help transform the Fresno district by supporting the recruitment of aspiring leaders, designing a principal preparation program, building a support program for current principals and launching an assistant principal academy. SDSU’s National Center for Urban School Transformation will also be involved with the initiative by exploring developing supports for principal supervisors in the district. 

Fresno Unified serves 74,000 students from PreK-12, more than 69% of whom are Latinx. The partnership will aim to prepare more people of color and women for leadership positions while training all future principals to see their jobs through an equity lens.

Making an impact

“Leaders set the tone in the organization,” said Douglas Fisher, professor and chair of the Department of Educational Leadership. “Effective leaders have less teacher turnover and actually impact students’ learning. They are able to magnify and multiply effective practices across the school.”

“Every leader needs to know how they impact the equity goals of their school system and ensure that the decisions they make are equity-based decisions.”

Said Julie Severns, administrator for leadership development at Fresno Unified School District: “Fresno Unified is excited to partner with San Diego State University as a participant in the multi-year, multi-million dollar Equity-Centered Pipeline Initiative sponsored by The Wallace Foundation. We see the alignment between our district’s current efforts related to equity and the great focus on equity within the leadership preparation programs at SDSU. We look forward to learning together and developing opportunities in support of aspiring and existing leaders in our district.”

Other sites in the Wallace Foundation’s Equity-Centered Pipeline Initiative include Baltimore; Columbus, Ohio; Washington, DC; Jefferson County, Kentucky; Portland, Oregon; San Antonio; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Other participating institutions include The Ohio State University, the University of Texas-Austin and Howard University.

SDSU was chosen as a mentor organization among the partnership participants for its success in redesigning its program to meet the needs of principles and districts as part of a 2016 Wallace Foundation initiative.

“I think the Wallace Foundation has seen that SDSU delivers,” Fisher said. “We engage, we have great partnerships, we learn a lot and we figure out how to make things work.”

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