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The ABC Unified School District, California

The ABC Unified School District, a small, urban district southeast of Los Angeles, includes Artesia, Cerritos, Hawaiian Gardens, and parts of Lakewood, Long Beach, and Norwalk, Calif. The district is governed by a seven-member board of education and enjoys a strong labor-management partnership. Together, the AFT Local 2317 president and the superintendent have turned a failing district into one with improving quality through programs that support professional develop for teachers in schools with high ELL and special education populations, peer coaching and community partnerships.

Labor-Management Partnership that Supports School Improvement

The district has a communication system that facilitates the relationship between labor and management, although they do not have a formal labor-management committee. The union and ABC Unified sponsor an annual beginning-of-year retreat that has resulted in a strategic plan with specific yearly targets in the areas of high standards, parent and community partnerships, professional development, safe and nurturing environment and modernizing facilities.

Effective Team Collaboration

As part of its reform, the union and school board worked with Harvard University for labor-management training. From this partnership grew the South-Side Schools Reading Collaborative (SSSRC), a project in six schools with high ELL populations and high special education populations. Teachers in SSSRC schools participate in special professional development programs to enhance their instructional skills. The district and union have collaborated on their own conferences in these areas as well.

Effective Professional Development

SSSRC schools use a vertical team approach to help students successfully transition through the grades. Teachers teach an extra hour each day and parents can attend literacy classes in the evening. SSSRC leaders meet monthly to assess progress.

The district and the union also collaborated to form the Peer Assistance and Support System (PASS) program, focused on supporting new teachers working toward tenure and veteran teaches who have received unsatisfactory evaluations in instruction and classroom management. Selected peers coach the teachers and monitor their progress. PASS concentrates on five areas, including:

  • Creating an effective teaching environment
  • Organizing subject matter
  • Planning instruction
  • Assessing learning
  • Developing professionally

A PASS council of three teachers and two administrators, appointed annually, oversees the program. In addition, a teacher who has been relieved of duties chairs and coordinates the program, reviewing referrals of teachers who serve as peer coaches in the program. Peer coaches provide final evaluations of program participants and the council makes recommendations for employment. Teachers in the program have the right to union representation at all meetings and can request a different coach.

Evaluating Progress

Students in the SSSCR improved their reading and overall test scores. Three years into the program, sixth graders’ test scores rose between 39 percent and 53 percent.

Hear more about ABC Unified School District's efforts:

Read more about the ABC Unified School District's efforts.

This profile is based on Beach, A. & Kaboolian, L. (2003). Public Service Public Savings: Case Studies in Labor Management Initiatives in Four Public Services. Washington, DC: PSLMC.