Category Archives: In the News

Pivot Collaborates with PACE to Release Rural Professional Learning Network Research Paper

Pivot Collaborates with PACE to Release Rural Professional Learning Network Research Paper

“We don’t really have the expertise on site so we rely on working with other small school districts and the curriculum department at our [county] office of education.”

                                                                                -Rural School Leader

Over the past two years , with generous support from the S.H. Cowell and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Pivot Learning has supported and collaborated with twenty-one rural districts and counties in Northern California to create the Rural Professional Learning Network (RPLN). Through an iterative design process, the RPLN has joined forces to overcome unique challenges due to their limited budgets and remote locations and effectively implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards.

Pivot partnered with Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), an independent, nonpartisan research center at Stanford University, to conduct research and present findings on the current challenges facing rural districts in California. The research was lead by Dr. Thomas Timar, an expert in education finance, policy, and governance, director of the UC Davis Center for Applied Policy in Education (CAP-Ed), and member of the PACE steering committee. In the report, “Surprising Strengths and Substantial Needs: Rural District Implementation of Common Core State Standards”, Dr. Timar and his colleagues found that “If small rural districts are to succeed in meaningful, deep implementation of CCSS, the state, COEs and other support providers must provide small and rural districts with access to relevant exemplars of systemic standards implementation.”

Based on research collected from RPLN’s first year, recommendations on how to better support rural districts included:

1) Encouraging rural districts and schools to think strategically and effectively about time management and resources.

2) Providing ongoing resources to small and rural districts to support professional development according to diverse teacher and student needs, innovative delivery methods, and effective, measurable impact.

3) Redefining the State and Local Role for Instructional and Curricular Support with specific consideration to the needs of small and rural districts.

Pivot and PACE are continuing to collaborate on this work, with the addition of El Dorado County into the RPLN. Additionally, Pivot is working with the Collaboration in Common platform to support the sharing of tools, resources, and supports between districts and between different networks.

The RPLN seeks to alleviate local capacity and statewide infrastructure issues within rural districts by leveraging both in-person meetings and virtual collaboration tools. As part of this network, education leaders identify their core implementation challenges (problems of practice or PoPs). The larger network works collaboratively to develop and share solutions for these challenges. Through this model, counties and districts identify, employ, and disseminate best practices in CCSS.

Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) is an independent, non-partisan research center based at Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and the University of California, Davis. PACE seeks to define and sustain a long-term strategy for comprehensive policy reform and continuous improvement in performance at all levels of California’s education system, from early childhood to post-secondary education and training. PACE bridges the gap between research and policy, working with scholars from California’s leading universities and with state and local policymakers to increase the impact of academic research on educational policy in California. For more information, see

National Teachers Week – From Student to Learner

National Teachers Week – From Student to Learner

The sign on Mrs. Wilkerson’s door read “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate:” Abandon hope all ye who enter here. Through me, you go to the grief-wracked city; Through me you go to everlasting pain. For many, this proved an accurate hint at the sorts of trials they’d go through in Mrs. Wilkerson’s English classes. “Good students” could be found weeping in the wake of her withering critiques, and “bad students,” well, we won’t talk about what happened to those.

I entered her AP 12th grade English class with full knowledge of her reputation, unafraid for some reason to enter the Inferno. I wasn’t a great student. I was capable of fantastic work, but rarely had the opportunity to prove it. However, I did a fine job coasting through English classes by getting As on papers that replaced literary analysis with comedy. I did this in science classes as well, but that was more hit or miss. Mrs. Wilkerson’s class would prove different.

At the end of my high school journey, I found myself in a dark place when Mrs. Wilkerson assigned “As I Lay Dying”, William Faulkner’s terrible novel about a family dragging a corpse to a burial ground. And like the unbaptized in the first circle of Hell, I bemoaned my fate, wailing and gnashing my teeth at the injustice of it all. Why did I have to suffer this torment? I was a reader, sure, but I wasn’t really a critical reader. I understood writing theory and practice, but I wanted my reading material straightforward. Why was I supposed to care about this family? Did this story need to be told? But she pressed me, questioned me. Goaded me into understanding. I still thought it was absolutely terrible. I wrote a scathing essay on everything I found stupid about it, not just as a matter of opinion, but a well-researched takedown with detailed notes and citations. If she wanted me to prove it was a terrible book, I’d prove it was a terrible book. I got an A.

We moved on to Hamlet. That was significantly easier, and all the tools she’d given me to shred William Faulkner to pieces I could use to fully appreciate Shakespeare’s masterpiece. The class moved too slowly for me. I needed more. I devoured it, and eagerly wrote out reams of pages for homework that I turned in weeks early.

I did the same for Waiting for Godot, The Stranger, The Great Gatsby (better than As I Lay Dying, but not by much), King Lear, and several others I can’t recall. She nurtured my ability to pick apart these classics, pushing me to go further always. If I gave her a essay that didn’t prove I’d put all of myself into it, she’d simply give it back to me and tell me to finish it. She could have just graded it and given me a C, but she didn’t.

Eventually, I would always give her an A paper. And in the process, I learned more about writing than I’d ever expected. I learned how to not just study, but to learn, for the joy of learning, not for the grade. And so, the class turned out to be rather easy, in the end. I fought for my grades, but I loved doing it.

Well, until the last book of the year. The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner. You knew what you were doing, Mrs. Wilkerson. I hope I can prank you back one day.

Gridley Unified Joins Pivot Learning Partners in Launch of the Rural Professional Learning Network

A team from the Gridley Unified School District including Superintendent, Rick Rubino, Director of Curriculum & Instructional Technology, Dr. Mona Bernal, Wilson Elementary School Principal, Tracey Allen and Wilson Elementary Fourth Grade Teacher, Alice Montgomery, joined Pivot Learning Partners in their launch of the Rural Professional Learning Network (RPLN) with support from the S.H. Cowell Foundation and the California Education Policy Fund, a branch of the Hewlett Foundation, and a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Pivot Learning Partners is a non-profit organization whose mission is to revitalize our public school systems so that all students have the opportunity to succeed in college and career. They partner with education leaders at all levels and provide them with the knowledge, skills, and support proven to strengthen educational systems and transform teaching and learning.

Read more in the Gridley Herald.

New School Funding Formula to Get Huge Increase

Arun Ramanathan, CEO of Pivot Learning Partners, a nonprofit education consulting firm based in San Francisco, said that districts would be wise to invest in a few strategies that could be sustained for the next several years, such as increasing learning time by extending the school year to reduce summer learning loss, adopting early reading strategies with professional development for teachers and choosing research-based approaches to student discipline. He is worried that districts won’t do that, in part because the LCAP requires districts to respond to eight priorities, including school climate, parent involvement, academic achievement and student engagement…

Read more in EdSource.