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FUSD Celebrates Students, Schools with Biggest Academic Gains
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 2 years ago on
June 2, 2022

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Academic achievement isn’t just about making the Honor Roll.

Fresno Unified officials are also celebrating students who made the most progress in improving their reading and math scores.

The big winner this year was Kirk Elementary’s second grade, where a whopping 67% made their “stretch growth” goals in reading and 53% in math. The southwest Fresno school had another award-winning group of students — 62% of the first-graders met their stretch growth goals.

Recognizing student academic achievement is important because it helps students realize the importance of trying their best, says Superintendent Bob Nelson, and inspires them to work even harder.

Making Nelson’s point: district officials singled out sixth-grader Marisela Cruz Bautista for her academic growth at a news conference at Sunnyside High School on Wednesday afternoon.

Nelson and other school officials spent part of last week visiting 13 school sites where students made the biggest gains this school year.

The district recognized four categories:

  • Highest growing grade levels in reading and math, kindergarten through eighth grade
  • Highest growing grade levels in each region
  • Top 100 growing students across the district
  • Top performing students

Academic Improvement Awards.mp4 from Fresno Unified on Vimeo.

Wednesday’s School Board agenda included a resolution in support of academic growth and achievement, reflecting the district’s drive to recognize students for working hard to learn, Nelson said.

Above and Beyond

The big winner this year was Kirk Elementary’s second grade, where a whopping 67% made their “stretch growth” goals in reading and 53% in math. The southwest Fresno school had another award-winning group of students — 62% of the first-graders met their stretch growth goals.

Students at Jefferson Elementary also nabbed top honors. The central Fresno school’s kindergartners and fourth-graders came out on top in reading and math achievement gains.

The other schools recognized are Bullard TALENT (first- and eighth-graders in reading, seventh-graders in math), Hamilton (third-graders in reading), Lawless (third-graders in math), Manchester GATE (fourth-graders in reading, fifth-graders in math), Jackson and Easterby (fifth-graders in reading), Williams (sixth-graders in reading), Greenberg (sixth-graders in math), Yosemite and Fort Miller (seventh-graders in reading), and Wawona (eighth-graders in math).

Students who met their stretch growth goals got medals to hang around their necks in honor of their accomplishments.

The yardstick used to measure progress is the i-Ready diagnostic testing tool that Fresno Unified started using in the 2019-20 school year. I-Ready allows students to pinpoint areas where they struggle and then focus through lessons that supplement classroom instruction.

The district on Wednesday was touting the gains, yet officials were unable to say specifically what percentage of the district’s student body tested at grade level by the end of the year compared to the beginning of the year.

The results of the third of three i-Ready tests are not yet complete as teachers have until the end of the school year to finalize any makeup tests, spokeswoman Nikki Henry said.

Hard Work Reaps Rewards

Trustee Claudia Cazares, who represents the Hoover region, said it was particularly important to acknowledge the successes of students and school staff, all of whom had to work extra hard to adjust to being back in the classroom after more than a year of virtual learning.

Veva Islas Cultiva la Salud

“That’s phenomenal, and that’s proof that our students are rising to the occasion and moving past the pandemic.” — Fresno Unified trustee Veva Islas, speaking about academic achievements of students at Design Science and Duncan Poly

As the mother of a 13-year-old boy, Cazares said she is a big fan of i-Ready and how the testing system helped her son hone in on where he was struggling. Her son kept practicing until he had it learned, she said.

With more than a year on virtual teaching, it’s not surprising that students and teachers started the year at an “understandable” deficit, Board Clerk Veva Islas said.

“That’s why it’s so important to celebrate every achievement our students make and gain,” she said. “And this is demonstrative that our students can start at a deficit and still achieve.”

In addition to the elementary and middle school academic gains, Islas said the district can be proud of other student achievements, including:

  • 100% of Design Science Middle College High School seniors are graduating and all have been accepted to colleges.
  • 10% of Duncan Polytechnical High School’s seniors are graduating with honors. Almost all of the honor students are bilingual and graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average.

“That’s phenomenal, and that’s proof that our students are rising to the occasion and moving past the pandemic,” Islas said.

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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