Fresno Unified School District is plagued by low expectations of students that stymie progress in some of the state's lowest-performing schools, according to a new report that supports major staffing changes already under way.The Council of the Great City Schools issued the scathing report to the school board last week; Superintendent Michael Hanson had asked for an assessment that "pulled no punches," according to district officials. The findings call for an administrative overhaul and new top-level central office jobs. The council's report will join the Graduation Task Force recommendations, expected in the next month or so, to become the district's guiding documents next school year, Hanson said last week.The Washington, D.C.-based Council of the Great City Schools has 67 large urban school districts, including Fresno. The organization advocates for education reforms to benefit big-city districts.Some teachers and school board members have questioned the credibility of the council's report, which was expedited at Hanson's request and completed during the spring break in April when schools were closed. The report -- which was released last week, when trustees saw it for the first time -- validates efforts to expand Hanson's administrative cabinet that already were under way for weeks.Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, laid out his assessment without any sugar-coating. The report criticizes staffing shortages, a lack of accountability for teachers and administrators, failing English-language programs, high suspension and expulsion rates, and management that is ineffectively structured.Fresno Unified's greatest weakness, said Casserly, is the chronic low expectations that teachers, staff, administrators and even parents have for students."None of us got into this work to dish out mediocrity everyday," Casserly said at the meeting.Several trustees said they weren't surprised by the criticisms."We've been plodding along, doing a little bit better each year," Trustee Janet Ryan said. "Kids are moving forward, for the most part. But it's never been enough."In a later email to The Bee, Ryan called for making "some dramatic changes, and those will be decided at the board table."Yet long before the report was finished, changes were already in progress -- the district started planning an administration overhaul months ago that could be completed by May, according to spokeswoman Susan Bedi.Fresno Unified hired a chief academic officer and chief information officer last month -- two positions in the council's proposed organizational structure to help fix some of the district's problems.The report also calls for a chief of staff and a chief operating officer to work under Hanson.Bedi said the district is recruiting and already has lined up interviews with candidates for several jobs. A new page appeared on the district's website this week -- "Redefining FUSD's Vision and Goals" -- which outlines steps to implement the council's recommendations.The administrative overhaul comes in the midst of an exodus of top district administrators -- two associate superintendents, the human resources administrator and the special education director are leaving this year.The report says Fresno Unified is understaffed in the central office and in schools. Fresno Unified student-teacher ratios are almost 20-to-1, compared to 15-to-1 in the council's other large urban districts. The district's student-staff ratio is 14-to-1, about double the ratio of the other districts.Meanwhile, Fresno Unified spends less than half of what the other large urban districts spend on administrators -- about 0.4% of its total spending."You run a very lean shop -- in fact, it's too lean," Casserly said.Casserly said Hanson has been acting like the superintendent of a much smaller district, doing jobs he should be delegating to others -- which he says is due to the staffing shortage.But Trustee Michelle Asadoorian said Hanson takes on many jobs because he micro-manages: "Hanson's leadership style is, he is extremely hands-on and it's proven detrimental to our school district."Trustee Larry Moore said hiring more administrators will take resources from the classroom. Fresno needs better -- not more -- managers, Moore said."It [already] is a huge bureaucracy," he said.The council's report said a lack of checks and balances has led to teaching methods that are scattered: Programs are disjointed, teachers don't use test scores to guide what they teach, students are moved to advanced math courses without preparation, and huge chunks of instruction are left out of classes.Initiatives to help the district's most challenged students have fallen flat -- Hanson commissioned a task force about three years ago to help English-learners, yet their test scores have fallen.Last year, no English-learner eighth-grade student tested at or above proficient in reading, and only 1% of English-learner fourth-graders tested at or above proficient. About 20,700 of the district's roughly 73,000 students are English learners.Casserly offered a few words of praise for the district's robust data and technology systems and healthy finances. Also, more students are taking Advanced Placement classes, although teachers and some board members said many of those students are ill-prepared for the courses.Fresno Unified has a long-standing relationship with the Council of the Great City Schools; Hanson has participated in council-sponsored activities, and he and Trustee Cal Johnson are council board members. The report didn't cost anything, although the district pays $39,200 yearly for its council membership. The district paid for travel and accommodations for the council representatives who visited Fresno to create the report.The report was based on about 60 interviews with principals, teachers, parents, community leaders, staff and trustees. Six of the 10 parents interviewed have children at a magnet school, a sample that Asadoorian said skewed the results. Of Fresno Unified's 94 schools, 20 have magnet programs.Casserly said the tight deadline limited what the council could accomplish in Fresno. Hanson requested the assessment in February. He had wanted to reorganize staff by the end of March, but the deadline was too soon for Casserly, who said he agreed to come to Fresno on April 1-4. He said schools were on vacation, so the district selected teachers, parents and staff for the council to interview.The nine teachers interviewed out of about 3,700 don't offer an accurate portrayal of the high expectations teachers have of their students and the efforts they make to help students reach those expectations, Fresno Teachers Association President Greg Gad-ams said."There is a frustration and a lack of confidence in the curriculum and the district's mandated practices that we have to follow," he said. "But that's way different than low expectations."Gadams also noted that the report arrived just as the district opened negotiations with the union; he worries the allegations of low expectations may be used against teachers.But some teachers are clearly not doing their job well, said school board President Tony Vang. He said the district should replace teachers who aren't giving students more challenging work to reach their potential."I always have a hope that everyone has high expectations for children," Vang said.