Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) is one of the largest school districts in California, serving nearly 35,000 K–12 students in 43 schools. Per district records, MVUSD is an urban-fringe district and in 2011 had Riverside County’s lowest high school graduation rate and highest dropout rate. Approximately one-fourth of its students are classified as English learners (ELs), with 83% of students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals. Among the district’s ELs, 88% are long-term English learners (LTELs). Sixty-six percent of the student body is Hispanic, 17% is African American, 10% is White, and 4% is Asian.
The California League of Schools, in partnership with MVUSD, Dr. Kate Kinsella, and others, were awarded an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant to assist middle school ELs on their path to college success through intensive school and family interventions and engagement. The project, known as Families for College (FFC), works with a cohort of 325 students and their families, most of whom are classified as long-term ELs. Beginning in the fall of 2013, the project began working with a cohort of students from the start of sixth grade. The project will continue to work with these students and families through the fall of their tenth-grade school year. One of the primary goals of the project is to increase the language and writing achievement of the students through clear, consistent EL- and LTEL-focused academic supports. Key features of these academic supports are the implementation of the Common Core State Standards-aligned English 3D curriculum, combined with rigorous teacher training and support provided directly by the author, Dr. Kate Kinsella, and her associate. An anticipated outcome of the FFC project is to increase the number of students who reclassify as Fluent English Proficient by the end of eighth grade in order for them to gain greater access to the high school core curriculum.
Independent evaluators from Educational Resource Consultants (ERC) and MVUSD closely monitor the English language growth of students participating in the FFC project through several criteria, including the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) and student surveys.
The majority of English 3D students involved in the FFC project increased in one or more of the domains on the CELDT (96% in Sunnymead Middle School and 88% in Badger Springs Middle School), with more than 60% of students increasing in two, three, or four domains in both middle schools. See Graph 1.
Teachers agreed unanimously that English 3D classes are benefiting their EL students. Teachers reported a wide variety of benefits of the English 3D curriculum. See Figure 1.
FFC students also reported that as a result of the English 3D curriculum, they are more confident using academic language when speaking and writing. See Graph 2.
Taken together, state test findings along with teacher and student findings confirmed the effectiveness of English 3D in improving student achievement. MVUSD was presented with three Golden Bell Awards, more than any other school district in California, and with seven Gold Ribbon Awards, more than any other school district in Riverside County. State Superintendent, Tom Torlakson, recognized the schools in the district as “academically successful, vibrant, and innovative centers of learning and teaching.”