Just 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles and home to students in Lompoc, Vandenberg Village, Mesa Oaks, Mission Hills, Vandenberg Air Force Base, and adjacent rural areas, Lompoc Unified School District in California is adapting to their 9,800 students spread across 17 different schools. With a population of more than 40,000 residents, the region is noted for its mild, smog-free climate and is also known as the flower seed capital of the world, producing more than half of the world’s supply of flower seeds.
Trevor McDonald arrived at Lompoc USD in 2013, looking to implement school transformation practices as the new superintendent. A former athlete, Trevor has a natural competitive drive and desire to tackle challenges head-on. With that mindset, along with a dedicated team, Lompoc USD has transformed into an adaptable and student-focused district. How? Understanding their students’ learning habits and making constant adjustments—such as flexible seating or serving breakfast in each classroom before school starts. A user of Renaissance Accelerated Reader® and Star 360®, Trevor and other leaders in the district were familiar with Renaissance products, but the idea of incorporating digital books into each school’s curriculum was new to the district. Standing behind their message of being adaptable, Lompoc USD decided to pilot Renaissance myON® Reader and myON® News, powered by News-O-Matic, over the past summer to coincide with the statewide California READS! initiative.
The challenge: Getting the word out
The district understood that one of the biggest obstacles would be the lack of computers or books at home. Despite this, they also knew that the vast majority of students in Lompoc and their families have cell phones—making it simple to access the internet. Tailoring their message with the help of a few key players in the district and community, Lompoc USD informed families about all the books and news articles—more than 6,000—that were available free of charge at their fingertips.
Moving quick, myON Reader and myON News, powered by News-O-Matic, were rolled out just as summer started. Knowing that it would be a fast turnaround, the district worked hand-in-hand with educators around the district as well as the surrounding communities to get the word out about a free program offered to students over the summer. Leaders around Lompoc handed out fliers, discussed the initiative on the local radio, and produced materials in English and Spanish. It was crucial that families were informed and materials were produced in Spanish.
“It was a true community effort to get this off the ground,” recalled Trevor McDonald, Superintendent of Lompoc USD. “We had several leaders around Lompoc go door-to-door, informing families about the free program. Knowing that a significant part of our student population consists of English Learners, materials were produced in Spanish as well—making a huge difference.”
“It was a true community effort to get this off the ground.”
Superintendent, Lompoc USD
The results: 131K minutes spent reading and 19,583,641 words read in two months
With the word out, families and their students read—a lot. The results speak for themselves. From June 3 to July 30, students in the district achieved some incredible numbers including:
One of the biggest surprises that came out of the initiative was families and parents reading on myON Reader and myON News, powered by News-O-Matic, on their own. Trevor recalled several parents asking him if it was fine that they were exploring the books and reading.
“Of course!” exclaimed Trevor. “We rolled out the program to give families access to some great books. Hearing that entire families—parents, brothers, sisters—were taking advantage of the books in English and Spanish is what we wanted.”
“Hearing that entire families—parents, brothers, sisters—were taking advantage of the books in English and Spanish is what we wanted.”
Superintendent, Lompoc USD
And the numbers prove it. Students read 1,844 minutes before 8:00 am during the week while reading 17.1K minutes during the weekend in the span of just under two months—an incredible testament that students are reading in their spare time and even getting up early to read.
As Trevor and the leadership team started looking at the vast amount of data coming from the program, they noticed that students were reading a ton, meaning that adapting to their digital-native students worked. Through the grapevine, Trevor heard feedback about how the students thought it was cool that they were able to read on their phones or listen to audio versions of their books and how the books were culturally-relevant AND in two languages. Students were able to connect with the characters—something that English Learners struggle with often. Students shared natural conversations around what everyone was reading. The buzz around Lompoc was real, as Trevor and his team heard about the excitement at an exercise class and even the grocery store.
With students back in school now, Lompoc USD plans to expand their usage of myON Reader and myON News, powered by News-O-Matic, and hopefully develop a true community model behind both of the programs.
“To see how fast our students took to both programs, and to hear from educators across the district about the changes they’ve witnessed—it almost makes too much sense to make both a regular part of our curriculum,” said Trevor. “SpaceX is down the road and there’s a real chance to involve the Boys and Girls Club. We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do.”