In 2018, Oxnard School District’s Juan Lagunas Soria School was one of just two schools to receive the Seal of Excellence Award from the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE).1 For its 80/20 Spanish Dual Language Immersion Program, the K–8 Soria was also awarded the state’s leading educational honor, the Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association (CSBA).2 The school’s acclaimed program serves as a model for the district, reflecting their vision for excellence in biliteracy instruction.
Oxnard School District (OSD) serves more than 17,000 students, including some 9,000 English learners. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Anabolena DeGenna says that ensuring educational excellence for every OSD student requires informed, committed teamwork. “Soria exemplifies what can be achieved when true collaboration occurs among all stakeholders. For the past two decades, Renaissance has partnered with us to help implement OSD’s literacy-focused community learning model. Across the district, Renaissance provides vital support for our entire team—giving students more access to both English and Spanish reading materials, making it easier for teachers to individualize instruction and analyze effectiveness, and strengthening home-to-school connections to help engage parents and surrounding communities.”
The challenge: Reading materials, access, and equity
Oxnard, California, is a coastal city located some 60 miles west of Los Angeles and thirty miles north of Malibu. Despite its proximity to wealthy communities, the Oxnard School District serves a high-poverty student population. Most students at the district’s 21 pre-K–8 schools come from low-income families, and 85 percent receive free or reduced lunch. More than half are classified as English learners. To better support these communities, the district has undertaken a number of major steps—including a 1:1 tablet initiative and a reading program built on Renaissance myON® Reader—to support its bilingual-literacy programs.3
“Access to Spanish content has traditionally been very limited,” says DeGenna. “Although we evaluated classroom and library solutions, the options from print companies were too limited and too expensive. In contrast, myON has made it possible for us to provide digital access to a wealth of fiction and nonfiction content, including literature and news articles in both Spanish and English. myON has really opened up an opportunity of equity, allowing us to give every OSD student access to relevant, interesting books.”
The results: Growth, engaged families, and success
Since the launch of the district’s reading program, OSD students have demonstrated growth on state reading tests. In their first year of using myON, students collectively read 854,000 books, spent 2,550 hours reading before school, 50,767 hours reading during school, and 26,917 hours reading after school. Now, just four months into their second year, students have already exceeded some of those totals and read more than 31,000 myON News articles. Monday through Friday, myON News gives students individual access (via their iPads) to five daily news articles that also have recorded audio. DeGenna says that the availability of articles in both English and Spanish helps integrate parents and guardians into the learning process. “When students read at home, particularly about current events, that’s often a conversation starter with other family members.”
“When students read at home, particularly about current events, that’s often a conversation starter with other family members.”
Dr. Anabolena DeGenna
Assistant Superintendent, OSD
Anna Thomas is a director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Accountability at OSD. “Nonfiction texts are an important component of state assessments. In the past, it has been challenging to find sufficient nonfiction reading material, particularly in Spanish, to help students prepare. Today with myON, teachers have thousands of nonfiction texts they can use to support instruction. By providing age-appropriate, leveled texts, myON also helps teachers connect content to classroom topics or to our adoptions in social studies and science. With so much material at their fingertips, teachers can much more quickly and easily individualize assignments. They don’t spend inordinate time searching for relevant content, and we don’t overly invest in finding and ordering print books.”
Another factor contributing to continued success is the fact that the district has provided site- and district-level incentive plans to encourage reading. Each site has developed an incentive plan that encourages students to read at their ZPD level, read for 25 minutes, and reach 85 percent correct on each quiz taken in Accelerated Reader. Students who read one million words in a year are recognized at Board of Trustees meetings. Mary Curtis, also a director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Accountability at OSD, adds, “Currently, we have more than 800 students who, in the past three years, have reached this goal and have been recognized. Students receive a certificate and reading superhero T-shirt for their first million words read as well. Students who reach the goal of two million words read and beyond are recognized and celebrated, too. Right now, we have 35 students who have read over four million words just in the last three years. I should also mention that to combat the summer slide, we created a summer reading program with similar prize levels to encourage students to continue reading over the summer.”
“By providing age-appropriate, leveled texts, myON also helps teachers connect content to classroom topics or to our adoptions in social studies and science.”
Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Accountability; OSD
Star 360 allows OSD educators to assess students in both English and Spanish, then compare scores. “Star 360 gives teachers a fast, clear picture of students’ abilities in both languages,” continues Thomas. “Each of our dual language program teachers administer assessments and monitor student performance in both English and Spanish. Using the Renaissance Star Early Literacy® portion of Star 360, we’re also able to identify problems early in the process, without requiring a lot of one-on-one teacher time for testing.”
“Star 360 helps us better evaluate the effectiveness of our instruction,” adds OSD’s Dual Language Program Director Aracely Fox. “Star 360 not only helps our teachers be more reflective, but also provides important data to help set growth goals and encourage parents to collaborate in the learning process. Recently, several English-dominant parents and guardians expressed concern that if their children were being taught in Spanish, perhaps they would fall behind in English. We were able to show them the side-by-side comparisons of scores, reassuring them and also pointing out specific areas where they could support their children’s efforts.
“This past year, we graduated our very first cohort of dual immersion students. The program that we began nine years ago has evolved into a model program for the district, as well as for others across California. The statewide recognition of Soria’s accomplishments reflects the team’s dedication to giving OSD students the gift of biculturalism and biliteracy through meaningful education and a positive family environment. The partnership with Renaissance has been an important part of these achievements.”
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