Fullerton School District

E.L. Achieve partners to improve results in Title III schools

The challenge Fullerton School District faced in 2006 was to find an effective way to improve instruction for English learners that would help meet the Title III Annual Measurement Achievement Outcomes (AMAO). Fullerton, located in Orange County, California, serves 13,662 students, 38% of whom are English learners. The majority of English learners are native speakers of Spanish (79%) or Asian languages (16%). 

Hearing Susana Dutro present at an accountability conference in 2006, district staff felt that the approach fit with their understandings from the literature and it made sense, so they invested in a partnership with E.L. Achieve to improve student learning. This investment paid tremendous gains on Fullerton’s Title III AMAOs.

During the 2003 school year, only 24% of English learners scored proficient on AMAO 3 (California Standards Test – ELA), and only 32% scored Early Advanced or Advanced on the CELDT (California ELD Test). By 2011, 53.1% of English learners scored proficient on CST-ELA and 50% scored Early Advanced or Advanced on the CELDT.

Susan Albano, Director of Educational Services, explained, 

“For years, many of us struggled to find the right kinds of materials and methods for teaching ELD (English Language Development). The research on teaching ELD supports Systematic ELD. Teachers in the Fullerton School District have been so positive about the work of E.L. Achieve! 
Those teachers who have not been trained continue to ask us, “When is the next training?” All of our schools are now providing ELD during a separate block and grouping students by proficiency level. We have come a long way in a few short years. I am excited about the progress we are making.” 

Initially the E.L. Achieve professional development team provided training to teacher leaders and administrators. Then approximately 50 Fullerton District staff attended E.L Achieve trainings outside of the district. In the second year of the partnership, nine Fullerton teacher leaders received training to become E.L. Achieve teacher leaders, developing their own district capacity. In 2008-09 this team started training within the district. To date, they have trained 500 to 600 teachers. In 2011 almost all teachers had been trained.

The training sessions helped teachers understand the principles of second language instruction and gain a deeper understanding of effective instruction for English learners. Susan Albano noted, “It wasn’t until teachers implemented the E.L. Achieve units that we consistently saw ELD lessons that looked like the kind of effective instruction we wanted to see happening in the classrooms. The demonstration of the units really increased understanding of the components of a good ELD lesson. Teachers were grateful to have the lessons designed for them and gained a much clearer understanding of lesson components such as structured practice as they implemented the units.”

The district used the E.L. Achieve observation tool in training administrators to recognize effective instruction. While an administrative walk-through might be brief and only catch part of the lesson, “we want the administrator to know all the things you should expect to see if you saw a complete lesson,” Albano emphasized. “The observation tool helps them see which part of the lesson they are reviewing and what other components they should be looking at upon their return visits.” In the workshops, teachers learned how ELD and ELA differ in both content and format, and learned the reason behind the difference. Grouping students by proficiency level, providing structured time with EL students, and understanding lesson creation and the components of good ELD lessons were all included in the training sessions.

The implementation of the E.L. Achieve units, Albano reported, was key to the success of the program: “Last year was the first year that we started working with the units – it was just amazing the difference in looking at teachers struggling to implement ELD previously, then seeing teachers implement the units. Now the elements are taught correctly, using sentence frames, and children talking in A/B partners, and structured language practice. The curriculum makes it so much easier for teachers to learn to implement. We can certainly attribute the ELD gains in the district to the improved ELD instruction through E.L. Achieve.”

Since it established a partnership with E.L. Achieve, the district’s gains have been impressive. The number of students meeting annual growth targets on AMAO 1 increased by 33%. There was a 22% increase in the number of students who were enrolled for fewer than five years and were meeting AMAO 2 (584 to 717).

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