Increasing English Language Arts proficiency by 50%
Last updated: 23/08/2019
How Esperanza Charter School developed their capacity to improve and demonstrated progress against the backdrop of a high English Learner and economically disadvantaged learner population.
Esperanza Charter School (ECS), a kindergarten through sixth grade school located in the West Valley City, Utah, was a school identified by the Utah Department of Education as one in need of academic support. Esperanza struggled to make sustainable gains on standardized assessments, compromising their upcoming renewal. In order to fulfill the charter’s mission of developing an environment that “fosters what each student needs to become biliterate, multicultural, and to acquire the skills and attributes needed to effectively serve in our local and global community…” as well as nurture continued hopes of expansion into a middle school, the school engaged with Class Measures’ specialist services to help realize the reality of their vision. This culminated in the Class Measures team establishing the root causes of their struggles, developing evidence-based action plans and increasing the capacity of the school to improve. The result - Esperanza Charter School increased proficiency in English Language Arts by an estimated 50%.
Demonstrating progress against the backdrop of a high English Learner population
Opening in August 2014 and currently serving 503 students, the school’s mission was to provide a dual language immersion program founded in multicultural respect and an appreciation of the cultural heritage of its 95% hispanic population. With 46% of its student body classified as English Language Learners and 77% identified of economically disadvantaged, longtime Utah educator and founding principal Eulogio Alejandre, faced a particular challenge of demonstrating academic progress at a comparable rate to that of the state. He stated:
“One of the greatest challenges we faced as a school was the state’s expectation that we grow at the same rate as surrounding schools that didn’t have our needs or serve our population. Only 3% demonstrated proficiency in English Language Arts in our opening year. We had exhausted our internal resources and even worked with members within our communities to help us get to where we needed to be, but we needed more.”
Although the school had made deep and profound progress in many areas, such as retaining a highly qualified and diverse staff, more work was needed to uncover how best to drive the school to demonstrate progress on summative assessments.
Using quality review to guide transformative work
In early 2019, the Class Measures Team led by Jo Cheadle, was selected by the Utah Department of Education to provide external support to the school and conduct a comprehensive needs assessment. The main objective was to both unearth the root causes of their struggles as well as fully highlight for all current stakeholders the school’s strengths as an organizational body. The review assessment focused on four domains:
- Turnaround Leadership
- Talent Development
- Instructional Transformation
- Culture Shift
The Class Measures team conducted a thorough analysis of classroom instruction by investigating evidence of effective learning within classrooms throughout the school. The Class Measures review process helped the team quickly realize that deficiencies in instructional pedagogy provided by the teaching staff were greatly hindering academic progress, an observation that was supported by the school leadership team. The team identified the following priorities for development:
- Development was needed in developing teacher instructional capacities in order to provide support to students to better monitor their academic progress.
- Instructional staff required more support in effectively utilizing data to drive academic progress.
- More support was needed to unpack state accountability standards in order to better develop learning targets that would maximize student proficiency.
Additionally, the review revealed that more support was required to develop ESC’s onsite instructional coaches in their capacities to develop struggling teachers. Reflecting on the root cause analysis, school principal Alejandre commented:
“One of the things that allowed Class Measures to really stand out among other instructionally supportive organizations was how astutely and accurately they were able to identify areas of growth. It was both exhilarating and validating to be confronted with the areas where we knew we needed support, in addition to areas in which we were doing well. Our work with Class Measures has developed an excitement, in that we now have a plan to better support the development of our teachers and their instructional practices.”
A plan centered on evidence of student learning
The next step for the Class Measures team was to work in tight collaboration with the SLT in order to develop a plan for action, based on the results of the review process. The team developed a common lens to evaluate and discuss student learning by introducing the Effective Learning Observation (ELO) framework; a methodology characterized by a shift to focusing only on evidence of student learning. This allowed the school and Class Measures review team to establish a common vocabulary in order to discuss student progress in the classroom. These conversations had a powerful impact on how the school discussed and measured student learning which then led to the plan to provide the following measures of support:
- Jo and her team of Class Measures consultants would provide further training on the Effective Learning Observation methodology to administrators and staff with particular focus on the school’s instructional coach.
- Additional professional development was to be provided to staff with regards to utilizing data effectively to develop learning targets geared toward student growth.
Effective reflection and development of practice
One tool introduced at the onset of discussions was the implementation of Class Measures’ Effective Learning Observations (ELO) protocols in order to equip teachers with a common language when discussing student learning. This methodology enabled school leadership, as well as instructional personnel, to measure the impact of instructional strategies, affording educators the ability to effectively quantify student learning. Implementation of the ELO protocol also helped ESC support additional developmental priorities identified during the review process, such as data driven instructional planning and the development of short/long range learning targets. Class Measures worked with the SLT in order to develop a professional development schedule for the upcoming academic year in order to ensure continued support and increased proficiency in the strategy beginning in August of 2019. Preliminary implementation of ELO yielded positive feedback from instructional staff and a renewed vigor in maximizing student success. Instructional coach Jennifer Gray commented:
“Class Measures gave us a new way to look at student learning in the classroom. For the first time the emphasis was on evidence of student learning and not necessarily on the teacher in the front of the room or other factors commonly found on state accountability rubrics. Teachers could now have meaningful conversations about what was happening in their classrooms in a way that could translate into effective reflection and development of practice.”
Moving forward with confidence
By the conclusion of the 2018-2019, the impact of Class Measures’ work was already becoming evident in Esperanza’s end of year assessments. ESC saw an increase in both math and English Language Arts; a higher upsurge than they had in previous years. Although official results for English will not be available until late August of 2019, on site analysis of known quantified scores estimates proficiency to have risen to 22%, the highest proficiency the school has seen since its opening. Ruminating on the entire experience, Alejandre noted:
“Class Measures is everything you would want in a professional instructional support organization. They were knowledgeable of the specific needs of our students and the challenges they face. They gave us a way to look at learning that is exciting and developing capacities for change. We are enthusiastic about the upcoming year, ready to take the recommendations Class Measures identified and use them to be better. I am confident that with their continued support we can double these scores by the end of the next academic year.”
See our resource page for more information about optimizing the impact of English Learner strategies and closing the EL student achievement gap