CORE’s Partnership with San Bernardino City Unified School District Results in Reading Proficiency
Achievement Gains at the Elementary Level
Barbara Richardson’s voice is animated. She’s reminiscing about the time a group of students came to the school board to present the progress they made as a result of the work CORE provided their teachers. “You could just feel from the kids how they felt about school, their success, and their potential for going in a different direction than they would have a year prior,” says Richardson.
Richardson is the Director of Professional Development for SBCUSD, the seventh largest school district in California, serving more than 42,000 students in 70 schools. For the past three years, SBCUSD has partnered with CORE in its elementary schools to improve literacy achievement through a comprehensive implementation plan that has helped the district fully implement core and intervention programs.
“CORE helped me shift my understanding from we can help many of the kids who want to be helped, to we can help all kids who need help,” says Richardson. The data shows that since the SBCUSD schools started working with CORE in 2006, the reading scores of second grade students in participating classrooms increased by 43%, and the reading scores of third grade students increased by 57%.
SBCUSD has a significantly at-risk student population, with many students coming to school unprepared. Over 35% are English learners, not newcomers, and they have reached an intermediate level of English proficiency and tend to plateau. Richardson says CORE’s work at the primary grades is helping to catch students before they fall behind. For the first time students are actually ready for the upper grades. “Kids are coming out of third grade at the proficient level of reading, and that’s a new phenomenon for us in San Bernardino, to have a bulk of kids who are truly ready to move into the upper grades and be successful,” says Richardson.
CORE has done this through executive coaching to build the capacity of principals and site leaders to understand their programs, the importance of faithful implementation, and the necessity for a multi-tiered intervention system. CORE has also helped classroom teachers develop content knowledge and skillful teaching using their core and interventions programs. In addition to providing professional development for teachers, CORE consultants have spent a significant amount of time in the past three years working with district personnel and coaches. As a consequence, Jean Snell, SBCUSD’s Director of Elementary Instruction, indicates that over the past three years she’s seen her cadre of principals transformed from business managers to instructional leaders who understand the reading program and are part of an active multi-tiered, districtwide support system. “Our project, I believe, has been very successful because it’s helped people develop as leaders, and then they’ve also been able to apply what they are learning and help others at their schools develop leadership skills,” says Snell.
This kind of capacity building within schools is exactly what CORE strives for. “We build the expertise of people within the district so that they can carry on the work that we start,” says Ben Scherz, CORE Educational Services Manager. “It’s so that when CORE leaves, there is a system of support within the district.” For Snell, this means that CORE consultants act as a sounding board for next steps in the development of literacy across the district.
“CORE helped [scaffold] staff development [for] our teachers in a manner that number one, we can accomplish it, and number two, teachers see the results and that builds on their willingness to go the next step,” says Snell. “I see CORE as providing excellent leadership in the area of literacy that keeps us ahead of the game.”
CORE’s Efforts Continue with SBCUSD Middle and High Schools
Because of the positive support experienced by the elementary principals and improved Reading First results, SBCUSD has now partnered with CORE to launch an even more ambitious middle and high school model consistent with Response to Intervention (RtI) and intended to prevent dropouts and lift underachieving adolescents to literacy success. While many districts talk about the importance of building leaders, SBCUSD did more than talk—it took action.