Central Valley · Education

Los Banos elementary school ranks first in percentage gains

SNAP! Learning
, a publisher of K-8 reading curriculum, announced its flagship reading program has propelled an elementary school in California to outperform 502 other elementary schools among the 12 poorest counties in the state. It saw the highest percentage gain of English language learners who have met or exceeded the English Language Arts (ELA) standards.

Volta Elementary School in the Los Banos Unified School District is using a new reading approach which focuses on a unique system of teaching “close reading,” an approach students use to engage in the analysis of complex text by examining meaning thoroughly and methodically.

Using SNAP! Learning’s close reading protocol, the school reports that 33 percent of English learners in grades 3-6 met or exceeded the English Language Arts standards of the Common Core. This represents a 22-point gain from 2015 to 2016 the highest gain in the 12 poorest counties in California with a high percent of English language learners: Imperial, Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, Merced, Lake, Yuba, Butte, Del Norte and Tehama. The 502 elementary schools in these counties tested 50 or more English language learners.

In California, a public K-12 pupil is called an English learner if the student’s home or primary language is not English and his or her district has not reclassified the student as “fluent English proficient” based on state test scores.

Volta Principal Jan Whitehurst also said the school surpassed by a wide margin the percentage of English learners in California who met the standards. When comparing this single school to the average of all counties in the state, Volta achieved higher average percent of English learners who met the standards. The 58 counties in California ranged from Trinity at 31 to Madera at 6 percent, per the results of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress as reported by the Department of Education.

“This is a tremendous achievement, and I credit this performance to the dedicated hard work of students and teachers and to the use of an entirely new process of effectively teaching reading comprehension through a new product called SNAP! Learning Close Reading Portfolios,” Whitehurst said.  “We have used SNAP for the past three years and every year our English learners have made consistent progress.”

In terms of English learners who met or exceeded the standards and who had the highest percentage gains Volta also topped all the other elementary schools in Merced County, where Los Banos is located. Of the 101 schools in the county, the percentage of English learners meeting and exceeding the standards ranged for 33 to zero percent with the average for the county at nine percent.

Volta Elementary is a school of nearly 400 students, 34 percent of which are English language learners.  The school was recently honored by the Educational Research Partnership and the Campaign for Business and Educational Excellence as an Honor Roll School for 2015. This honor recognizes public schools that demonstrate a consistently high level of student academic achievement and a reduction in achievement gaps.

SNAP! Learning is a California-based publisher of reading products. In addition to its Close Reading Portfolios, the company offers more than 400 engaging books in English and Spanish and scripted lesson plans. That incorporates instruction and practice in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension covering K-6 content in history and science. The materials are appropriate for struggling readers, English language learners and students with disabilities.

Related links | California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress:

CA 12 Highest Poverty Counties Percent Gains
Merced County Gains and Percent Met 2016
CA Counties Percent Met and Gains


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