Chula Vista Elementary School District
Chula Vista Elementary School District (CVESD) spans 103 square miles between San Diego and the US-Mexico border.
The largest elementary school district in the state, it serves over 30,000 Pre-K – 8th grade students in 49 schools, including five dependent charters and three independent charters. The majority of students, 70 percent, are Latino, followed by 11 percent White, 9 percent Filipino, and 4 percent African American. Half the district’s students are low income and one-third are English learners.
On the California School Dashboard, CVESD is “Green” overall for each indicator. In English language arts (ELA), 63% of its students met or exceeded standards in 2017, and 51% did so in math. In 2017, the district had a suspension rate of 0.6% and a chronic absence rate of 5.7%, and 78% of students made progress on the English Language Proficiency Indicator. Twenty campuses offer Dual Immersion (DI) programs that serve over 6,000 students, and participating DI students overall outperform non-DI students by almost 5 percentage points on the CAASPP English language arts (ELA) assessment. English learners enrolled in DI outperform their peers in non-DI programs by almost 11 percentage points.
“Bilingualism is a geographic and economic necessity.”
Many systems and structures support success across the district’s school sites. Since the early 1990s, district leaders have embraced the concept of interdependence, which means the district is relatively decentralized and school leaders have significant autonomy in exchange for accountability for results. This reflects their belief that, in operating across a geographically and demographically diverse context, school leaders must make decisions based on the needs of their unique student populations. In return, principals must present their school’s outcomes to the school board each year, highlighting how English learners, students with disabilities, foster youth, and other traditionally underserved students are faring. Dr. Gloria Ciriza, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, summed up this philosophy by saying “The district generously allocates funding to school sites, but with that comes great responsibility in making sure schools show strong results.”
A strong focus for CVESD, and one that highlights the unique relationship between the district and its schools is its Dual Immersion programs. Implementation varies significantly by site: there are 50/50 models, 90/10 models, schoolwide programs, and small programs housed within schools. At Chula Vista Learning Community Center (CVLCC), a dependent charter school that offered the district’s first DI program, staff refer to all students as language learners or emergent bilinguals, and teachers employ research-based GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition and Design) and High-Impact Language Strategies to support students’ language development in both English and Spanish. These strategies are also used districtwide and are part of the district’s instructional focus on “collaborative conversations.” The DI program is one example of how district and school leaders embrace what they call “innovative learning.” This is the opportunity for principals and other staff to learn from others through a cohort Instructional Leadership Team model. Principals have come through CVLCC to study its DI model and replicate successful elements at their sites, thus allowing the charter school to serve as an incubator of innovation for the district.
Community demand for DI programs is high, and so is the district’s commitment to them. Superintendent Dr. Francisco Escobedo says, “Bilingualism is a geographic and economic necessity.” To support the Global California 2030 goal of having 50 percent of California’s K-12 students participate in programs leading to multilingualism, CVESD leaders are using data to improve their DI programs and are focused on recruiting bilingual teachers through their relationship with San Diego State University’s bilingual teacher credentialing program.
“The district generously allocates funding to school sites, but with that comes great responsibility in making sure schools show strong results.”
The district’s VAPA program is another example of how CVESD has paired strong district support with school site flexibility. Since the 2015-16 school year, district leaders have designated $6 million annually in LCFF funds to ensure that every student gets an average of 3 hours of VAPA instruction every other week, thereby expanding access to a broad and enriching curriculum. Doing so simultaneously frees up time for classroom teachers to collaborate biweekly in grade-level teams and with a district-funded resource teacher who supports planning and provides coaching. In total, teachers have about 70 hours of collaboration time each year – a critical time to hone their craft, problem-solve challenges together, and strategically plan for coordination across subject areas. The exact VAPA programming varies by school based on community demand, with some schools choosing to invest additional site-level LCFF funds to increase VAPA hours and thereby teacher collaboration time, but the concept is the same across sites.
The concept of interdependence is a powerful one that permeates the culture and operations of the district and its school sites. It allows schools to operate relatively independently while receiving ample support from their district and engaging in continuous learning with colleagues at their school sites and across the district. The intentionality and efforts of leaders across all levels of the system, along with future plans to build upon the success of its programs, hold exciting promise for the future of CVESD’s students.
Figure 1: Percent of Students Grades 3-6 Meeting Standards on CAASPP English Language Arts (ELA) Exam, by Language Program and Status
Source: Chula Vista Elementary School District, 2017-18; The Education Trust—West analysis of California Department of Education, 2016-17.