Literacy is our first priority
New Directions for Academic Advancement (NDA2), founded in 2001 and incorporated as a California Nonprofit Corporation in 2002, is based on the work started by Dr. Linda Gonzales in collaboration with Dr. Peter Drucker from Claremont Graduate School in the development of literacy. From 1988-1998, Dr. Linda Gonzales implemented literacy changes in an urban, gang-ridden, ethnically and linguistically diverse, and economically-challenged community in Los Angeles (LA) County. All the children were eligible for free or reduced lunch, 98% were Latino, and 75% were learning English. In fact, two of the district schools were rated as the lowest performing in LA County. The most impressive part of the intensive work history done in this community has been the sustainability of the model. The two aforementioned schools, lowest in LA County, were rated again in 2013 by the California Department of Education (15 years after the project) with staggering changes. In 2013, the lowest school (as reported in 1988) had an Academic Performance Indictor (API) of 795 of 800 with 47% of the students proficient in English language arts and the second lowest school had an API of 753 with 41% of the students proficient in English language arts as measured by the California Standards Test (CST) with demographics static over the 25-year period.
By making sure that all children could read by the third grade, Dr. Gonzales and her team saw incredible changes in the following additional indicators as reported to the district Board of Education in the End of Year Report for 1997:
Following her work in Los Angeles, Dr. Gonzales went on to serve as superintendent in another district and on various California commissions and committees including assisting in the development of the English Language Arts Framework in 2006-07. In 2000, Dr. Gonzales was enlisted to assist the California State Board of Education in the state takeover of Compton Unified School District. Using the literacy strategy and the support of the California Reading Lions and the David Packard Foundation, Compton Unified School District exited the state takeover academic sector in 2001.
After assisting Compton, New Directions for Academic Advancement (NDA2) became one of the first 26 school/district assistance providers approved by the California Department of Education (CDE). New Directions has participated in six California state takeovers including two districts (Alisal and Greenfield Union Elementary) where NDA2 was selected by the California State Board of Education as District Assistance Intervention Team. These two academic takeover districts exited in a record three years.
During the last 15 years, NDA2 has worked to bring literacy to schools, districts, communities, and countries. New Directions has worked in numerous capacities in school districts including School Assistance Intervention Team Provider, District Intervention Team Provider, and program improvement coach. Their experience is that research based literacy; good management and leadership are keys to academic success. Their literacy research approach is best communicated in the federal publication, Put Reading First. After almost 30 years of work, New Directions’ teams believe the greatest lesson and take away is that literacy is the key. Schools perform many functions for their communities, BUT literacy must be the first priority or all citizens fail especially the most fragile children.
New Directions for Academic Advancement (NDA2) has identified five key elements that when applied consistently with informed practice, especially with children learning English as a second language, will break academic paralysis for high risk subgroups. The Five elements are:
- deep informed commitment
- congruent tenacious leadership
- limited but informative assessment
- data discussion and application
- research-based intervention
Literacy must be the first priority for all children.
Dr. Peter Drucker said it best when he told Dr. Linda Gonzales to stick to the purpose of schooling – teach the children to read. That must be the primary mission else all other goals and aims will fail.
The tables on the following pages represent the district results for schools that successfully participated New Directions literacy project. All schools represented in the table have these characteristics. 100% of the students received free or reduced lunch; 90% were learning English as a second language; and more than 95% of students are not white.
The first tables reflect Academic Performance Indicator and California Proficiency results for English language arts over a ten year period. Individual student results in these schools are amazing.
The chronically underperforming schools data (failed to make state targets for more than 10 years) represents performance over a two year project with one year of implementation in the Rialto Unified School District. These schools have extreme poverty rates; intensive risk factors; more than 95% of students learning English as a second language; all students were not white.
The last page is from a school that has moderate risk factors. The population is still majority minority, but more students are native English speakers and students are from a lower middle class blue collar community. After two years, the school had only 22 students severely below grade level. The data represent all special education students including those in Special Day Classes.
There is also evidence from other moderate single schools like Westpark Elementary in Southern Kern Unified School District that reported that after 2 years there were NO third graders reading below grade level. This school was very tenacious in the approach to include special education students and their parents.
The programs and resources of New Directions for Academic Advancement (NDA2) are distinct from other publishers’ curricula (that of Epson, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and others) in several ways.
The first is our strong adherence to the four formal patterns of English which are 1) forming sounds, 2) attaching sounds to letters, 3) memorizing high frequency words, and 4) stringing words together to make the syntactical patterns of English and connecting those patterns to reading and reciting English story grammar and narratives.
This is a cutting-edge educational method that has been proven to be most effective in opening the windows of English to learners. The second way that NDA2 resources are set apart is that we use adequate repetition so that every learner can retain and utilize the information long-term. NDA2 also develops all of its resources specifically for children, rather than adapting an adult lesson and simplifying it for a child. Our program design is based on how children develop and learn.
Finally, NDA2 uses the visuals, narratives, and other teaching opportunities to help students understand and apply good character and discipline to their lives. Our goal is that students having gone through NDA2 programs emerge not only as excellent readers but as critical thinkers and citizens with good morals and discipline in their lives.
The methodology of New Directions curriculum has been field-tested for 12 years in over 100 schools across California, impacting tens of thousands of students’ lives. Dr. Linda Gonzales was delighted to find the schools’ literacy rates rise, students’ overall grades improve, teachers relieved and students set up for life success.
For example, in Dolores Huerta Elementary School of Lennox, after going through the New Directions Sounds of English curriculum, the school went from 39% of third grade students who were reading at their level in November 2015 to 85% of third grade students reading at their level in May 2016. The school saw a 46% increase in third grade literacy in less than 6 months.