Enabling Change
Enabling Change

Next generation learning is all about everyone in the system—from students through teachers to policymakers—taking charge of their own learning, development, and work. That doesn’t happen by forcing change through mandates and compliance. It happens by creating the environment and the equity of opportunity for everyone in the system to do their best possible work.

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Early education is one of Vista Unified's three brushstrokes to transform the learning experience. The district is working with community partners to close the achievement gap by Grade 3.

In our most recent blog post, we promised to introduce the bookends of Vista Unified's great transformative journey: the P-3 Continuum and Talent Cities. These two bookends exemplify our three brushstrokes of transformation: Early Education, Personal Learning, and the World of Work. Taken as a whole, we believe these three brushstrokes, measured by Wildly Important Goals or WIGs, will change the future for each of our students readying them for college, career, and contribution to global society.

Our world is becoming increasingly more complex. Sadly, our traditional model of education is simply not equipped to keep pace with the increase in complexity. Students graduating high school from a traditional system often do not move into the world of work with the requisite experiences, skills, and abilities to navigate a rapidly changing career ecosystem. Indeed, projections from a research project at Oxford University indicate that by the year 2033, 47 percent of all jobs may be lost to automation (Frey and Osborne, 2013). We are seeing the impact of this projection today with the rapid movement toward autonomous automobiles silently moving around our streets. In Vista Unified, we not only acknowledge the shift toward complexity, but we are embracing the reality of its implications on how we structure our educational program. At Vista Unified, innovation is key to transformation to a new learning ecosystem that paints three broad brushstrokes. These brushstrokes are intended to engage all students in a learner-centered pathway, leading to flexible, nimble thinkers ready to adapt to careers that do not currently exist.

Pictured here, these three brushstrokes are simple but powerful drivers toward a transformed learning experience. Simply put, our educational program is focused on early education, personal learning, and relevant exposure to the world of work—Early, Personal, and Relevant! All three brushstrokes begin with a foundation based on in-depth understanding of individual student strengths, interests, and values. From these brush strokes, we define a set of three wildly important goals (WIGs) to ensure that our transformation truly leads to improved outcomes for all students. The focus of this blog post highlights our first brushstroke (Early Education) and the WIG that goes along with it.

Vista Unified Goals

We have set a WIG to close the achievement gap in language, literacy, and numeracy by 75 percent by Grade 3 by 2025. To lay down our first brushstroke and WIG, Vista Unified staff collaborate with the Vista Partnership for Children, led by the United Way, and the San Diego Workforce Partnership's newly formed Center for Low Income Mobility, CLIMB, led by Laura Kohn, to create a new ecosystem to serve the very beginning of life. Our goal is ensuring that the earliest of learners start off on the best of learning pathways. Together, we are building a P-3 continuum (Prenatal to grade three) that will assist families from the beginning creating home and community environments that support readiness to learn.

The P-3 continuum will change the shape of the Vista Unified campus and enhance its ability to serve the Vista community. Working with the Partnership for Children, Vista Unified will ensure that its community is informed of pre-natal care services for expecting mothers, family and childhood services for age 0-3, and then entry to a P-3 Continuum that provides a seamless education through third grade. Our goal is to coordinate with our community wraparound services to intervene early, before birth, to address health, family, language, and employment issues that may hold students back from learning. As early as possible, we seek to identify and address gaps in social-emotional wellness and physical and learning disabilities that may inhibit full student agency.

Early interventions are less disruptive, less costly, and more successful. At Vista Unified, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of English Language Learners in the 3rd grade as students are reclassified as fluent English proficient much earlier. Specifically, in 2008, we reclassified 0 percent of our English learners. By 2017, after nine years of expanding preschool programs to ten schools in the district, we have reclassified over 29 percent of English learners by first grade. The overall reclassification rate went from 5 percent to 21 percent over the same time frame. Our focus on early learning is starting to make a meaningful impact on narrowing the achievement gap for English learners.

Vista reclassify English learners

At Vista Unified, early education centers, pre-schools, and kindergarten classrooms are being reconfigured to form a seamless continuum through grade 3. Teachers are at the heart of this change. We have formed a P-3 Focus Group composed of expert teachers who will take the lead designing the framework and professional development for this Continuum. The P-3 Continuum will create a consistent, strengths-based culture in which students are recognized for the progress they make, the curiosity they portray, and their capacity for sharing with others. In this environment of strengths and interests coupled with personalized support, we believe we will reach our WIG. Below please see our instructional pedagogy model.

Vista instructional model

Our goal is to serve the whole family creating a sustainable support system for learning based on best practices. To determine best practices, this fall, Vista Unified and University of California at San Diego will extend its already successful partnership to create an International Center for Education and Research Practices, ICERP. Located on the Vista Unified Campus, ICERP already has a list of multiple research projects scheduled for action in the 2017-18 school year.

These research projects will make an immediate impact on the lives of all Vista students, but particularly our earliest of learners. ICERP is under the joint leadership of Professor Alan Daly, Graduate School of Education, UCSD, and Dr. Matt Doyle, Interim Superintendent, Vista Unified. Daly observed, "Collaborative partnerships are the future of deep educational progress. Drawing on our mutual commitment to equity and community this Center is poised to transform education in a diverse society. The Department of Education Studies at UCSD is privileged to be a partner in this groundbreaking effort."

Collaborative partnerships guide the design and implementation of our Early Education brushstroke. Working with UCSD, the United Way, and CLIMB, Vista Unified will reach its WIG and perhaps even more importantly, we will reach it in a manner that is scalable and sustainable across our district. In our next post, we will talk about our most important brushstroke, Personal Learning. Please continue to follow our transformation through this blog over the course of the next year. We also invite you to observe and interact with our journey at the Vista Unified Innovation Website.

Matt Doyle & Gerri Burton headshots

Matt Doyle and Gerri Burton

Vista Unified School District, New Learning Ventures

Dr. Matt Doyle is the Interim Superintendent of Vista Unified School District. Gerri Burton is the CEO of New Learning Ventures.