Gaining Ground: How one OUSD elementary’s dual immersion program prioritizes Black student achievement

In April, we released a new report entitled “Gaining Ground,” which looked at student literacy progress on the i-Ready assessment and highlighted the top 10 OUSD elementary schools that are helping Black students, Latino students, and English Learners make gains in reading (Spanish version here). We know that the pandemic created major disruptions to student learning for the past few years, making the urgency to accelerate student learning this year even more critical.

Today, we want to highlight Greenleaf Elementary, a small East Oakland school doing big things in service of Black and Latino students. We recently sat down with Principal Annika Rudback (a longtime Greenleaf staff member) and Literacy Coach Kate Moseley to learn more about their approach.

As a dual Spanish language immersion school, Greenleaf serves far more Latino students, but has also made intentional efforts to focus on inclusion and belonging for Black students—and it has paid off. Greenleaf is one of the few schools in Oakland that met our criteria for a high-growth school for both of these student groups. 

Rudback, Moseley, and the rest of the Greenleaf staff expected to see growth resulting from their efforts, but not as much as they did. Moseley shared, “We were surprised about the news that we’re one of the highest growth schools for Black students. As a dual language school, we want our Black students to know that this school is for them, too.” As they transitioned to become a dual immersion school, they strived to engage with families along the way – and especially with Black families – in order to listen, understand their experiences, and better adapt the curriculum to make sure their Black students feel seen.

The educators also credited the school’s involvement in the district’s Early Literacy Cohort in ensuring that Greenleaf teachers were well trained in teaching the foundational reading skills more consistently across grade levels in the Kindergarten to 2nd band. Research shows that systematically focusing on phonics in the early grades sets students up to be strong readers by third grade. The entire district has started to make these shifts but Greenleaf, along with several other schools, made the transition earlier and these new assessment results show that these efforts are already coming to fruition for younger students. 

With respect to the upper grades, they utilized structured literacy and relied on the diagnostic decision-making tree to regularly assess where students were at. They also ensured any interventions were strategic and tied closely to data, and that teachers were trained on when and how to do so.

Rudback shared that the staff relied on other diagnostic assessments in addition to the i-Ready and they served as helpful “in-between” checks that helped them keep close track of progress and serve students in the most supportive way. They were also continuously engaging in cycles of inquiry, meeting weekly to look at data and share what was working—and what wasn’t.

Moseley, Rudback, and the team at Greenleaf are pleased about the growth their students have experienced, but asserted that they’re not yet where they want to be. They were able to build some knowledge and skills during Oakland’s period of distance learning that they hope will really take off now that instruction is in-person. 

We at GO applaud Greenleaf’s incredible progress and are looking forward to celebrating the continued growth that will result from their strategic, supportive approach.

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