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District Spotlight: Colton Joint Unified, CA

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In 2017, Gil Diaz, Director of ESL/Bilingual at Colton Joint Unified School District in San Bernardino county, and his colleagues realized they needed to change their mindset from what they were doing under NCLB in order to provide their ESL students the rigor and support called for under ESSA. For them to be successful, they set out to create a culture throughout the district where all classroom teachers felt responsible for teaching language. Recently, Gil sat down with Ellevation’s Vice President of Marketing, Chris Strausser, to talk about his journey with Ellevation.

Chris: What was the state of the Colton EL Program before you started using Ellevation?

Gil: First, and I’m sure you’ve heard this from many other districts, we were data rich, and information poor. Our data was in a multitude of different platforms and/or housed in different areas. So, anytime I needed to pull data, it would take several individuals from both my IT department as well as my own internal department. Then, we'd have to create all of these different pivot tables to attempt to make meaning of that data.

Second, because of the way that we've been transitioning into aggregating some of this data, and depending on how it was tied initially, I was getting a lot of discrepancies. I would pull the same information from different sources and it didn’t match. That’s a huge concern when we’re making programmatic and instructional decisions that would cost the district as much as several million dollars.

It got to a point where I thought there had to be a better way of doing things.

pull quote 1_0.pngChris: How were you hoping Ellevation would help you when you first purchased the platform? 

Gil: Initially, we were hoping it would streamline the monitoring of EL's and RFEPs, looking at reclassification and in pulling reports for LCAP. The monitoring of ELs and RFEPs is working well. We're still fine tuning it, but it's more on our side than Ellevation’s. As for reclassification, we now have a system in place that allows us to identify the students in a timely manner. In terms of pulling reports for LCAP, it’s great to have all of the data in one place. We now have a process in place that we can work with.

Chris: Do you feel that Ellevation is helping you make better decisions?

Gil: Yes. Absolutely. 

Chris: Can you give an example of a decision that you can make more confidently than before you were using Ellevation?

Gil: Ellevation has certainly made program, curriculum and placement decisions less cumbersome. For example, program evaluations. When we're looking at the kiddos that we're reclassifying in relationship to class placement, we're able to now identify students much more timely and with records and data, to be able to move their class schedules, appropriately place them in the right classes and then monitor them.  In addition, my counseling department can now run reports and tag those kiddos and know how they're doing, look at progress and then be able to keep notes. 

In the past, it would've taken me days to get the information that I can now get in minutes which allows me to make faster decisions or at least respond a lot quicker. When I'm sitting at cabinet, I'm able to pull up graphs and show Ellevation live. I’m no longer showing a stagnant report that doesn't have current, up-to-date information. That's pretty powerful, because we're able to make decisions and move the district in a manner that we haven’t in the past.

Chris: Have there been any pleasant surprises? 

Gil: Yes, the support and responsiveness that we have received from the people at Ellevation has been phenomenal. We work with a multitude of vendors and Ellevation outshines all of them. 

Chris: How big is the EL department in Colton Unified?

Gil: I have 24 people in curriculum instruction, parent engagement, and the assessment center. Everyone uses Ellevation.

pull quote (1).pngChris: Has using Ellevation improved the way your team collaborates with each other?

Gil: Ellevation has had a huge impact. We've now got sites that are creating work groups around the information in Ellevation, to make decisions at a site level. And then they're running them through my department and my folks, to make sure that we're all aligned and that we're maintaining that vision of what we're expecting. 

Ellevation has changed the pace of how we're communicating and how we're able to monitor and keep track of students. We have 25,000 students in total which is quite a lot of kids to manage and to keep an eye on. As far as our ELs are concerned, Ellevation has provided a seamless way to do our work and communicate from sites to the district.