2019 Distinguished Schools Application


Model Programs and Practices Narrative

Promoting Equity and Access 


Rancho San Joaquin Middle School offers robust academic offerings and a supportive school environment while maintaining high expectations for all students. Knowing that most students perform well across a variety of measures one might argue that Rancho is doing perfectly well.  So, why would we want to change?   

The impetus to change stemmed from our commitment to meeting the needs of all students, and the staff was concerned that we had a number who were willing and able to enroll in Honors level courses, but our qualification system prevented them.  At the same time, as our English Learner population was growing, we knew that a number of language learners were slipping through the cracks of our mainstream offerings.  We knew we could help more students succeed at higher levels if we took the time to examine our practices.   

Our goal was to expand access to Honors level courses to a wider range of students and to ensure that our English Language Learners could access grade-level curriculum in our mainstream classes.  After extensive staff dialogue and planning with key stakeholders, it was time to take action…  


Promoting Equity and Access to Honors Courses

Prior to the 2017-2018 school year, Rancho had one measure to qualify a student for enrollment in Honors History and/or Honors English.  In both 7th and 8th grades, the measure was:  has the child been identified as a “Gifted and Talented Education” (G.A.T.E.) student?   

As we explored equity, access, and appropriately supporting students, we wondered, “how many capable and eager children were denied access to our most rigorous courses?”  Students move into our neighborhoods from all over the country (and world), many of whom were highly capable, but their previous school system did not offer “G.A.T.E.” identification.  We wondered, “how many students from other school systems might succeed in Honors level classes, if given the chance?” 

These questions prompted us to completely revamp our Honors course criteria – eliminate G.A.T.E. as the sole criteria for entry - and take on a multiple-measure approach to student placement.  Rather than basing a decision purely on the “G.A.T.E.” label, we looked at the following measures: 1) reading and writing scores/grades from the previous year, 2) teacher appraisal of the student and 3) evidence of the work habits and mindset of successful honors-level students. 

Results and Outcomes: 

  • 2016-2017: Of 337 students enrolled in Honors courses, 9 were non-G.A.T.E. identified.  It should be noted that those 9 students were granted conditional Honors placement as potential G.A.T.E. students enrolling from other school systems. 
  • 2018-2019: Of 379 students enrolled in Honors courses, 84 are non-G.A.T.E. identified.   
  • We have increased the number of students enrolled in Honors courses by 42 students and the number of non-G.A.T.E. identified students is up by over 900%! 

More students have access to honors level coursework and evidence suggests that our students are appropriately placed. An examination of trimester grade distribution reports from 2016-2017 to 2018-2019 reveals that students are performing as well, if not better, in honors courses today than they were 2 years ago.  Over 93% of all students enrolled in an honors course received A’s and/or B’s.  This is true across both grade levels (seventh and eighth) and disciplines (English and Social Studies). 

We continue to monitor grade distributions and student success criteria.  We work with our feeder elementary schools, as well as the high schools our students matriculate to, to ensure that we are doing all we can to get students appropriately placed.  Communication and vertical articulation time has been, and will continue to be, critical in our students’ long-term success. 


Promoting Equity and Access For English Language Learners

Approximately 17% of Rancho's student population are English Language Learners.  We are home to one of two Newcomers Programs at the middle school level in IUSD – a program designed for non-native English speakers who are enrolled in schools in the United States for the first time.  The Newcomers Program is a substantially supported core program designed to facilitate the rapid development of reasonable fluency in English through integrated and designated ELD, ensure access to grade level content standards, and provide culturally responsive learning activities that help students successfully transition into the new learning community.  With the intentional and intensive academic language and literacy skill development, students are prepared to transition to a mainstream instructional program, typically after one year (or less) in the Newcomers Program.  

In the Spring of 2016 Rancho’s staff began to tackle this important concern:  How might we better serve our English Language Learners in mainstream classes?  The answer we devised, with the support of experts from the district, was to strategically integrate clusters of English Language Learners into mainstream, grade-level courses while providing Instructional Aide supports within those classes.  The next step was to implement the plan. 

Since the 2016-2017 school year we have built into our master schedule a certain number of English, Social Studies, and Math sections that are: 1) mainstream, grade-level, heterogeneous groupings, 2) populated with a cluster (6-10 students) of English Language Learners, and 3) are supported by an ELD Instructional Aide. 

Results and Outcomes:  

When looking at the growth in our CAASPP testing data on English Language Learners we see the following data:  

  • Students Scoring Proficient in Mathematics:  
    • Limited English Proficient: 2016-2017 = 51.5%, 2017-2018 = 60.9%  
    • Redesignated: 2016-2017 = 86.6%, 2017-2018 = 92.2%  
  • Students Scoring Proficient in English Language Arts:  
    • Limited English Proficient: 2016-2017 = 13.6%, 2017-2018 = 16.5%  
    • Redesignated: 2016-2017 = 87.4%, 2017-2018 = 94.4%  


Given the timing of our programmatic shift and the student performance growth on state assessments, there appears to be a strong correlation that strategically clustering students in mainstream core classes, while providing instructional supports, is proving to be a successful method in helping our English Language Learners acquire skill proficiency.    

We continue to communicate as Professional Learning Teams to support and enhance our program and to meet the needs of our English Language Learners.  Open dialogue continues at Rancho about this support strategy and we seek continual improvement in supporting the learning of all students.  


Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP)

Rancho’s model programs and practices that promote equity and access for students align to LCAP Goal #1: Ensure all students attain proficiency in the current content standards, and to LCAP Goal #3: Cultivate a positive school culture and system of supports for student personal and academic growth. We have strategically allocated site funding to maintain appropriate sections, appropriate class sizes and to ensure adequate staffing to support student achievement.