Students of Cesar Chavez Elementary in San Jose had never had a U.S. congresswoman visit before. It was the school and the district's test scores which brought Zoe Lofgren to the school. Alum Rock Unified has 20 elementary and six middle schools. Today, 14 of those schools have a score of 800 or higher on the API which is intended to measure proficiency in math and English. 800 is the goal set by the Department of Education for all California schools.
For Alum Rock, it was a big achievement. There, 63 percent of students are English language learners. In the past few years, teachers in the district have learned to work together to assess and support students. "We come in with a large group of students and they all have different needs. It helps us really to identify those needs and plan according to those needs," teacher Alexia Ford said.
Students who need the extra attention work in small groups with a teacher. The school district has also enjoyed the financial help of local foundations. Grants have also paid for educational coaches who come to the school to support the teachers. "It's like anything else, if I'm going to improve my golf swing, I need a coach to help me look at what's happening, analyze it, and make corrections, and that's what has happened. You can't always do that in isolation," Interim Superintendent Stephen Fiss said.
"You know that old saying, 'Two brains are better than one?' It gives you access to different resources that maybe you haven't heard of like certain websites and books," teacher Rebecca Jensen added. All those efforts have paid off and have given students a more positive outlook. "So, I can have a better opportunity to go to college," fourth-grader William Navarrete said.