classroom in a riot of noise before quickly se t tling down on a thick rug pat terned with le t ters, colors and shapes. Te acher Bertha Picasso-Luna ‘ 03 takes her place, too, on a low plastic chair in front of them. Af ter a couple of minutes she opens up a picture book and begins re ading aloud, dramatically emphasizing key words and meowing like a cat or snorting like a pig when the characters call for it.
The classroom lies in the heart of Santa Ana, and virtually every word in the classroom — spoken and written — is in Spanish, including the La Gallinita Roja (The Little Red Hen) book Picasso-Luna is reading. By the time these students reach fourth grade here at El Sol Science and Arts Academy, their classes will be conducted half in English and half in Spanish. When they reach Eighth grade, the final year at the school, classes will be taught almost entirely in English, a progression that will send students on to high school with academic fluency in both English and Spanish, regardless of their birth language. It is this dual-immersion approach that supporters of El Sol credit with helping the 11-year-old charter school in a low-income neighborhood post standardized test scores far above public schools in the surrounding Santa Ana Unified School District. The approach is heavily influenced and nurtured by a symbiotic relationship with Chapman University’s College of Educational Studies (CES). Seven of El Sol’s 32 teachers are Chapman alumni, says El Sol executive director Monique Daviss. This is the result of a relationship in which Chapman relies on El Sol for some student training assignments while El Sol uses Chapman faculty and programs for advanced staff teacher training. El Sol’s academic success has brought it recognition within the dual-immersion and charter school movements, and even among visitors from overseas schools looking to adopt dual-immersion programs in their home countries. “We consider ourselves a lab,” Daviss says as she leads a tour through the fenced complex of portable classrooms and other buildings a few blocks northwest of downtown Santa Ana and
about four miles from Chapman’s campus in Orange. In that sense, Chapman is a lab partner. “We think there are a lot of opportunities for that relationship to grow, and to feed and inform educational practice, teacher training — all of those kinds of things. We want to demonstrate it’s possible for kids to achieve at high levels when they wouldn’t necessarily do so in another situation. It takes a whole bunch of work on everybody’s part.” Graduating teachers who specialize in bilingual education is a niche within Chapman’s teacher-education program, says CES education director Michael Madrid, Ph.D., who also chairs El Sol’s board of directors. “The ones we produce are very, very good,” he says. “They get picked up right away.” Continued on next page
Michael Madrid, education director at Chapman’s College of Educational Studies, works closely with El Sol executive director Monique Daviss and also chair’s the school’s Board of Directors.
Photo by McKenzi Taylor
Photo by McKenzi Taylor
t’s the end of the school lunch bre ak, and t wo dozen kindergarteners enter the