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Apr 21, 2010 10:44 PM by Ariel Wesler

School district spends millions on new curriculum

Starting next year, the Santa Maria Bonita School District will implement a new language arts at it works to meet state and federal standards.

The district approved nearly two million dollars for materials to support the new program. Along with new materials, the district will create an intervention program to help students who are reading below their grade level.

Around 92 percent of students at Bonita Elementary School in Santa Maria speak English as a second language. The school has been using a leveled-style approach to teaching for the last two years.

"At my old school, we used to have just groups and we would read to each other and when we didn't get something, we would just have someone else read it to us," said Savannah Aguirre, a 6th grader in the program.

Students are grouped in classes based on their language proficiency and skill level. The goal is to bring them up to their grade level within a year and starting next year, the entire district will use the same structure.

Teachers like Debra Ugalde say the progress these kids make is remarkable.

"All of a sudden, kids that would never pick up a book because they're frustrated, they haven't read for five years in a row can pick up a book and they're reading little chapter books and they can read it and they're excited," Ugalde said.

Bonita's principal, Aaron Shrogin, says he's seen a 15 percent increase in student test scores.

"If they don't understand what's coming at them or they're bored because it's moving too slowly, obviously, that's not an effective approach to teaching," Shrogin said.

and the with a newfound love of reading, more students are able to make their own discoveries.

"Sometimes the stories are more interesting than we think. . .Don't judge a book by the cover," Aguirre said.

Besides just textbooks, the new curriculum comes with a wide range of materials, including charts, overhead displays, and computer programs.

Bruce and Oakley elementary schools are also already using a similar teaching model.

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