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Volume 6, Issue 62  | August 3, 2021


NMUSD uses data to drive curriculum and instruction changes

In an effort to inform and make sure every Orange County child has a solid foundation for a thriving future, First 5 Orange County pioneered the countywide collection of the Early Development Index (EDI). This kindergarten readiness data, collected in partnership with researchers at UCLA, shines a light on where young children are doing well and sounds the alarm on the areas where immediate action is needed.

First 5 Association is a nonprofit membership organization that advocates for and works with the state’s 58 First 5 county commissions to build strong, effective and sustainable systems serving California’s youngest children. This important data lays out a roadmap for targeted intervention and support – EDI provides the tools to create positive change for young children.

Newport Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) was the first Orange County school district to participate in the collection of EDI. Our district is home to approximately 22,000 students at 32 schools, and has 12 preschool sites. The student population is diverse: 44 percent Hispanic or Latino/a, 42 percent White, 9 percent Multiracial and 5 percent Asian, Native American or other Pacific Islander. More than 44 percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunch. The district’s EDI data revealed two areas of great need: 44 percent of its kindergarten population lack necessary gross and fine motor skills, and many students are falling behind in social-emotional development, including 52 percent of students showing significant gaps in overall social competence and 51 percent of students displaying little or no prosocial and helping behavior.

NMUSD uses data classroom

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Submitted photo

To address these areas of greatest need, the district, led by Kathleen Leary, director of Early Childhood Education and After School Programs, mobilized into action and quickly established new preschool programs and expanded opportunities and support for parents to positively impact young children and their families – before they enter kindergarten. At the core of this work is one important and achievable goal: to ensure every student is on a positive trajectory for success in school, and ultimately in life. 

To improve the gross and fine motor skills of its youngest learners, Newport-Mesa implemented a new curriculum to complement and expand its existing Pre-K curriculum. Called “Hand Writing Without Tears,” the program helps young students understand the basics of writing – from how to grasp a pencil to how to hold scissors appropriately to learning new letters and numbers. The curriculum focuses on students’ ability to physically tackle the school day and successfully use and manipulate school supplies.

NMUSD uses data learning board

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

To improve the gross and fine motor skills of its youngest learners, Newport-Mesa implemented a new curriculum to complement and expand its existing Pre-K curriculum. Called Hand Writing Without Tears, the program helps young students understand the basics of writing – from how to grasp a pencil, how to hold scissors appropriately to learning new letters and numbers. The curriculum focuses on students’ ability to physically tackle the school day and successfully use and manipulate school supplies.

To address the social-emotional development, Second Step, an early learning curriculum focused on how a child learns and gets along with others was implemented. The Second Step program teaches skills in four critical areas: Skills for Learning, including how to focus and listen carefully; Empathy, how to understand their own and others’ feelings; Emotion Management, how to calm down when experiencing strong feelings such as worry or anger; and Friendship Skills and Problem Solving, how to make and keep friends and solve problems in a positive way. 

Both new curriculums were rolled out for the first time in the 2018-19 school year and results are already shining through – students are sharing better with one another and showing noticeable growth in overall social-emotional development.

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