Housed within UCR's Graduate School of Education, the language program is used in more than 100 schools in eight states
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — With a recent $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education and a prestigious Model of Excellence award from the Riverside County Office of Education, the revolutionary language program Project Moving Forward is poised for growth over the next five years.
Launched in the Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) and six other California districts in 2012, Project Moving Forward is the brainchild of educator Linda Navarrette, who directs it from the University of California, Riverside’s Graduate School of Education (GSOE) Nationwide, Project Moving Forward techniques are used in more than 100 schools in eight states.
Navarrette’s approach rests upon a systematic language development technique called the Rule of Three or “RAP,” which stands for the Rehearsal, Analysis, and Production of words.
“We’re focused on closing the achievement gap for children, especially low-income and economically disadvantaged children who are coming to school with a dominant language other than English. English learners may face linguistic barriers including limited vocabulary, English oral language fluency, and beginning literacy skills like phonemic awareness,” Navarrette said.
The $2.7 million grant is from the Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition under the National Professional Development (NPD) program. NPD grants, most recently awarded in September to 42 programs around the country, are given to researchers whose programs improve instruction for English learners and immigrant students through professional development and research initiatives.
Navarrette said the five-year grant will focus on transitional kindergarten, or “TK,” through third grade — a critical time because many studies show that vocabulary knowledge in first grade determines students’ reading levels in high school and beyond. Professional development for teachers and other staff will be key, as will the creation of a digital toolkit allowing more in-state and out-of state districts to adopt the program.
“Project Moving Forward has had a truly extraordinary impact in its current flagship schools around the country, including those near UCR in Moreno Valley,” said GSOE Dean Thomas Smith. “Children who might have lost traction in the educational system are now geared for success; I look forward to even more success as the program expands to other districts.”
Marrying theory with practice, Project Moving Forward is based on 12 years of school-based research conducted by Navarrette, a former teacher, psychologist, and administrator who was the first person in her family to attend college. She described the program as an expression of her passion for innovation and teaching.
“I grew up with the idea that there are always five ways of doing something, and Project Moving Forward reflects that,” Navarrette said. “When it comes to language teaching, targeting vocabulary words alone won’t make the difference. What will make the difference is an integrated approach where words are viewed through the lenses of language and literacy, grammar, syntax, semantics, phonics, and comprehension — a complete package for language and literacy acceleration.”
Although Navarrette intends to use a portion of the grant to fund a series of studies that will further quantify Project Moving Forward’s effects on students’ learning, existing data shows a favorable picture of the program’s impact. At Moreno Valley’s Seneca Elementary School, Project Moving Forward’s demonstration site and a 2014 adopter of the program, California English Language Development Test scores show significant growth among students categorized as early advanced or advanced between 2014 and 2016.
Project Moving Forward has earned one of Riverside County’s highest educational honors: a 2017 Model of Excellence award from the Office of Education for the program’s demonstration site, Seneca Elementary School.
Presented on an annual basis, Model of Excellence awards highlight innovative programs and practices that have been shown to contribute to students’ academic success. To earn the award, programs’ results must be evident in data and site visitations; each program must also be replicable at the county level.
“We established Seneca Elementary School as a Project Moving Forward demonstration school to showcase the success of the program,” said MVUSD Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora. “The award validates that success as we model Seneca’s excellence for other districts interested in the program.”