Grantee Corner | Napa Valley Unified School District
Napa County, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, is home to the world-famous wine industry. Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) is the county’s largest district and serves more than 18,000 students in 30 schools. NVUSD covers a large geographic area, with the City of Napa situated between Yountville in the north and American Canyon in the south. County demographics have changed rapidly over the past decade as immigrant families who work in the agriculture, wine, and tourism industries have made Napa their permanent home. Hispanic students make up 51 percent of the district population, with White (32.2 percent) and Filipino (5.9 percent) students representing the second- and third-largest racial groups.
NVUSD’s Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) project aims to reduce Hispanic minority group isolation and provide opportunities for all students. The project includes two new magnet schools and one significantly revised magnet school.
The new Napa Junction Magnet Elementary School joins a K-12 system of New Tech Network (NTN) schools, and is one of the nation’s first NTN elementary schools. The NTN instructional model incorporates project-based learning; use of technology in a 1:1 computing ratio; an online learning management system; and development of a culture that promotes trust, respect, and responsibility. In project-based learning, students work for an extended period of time investigating and responding to complex questions. The MSAP funding has helped Napa Junction Elementary expand its technology base and amplify science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) throughout the curriculum. The school has developed a strong community partnership between the magnet school and Sonoma Raceway began with the Raceway’s STEM initiative for the 2014 race season. This presented students with a challenge to engineer the fastest gravity-powered car and compete with other schools in an event at the Raceway. To promote the challenge, a racecar and driver visited the school campus. The Raceway challenge combined engineering skills with student curiosity.
The significantly revised Pueblo Vista Dual Immersion/Environmental Sciences Magnet School is expanding the district’s Spanish/English dual immersion program. Current data reveal increases in both new applications and racial diversity at this elementary school. Pueblo Vista delivers a 90/10 model, which is considered the most effective way to develop language proficiency. All students are fully integrated through a structured, balanced, and collaborative educational design. Pueblo Vista strives to achieve a linguistic balance of 50/50 (English/Spanish) in its student population in every classroom. The Environmental Sciences curriculum has been strengthened by the expansion of the school garden and development of a new culinary kitchen. Project-based learning ensures that students utilize technology to study interrelationships among science, the environment, and the everyday world. Pueblo Vista’s community partnership with Connolly Ranch connects students to farm-based environmental programs. The principal engages the community and parents in school events, functions, and celebrations.
The new Harvest Magnet Middle School is a candidate International Baccalaureate (IB) school. The school is blending an existing Spanish/English dual immersion strand into this international context. Harvest Magnet students are challenged with eight curricular areas and a core philosophy of structured inquiry. Elementary students may now continue IB studies into middle school through alignment between the Bel Aire Park Magnet International Baccalaureate World School and the Harvest Magnet Middle Years program. In addition, students may continue with Spanish/English dual immersion as they transition from the Pueblo Vista Magnet program to Harvest. As Napa Valley families begin to understand the unique opportunities these magnet programs provide, they take advantage of the vertical pathways between schools. At Harvest Magnet, parents partner with the school by sharing career skills to increase student awareness of career pathways and postsecondary opportunities. The principal works to link the district’s systemic reforms with magnet program thematic goals.
MSAP funds have provided professional development to implement the visions of STEM, dual immersion, and International Baccalaureate programs. Napa Junction Magnet lead teachers have begun STEM certification coursework. Pueblo Vista Magnet lead teachers and instructional coaches continue to develop engaging dual immersion standards and practices, and a significant number of Harvest Magnet teachers and administrators have completed the required IB workshops. All three magnet schools exceeded their first-year performance measures for professional development and met performance measures for number of hours of magnet-themed instruction. Magnet students are reaping the benefits of MSAP funds through direct use of magnet program materials, resources, and technologies.
The NVUSD project director, Dr. Christine Gross, has more than 10 years of experience as a magnet program director in California and Nevada. The Napa Valley Magnet team includes Lori Welty, project coordinator, and Denise Horn, project office specialist.
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