How This Student Grew Eight Grade Levels in English in Three Years

English

This piece is part of Faces of Growth, a series of profiles that underscore the importance of looking at student performance and school effectiveness through the lens of growth, and not just absolute achievement. This series provides an opportunity to celebrate our students’ hard work and our educators’ tireless dedication.

“Before coming here I couldn’t wait until the school day was over. Before coming here I would catch up on homework in my other classes and not pay attention,” recalled Klein Sanchez, a senior at Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School (ODLH). “I just didn't care, but being here it was like, ‘I have to get my grades up, I have to graduate, and get accepted into college.’” In 2015, when Sanchez was in eighth grade at a nearby middle school, he scored a Level 1 on the state’s English assessment, demonstrating a third grade proficiency in the subject. Just three years later, in his junior year at ODLH, Sanchez displayed exceptional growth: He met proficiency in English on the state assessment, having caught up to grade level -- growing eight grade levels in his first three years at ODLH!

Sanchez acknowledges the change didn’t happen overnight: “ I liked to talk a lot in class and make jokes. I would get in trouble a lot, but I grew and saw that school was important.” He recalls a conversation he had with his mom when he was close to failing a class; he realized if he continued on this path, he wouldn’t graduate high school or make it to college. At first it was a struggle, as Sanchez didn’t particularly enjoy English or reading, but he knew he had to apply himself and develop discipline if he wanted to be a better student. “With English, you see these long essays and you get scared and you think ‘I have to read all of this,’” admitted Sanchez. He began seeking help during office hours and working with his teachers to implement literacy techniques that would help feel less overwhelmed by the text.

One technique that has been particularly helpful for Sanchez is annotation, using the catch method. Now, when he’s reading, Sanchez will circle words that are challenging, acknowledge any confusion by asking questions, talk with the text using comments, predictions, or observations, capture the main idea, and highlight important details. Though at times Sanchez still gets overwhelmed by texts in his upper-level courses, he knows not to let it deter him. “Now I just take it section by section and try to break it down, and not make things bigger than they are,” said Sanchez.

As he progressed, his attitude towards school changed; and when he struggled, instead of giving up, he would seek help. He was also studying with a newfound rigor and positively participating in class. He attributes part of his transformation to the supportive teachers at ODLH, who saw his potential and encouraged him to achieve more. “I became more disciplined. I didn’t like reading, but I made myself really read the books and I tried my best to understand the content. Every time I took a test, I concentrated more--no distractions, no day dreaming. I needed to pass,” chuckled Sanchez.

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ODLH has served the East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights communities since 2003. The school has found success in fostering student growth, outperforming most neighboring schools. Its reputation in the community is why Sanchez’s mom sought ODLH out: “My cousins attended ODLH, and my mom liked that it was a small school and that the students could get extra help if they needed it, so we entered the lottery and I got in,” said Sanchez.

In a few months, Sanchez will graduate from OLDH. In the fall, he hopes to study mechanical engineering at California State University, Los Angeles. Though Sanchez is excited about graduation, he can’t help but feel somewhat sad knowing his time at ODLH is almost over. “These years have gone by so fast, and now I just want each day to go slower,” said Sanchez. “It's not the biggest school, but here people really see you. They recognize you and honestly care about how you’re doing. I know everyone here. ODLH feels like home.” As he enters the next phase of his journey, he will cherish the memories he made and the mentality he developed at ODLH. He will graduate knowing he has the capacity to achieve whatever he puts his mind to.

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