The Santa Ana Story                              The Buena Park Story

Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) is the sixth largest school district in the State of California with 58,000 students, 10,500 at the middle school level spread across nine intermediate schools. Of these students, 94.6% are Latino, 60% are English Language Learners and 80% participate in the free or reduced–priced meal program. SAUSD ranks as the number one port of entry for English language learners new to the U.S. statewide by the Educational Testing Service.

In 2007, Sue Neuen approached the Samueli Foundation seeking support for The Orange County Middle School Initiative to help raise the science achievement in Santa Ana because of the 3,500 students that graduated from 8th grade in the spring of 2007 … 2,555 had a basic or below understanding of the science.

The Samueli Foundation sponsored a middle level team from SAUSD to attend a LASER (Leadership Assistance for Science Education Reform) Institute in Houston, Texas. The team was immersed in the five components of a successful science program: curriculum, professional development, assessment, material support, and administrative and community support, and returned to Santa Ana with a 5 year strategic plan ready for implementation.

A year one Samueli Foundation grant provided for professional development, curriculum materials and a support system for Cadre I, 8th grade Physical Science teachers. Under the direction of LASER Coordinator Laura Westermeier, instruction of exemplary, inquiry–centered science had begun in Santa Ana. In 2009 with 73%of the 8th Grade teachers participating in the program, SAUSD California STAR test results showed significant improvement… moving from 27% to 43% of the students scoring in the proficient and advanced levels.

Summer 2009 marked the beginning of 7th grade Life Science professional development, curriculum materials and inquiry instruction largely funded through Southern California Edison, impacting 70% of the 7th grade students. When the Second Year Celebration took place in the spring of 2010, 5,890 students were being impacted in 184 classrooms by 35 teachers in 9 Intermediate schools. The first successful Community Science Night was held at MacArthur Fundamental School on May 27, 2010 with over 700 parents and students attending.

When looking at the data from the 2010 CST Scores for Science for 8th grade, one significant result we were able to see was the increase in the students scoring in the Advanced level had more than triple from 7% in 2006 to 23% in 2010. This is the level at which you will find students who will elect to continue their study of science in high school and beyond.

The summer of 2010 marked the beginning of inquiry–centered science for 6th Grade Earth Science with the professional development largely funded by the Fluor Foundation and Pat Beckman. A grant from United Way Orange County and the continued support from the Samueli Foundation make it possible to keep the LASER Coordinator position with the district and for monthly Science Network meetings for the teachers. The end of the Third Year Celebration held on June 2, 2012 revealed further growth of the program, impacting 8,553 students, 261 science classes taught by 72 teachers in 13 schools. The Science unit implementation grid through the three grade levels 6-8 is as follows:

  • Strategic Plan
  • Student impact (STAR Results)
  • Achievement Data
  • Newsletter (link to LASER – Laura)