Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Illustrative Example: Root Cause Analysis

English Learner Roadmap Illustrative Example from Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School, Davis Joint Unified School District on Engaging in Root Cause Analysis.

CA EL Roadmap Home | Policy and Printed Document | Learning Foundations | Principles Overview | Principle One | Principle Two | Principle Three | Principle Four | Characteristics of Examples | Illustrative Case Examples | Crosswalk to LCAP | Resources | Communications and Updates | Archives

Illustrative Example Overview

Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) is located in Yolo County, California. DJUSD serves students from the cities of Davis and El Macero. Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School is a transitional kindergarten through grade six school located in South Davis and serves 450 students, approximately 40% of whom are English learners. This elementary school includes two two-way bilingual immersion classes per grade level and one English-only class per grade level.

During the 2017–18 school year, Marguerite Montgomery Elementary performed a root cause analysis with an equity lens on the data available on the performance of students enrolled in the two-way bilingual immersion program versus those enrolled in the traditional English-only program. The DJUSD used data from student performance on the CAASPP and local formative assessments as well as data the Marguerite Montgomery Elementary principal gathered using an observation tool during classroom visits. The root cause analysis process aligns with principle three of the English Learner (EL) Roadmap Policy, system conditions that support effectiveness, and the analysis allowed Marguerite Montgomery Elementary to propose changes that would lead to greater alignment with principles one and two of the EL Roadmap Policy.

When Marguerite Montgomery Elementary began the process of the root cause analysis, DJUSD leadership supported this work as part of the district’s commitment to equity identified in the DJUSD Coherence Map. The DJUSD Coherence Map defines the DJUSD mission as to “ignite a love of learning and equip each student with the knowledge, skills, character, and well-being to thrive in the twenty-first century.” The goals defined in this map are twenty-first century teaching and learning, closing the achievement gap, and building an inclusive environment. The strategies identified to reach the goals are to develop professional learning communities, support effective instruction, and implement social-emotional learning. The commitment to equity articulated in the DJUSD Coherence Map allowed Marguerite Montgomery Elementary to act boldly and decisively to increase educational equity at the school level.

The Marguerite Montgomery Elementary root cause analysis began with a close look at data to create a problem statement. During the 2016–17 school year, students enrolled in the English-only program at Marguerite Montgomery Elementary scored significantly lower than their peers enrolled in the two-way bilingual immersion program on state tests. While 37 percent and 43 percent of third graders enrolled in each of the two sections of two-way bilingual immersion scored at the standard met level or above on the English Language Arts section of the California Assessment of Performance and Progress (CAASPP), 0 percent of their peers enrolled in the English-only program received a score of standard met or above on the CAASPP. This trend persisted at every grade level from fourth through sixth, with a significantly lower number of students enrolled in the English-only

program scoring at the standard met level or above when compared to their peers enrolled in the two-way bilingual immersion program. Similarly, English learners enrolled in the two-way bilingual program scored better on all assessments than their peers enrolled in the English-only program. This data guided Marguerite Montgomery Elementary staff and community as they embarked on a root cause analysis. They hoped to answer two key questions: what are the systemic factors contributing to these outcomes and what singular change would make the most substantial positive impact. To answer these questions, Marguerite Montgomery Elementary and DJUSD held multiple staff and parent engagement activities in both Spanish and English.

The root cause analysis process lead Marguerite Montgomery Elementary and DJUSD to several important findings. First, they concluded that there was systemic disproportionality present based on their program structure and this structure resulted in unequal learning outcomes for students enrolled in the English-only program. Second, they learned that dual language immersion (DLI) is not only a shared community value at Marguerite Montgomery Elementary, the value of this model is also affirmed by research-based evidence showing that students enrolled in DLI programs do as well or better than their peers enrolled in English-only programs. Finally, they identified equity and inclusiveness as another shared community value that is held by Marguerite Montgomery Elementary’s action-oriented stakeholder base.

These findings lead Marguerite Montgomery Elementary stakeholders to the conclusion that to do nothing was unethical. Furthermore, with the passage of Proposition 58, the approval of the EL Roadmap Policy, and the school-wide adoption of the Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL) model, the timing was right to take action to address the systemic inequity the root cause analysis had identified. Therefore, Marguerite Montgomery Elementary and DJUSD proposed and the Board of Education voted to approve that Marguerite Montgomery Elementary transition to become an all DLI school. During the spring of 2018, the school held transition planning sessions that included students, families, staff, and district office personnel and will make the transition with community and district support.

Marguerite Montgomery Elementary Principal Jen McNeil says that her school is at the start of a new chapter and her team is committed creating the classroom environments where all students can thrive. While the transition to a full DLI school is in its beginning stages, the process to identify how to increase equity for English learners is a model of EL Roadmap principle three implementation that can inspire other schools to look at data critically, identify systemic inequities, and implement solutions with community involvement.

Principles, Elements, and Priorities Addressed

Principle One: Assets-Oriented and Needs-Responsive Schools

Principle Two: Intellectual Quality of Instruction and Meaningful Access

Principle Three: System Conditions that Support Effectiveness

Local Control and Accountability (LCAP) Priority Two: State Standards (Conditions of Learning)
Implementation of academic content and performance standards adopted by the state board for all pupils, including English learners as relates to assessment, curriculum, equity, instruction, and professional learning.

LCAP Priority Three: Parental Involvement (Engagement)
Efforts to seek parent input in decision making and promotion of parent participation in programs for unduplicated pupils and special need subgroups as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.

LCAP Priority Four: Pupil Achievement (Pupil Outcomes)
Performance on standardized tests, score on Academic Performance Index, share of pupils that are college and career ready, share of English learners that become English proficient, English learner reclassification rate, share of pupils that pass Advanced Placement exams with three or higher and share of pupils determined prepared for college by the Early Assessment Program as relates to assessment, curriculum, equity, and instruction.

LCAP Priority Five: Pupil Engagement (Engagement)
School attendance rates, chronic absenteeism rates, middle school dropout rates, high school dropout rates, and high school graduations rates as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.

LCAP Priority Six: School Climate (Engagement)
Pupil suspension rates, pupil expulsion rates, and other local measures including surveys of pupils, parents, and teachers on the sense of safety and school connectedness as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.

LCAP Priority Seven: Course Access (Conditions of Learning)
Pupil enrollment in a broad course of study that includes all of the subject areas described in Education Code (EC) section 51210 and subdivisions (a) to (i), inclusive, of EC section 51220, as applicable, as relates to curriculum, equity, and professional learning.

LCAP Priority Eight: Other Pupil Outcomes (Pupil Outcomes)
Pupil outcomes in the subject areas described in EC Section 51210 and subdivisions (a) to (i), inclusive, of EC Section 51220, as applicable as relates to curriculum, equity, and professional learning.

Evidence of Effectiveness

The Characteristics of Examples Page includes information on the criteria used to evaluate illustrative example submissions.

Standard 1 (supported by an existing research basis)

The central theoretical motivation for this work is in the continuous improvement model most recently synthesized in the improvement science work of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Root cause analysis is part of the needs assessment process. It is a strategy to thoroughly examine practices, processes, and routines to determine their impact on outcomes. It answers the “Why?” behind each identified area of improvement. Root cause analysis occurs as part of a continuous improvement cycle after gathering and analyzing data and before determining findings and creating action plans.

Standard 2 (local metrics of system implementation and adult learning outcomes)

The DJUSD Coherence Map provides a common vision and focus for district and school staff that helped frame the discussion around the Marguerite Montgomery Elementary DLI program. Marguerite Montgomery Elementary staff and community members, with the support of the DJUSD, formed a stakeholder network to engage in continuous improvement and root cause analysis based on data that pointed to inequitable outcomes for English learners enrolled in the English-only program at the school. Spanish-speaking community members were included in this network, as sessions were held in both English and Spanish. Finally, once the root cause analysis was complete, Marguerite Montgomery Elementary held transition planning sessions that continued to engage staff and community members as the continuous improvement cycle continued.

Standard 2a (local metrics of student learning supports and processes)

The impetus behind the root cause analysis was the disparity between the CAASPP scores and other demographic data showing disproportionate enrollment of students enrolled in the English-only program versus their peers enrolled in the two-way bilingual program. English learners enrolled in the two-way bilingual program also had higher CAASPP scores than English learners enrolled in the English-only program.

Marguerite Montgomery Elementary is a SEAL school. During the transition to a full DLI school, SEAL will support Marguerite Montgomery staff with professional development and instructional materials and strategies to ensure that students receive a high quality DLI program that is responsive to the needs of English learners.
Standard 3 (student learning outcomes)

The changes implemented and Marguerite Montgomery Elementary were motivated by looking at student CAASPP data and local formative assessment practices. The principal used an observation tool to identify English learners, students with disabilities, and dually identified students in order to document how these students were doing in both the English-only and two-way bilingual programs at the school. The inequity between the outcomes for students in these two programs motivated the root cause analysis that the school engaged in the continuous improvement cycle that is still underway.

Marguerite Montgomery is currently in its transition phase to a full DLI school. Therefore, data is not yet available to demonstrate the efficacy of the changes implemented.

Resources

DJUSD EL Roadmap Launch Event PowerPoint External link opens in new window or tab.
Jen McNeil, principal of Marguerite Montgomery Elementary, and Ricardo Perez, Director of English Learner, Immersion, and World Language Programs for DJUSD, presented this PowerPoint at the EL Roadmap Launch Event in Sacramento on July 31, 2018.

DJUSD Coherence Map
The DJUSD Instruction Coherence Map organizes the DJUSD's work, including the 2018–19 LCAP.

Questions:   Language Policy and Leadership Office | ELROADMAPPROJECT@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0845
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Recently Posted in English Learners
  • Assembly Bill 2121 Frequently Asked Questions (added 21-May-2019)
    This web page provides responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding Assembly Bill 2121, which amends California Education Code (EC) to expand existing law to include migratory children and students participating in a newcomer program.
  • Title III EL Student Program Private Schools (added 15-May-2019)
    This page contains information and resources from the California Department of Education about private school participation in the Title III English learner student program.
  • EL and Immigrant Eligibility for 2019-20 (added 10-May-2019)
    Title III English Learner and Immigrant Student Program Subgrant Administration and Eligibility for Fiscal Year 2019-20.
  • Illustrative Example: Root Cause Analysis (added 03-Apr-2019)
    English Learner Roadmap Illustrative Example from Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School, Davis Joint Unified School District on Engaging in Root Cause Analysis.
  • Crosswalk to LCAP (added 03-Apr-2019)
    This web page contains the English Learner Roadmap Crosswalk between the CA EL Roadmap principles and the eight state priority areas.