Edison Language Academy

History of Edison Language Academy

Edison Language Academy

About Edison

Edison Elementary School had a long history as a neighborhood elementary school serving a small, but densely populated, area at the eastern end of the Pico Neighborhood.  The campus was originally one of SMMUSD’s smaller elementary schools but expanded over the years with the addition of modular classrooms (popularly known as “portables”) until nearly half the campus was composed of these buildings.  By the 1980s, declining enrollment in the district caused the school enrollment to dip under 200 students.  Together with its low enrollment, the school had also become racially/ethnically isolated and had some of the lowest test scores in the district.  The U.S. Office for Civil Rights noted its concerns and the SMMUSD Board of Education considered closing the school.

In 1985, SMMUSD created the Edison Instructional Program Task Force, to consider options for the school's future.  The task force included Edison staff, parents, community representatives and outside educational professionals. During an intensive 18-month process of discussion and research, the task force designed a program which incorporated the high proportion of Spanish dominant neighborhood children as an asset. The task force recommended that Edison become a Spanish language two-way or dual immersion program.

The language immersion model evolved from studies of language acquisition in children that showed that the most effective way to learn a language is by being immersed in it. The program was designed, developed and implemented with he guidance of Dr. Russ Campbell, the head of UCLA's Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR). The Center proposed a model in which the school would be composed of approximately equal numbers of English dominant and Spanish dominant children, each of whom would have the opportunity to become fluent in both languages in a diverse, supportive learning environment.

In April 1986, SMMUSD gave its approval and created the Edison Immersion Program. The program began with a Kindergarten and First Grade Class and expanded by one grade each year, gradually converting the entire school to a Dual Language program.  In 1994, no longer had an English-only neighborhood program and its name was changed to the Edison Language Academy. The Board also designated the school as a modified magnet – preserving a priority for neighborhood children but also allowing both inter-and intra-district transfers of students to maintain the optimal language balance.

In 1998 the school briefly became a charter school (Edison Language Academy Charter School) but concluded that the programmatic flexibility that it sought was available within SMMUSD.   Within two years, the school returned to its status as a special school within SMMUSD.  Parents choosing to place their children at Edison are able to sign a waiver of the State’s requirement (passed in Proposition 227) that that instruction for children under 10 years old be provided exclusively in English – exercising their right to choose a dual immersion program.

Since adoption of the dual immersion program, the school has grown and excelled. In 1990, the federal government recognized Edison as a model program, and the school has earned recognition from the California State Department of Education and the California Association for Bilingual Education. Achievement for all students has grown steadily.

SMMUSD has also continued to support Edison graduates in the full development of their language skills by continuing to grow the program through Grade 12. The SMMUSD Language Academy offers an immersion option  offered at both John Adams Middle School and Santa Monica High School, so that Edison graduates have the opportunity of participating in a K-12 Spanish-English immersion experience.

Over the last 29 years, the school has grown from a small, ethnically/racially isolated neighborhood school with low achievement scores to a vibrant and diverse school with scores substantially above the state designation of high performing school. Edison regularly has long waiting lists for students applying for Kindergarten and has an active and involved parent community.

In 2011-2012, it’s silver anniversary year as a dual immersion school, Edison began another chapter in its history with the beginning of construction of a completely new school facility. The SMMUSD Board of Education committed funds from Proposition BB to completely replace the campus half-composed of crumbling modular classrooms and build an entirely new, state-of-the art campus for Edison with many features designed to reduce the school’s carbon footprint. While Edison remains a K-5 elementary school with an enrollment of approximately 450 students, the new facility offers more space for the school’s panoply of academic, enrichment, and after school programs, and includes a modern preschool facility.  The entire project should be finished by the end of 2015. 

Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District