NPD Grantee Spotlight: Addressing the Achievement Gap Through the RULE of 3

Grantee Spotlight, Project Moving Forward
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The University of California, Riverside received two National Professional Development (NPD) grants from the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) for Project Moving Forward/Adelante (2017) and Project Avanzando (2021). The project team featured their work on closing the achievement gap for English learners (ELs) using the RULE of 3 curriculum at the 2022 NPD Program Directors Meeting. The RULE of 3 is a language and literacy program designed to accelerate the achievement of early childhood ELs and other diverse learners. This acceleration model gives students the foundational skills they need to successfully access academic learning across subject areas and in subsequent grades. During the pandemic, the RULE of 3 curriculum was enhanced and moved to a multimedia, online format at 

Check out our Q&A with Project Director and University of California, Riverside, Research Professor Dr. Linda Ventriglia-Navarrette, who discusses the potential impact of this research, success stories, her inspiration for pursuing this work, and additional resources. 

Q: How would you describe your program if you were on an elevator and had 60 seconds to do so?

The RULE of 3 is a language and literacy program designed to accelerate the achievement of early childhood ELs and other diverse learners. The RULE of 3 is a multifaceted learning system that provides integrated vocabulary, academic language, and literacy development, including phonological skills. The system is based on the principles of psychology and education using a Vygotskian creative construction framework, which states that language and phonological systems need to unite separate functions into new combinations to be successfully learned. The RULE of 3 uses the three processes of REHEARSE, ANALYZE, and PRODUCE to integrate the semantic, phonological, and syntactic components of language.

Q: What inspired you to pursue this research/project?

Throughout my life I have had significant experiences that inspired me to pursue this research.

First, as a child growing up in East Los Angeles, California, in a multilingual neighborhood, I saw the power of education to change people’s destinies. I was a first-generation college student and the first one in my family to get a college degree. I wanted to give back to my community. 

I thought I could best help my community by becoming a teacher. As a teacher and a bilingual school psychologist, I saw the inequities in educational opportunities for ELs and other students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. This notable achievement gap for ELs and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds was addressed in schools through remediation in the schools I worked in.

I subsequently attended graduate school at Harvard to learn about potential solutions to addressing the achievement gap. I learned this long-standing problem of the achievement gap was very clearly defined and documented in numerous articles. However, the solution to close the achievement gap was not clearly defined.
I was determined to find a solution. As a school psychologist, I learned that remediation of students rarely closed the achievement gap. Remediation also had negative connotations. If remediation did not work, the question was what would work?

I researched many possibilities and decided the answer was acceleration. 

I determined that acceleration for ELs had to include academic vocabulary tied to standards-based language and literacy skills. There also needed to be a systematic way for teachers to develop the critical language and literacy skills ELs needed to access learning across the curriculum. Thus, the RULE of 3 curriculum was created.

Q: In your view, what does your grant mean to the field, and what does it mean, for you, to receive an OELA grant?

The research made possible by the Project Adelante grant shows the potential of the RULE of 3 acceleration model for closing the long-existing achievement gap for ELs. The RULE of 3 acceleration model gives students the foundational skills they need to successfully access academic learning across subject areas and in subsequent grades.

Q: What’s exciting about your research’s potential impact?

Although the RULE of 3 has been implemented in states across the United States, it has been difficult to physically go to all the school districts that could benefit from the accelerated curriculum. Our goal to disseminate the program to more districts was impacted by time, distance, and COVID. Teachers and parents asked us to put the RULE of 3 curriculum online. Although we initially struggled, we put together a team who helped create the RULE of 3 technologically enhanced multimedia online curriculum,, and with the support of the Project Avanzando grant we received in 2021, we were able to further develop the online program. is a unique offering for ELs. Unlike other online programs that offer activities alone, focuses on engaging standards-based English language development and literacy lessons. The 350 standards-based lessons are delivered by an affable and entertaining animated teacher, referred to as an Animated Pedagogical Agent (APA). The whimsical teacher named Mrs. Panda engages young ELs and other diverse learners in language and literacy learning through catchy songs, literacy games, and animated stories. The website called “mrspandaverse” has many possibilities for accelerating and differentiating instruction for ELs starting in transitional kindergarten (TK). 

California’s and the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) movement to expand TK for all students creates an opportunity to close the gap for ELs and other diverse learners from lower socio-economic backgrounds as early as TK by implementing the RULE of 3 acceleration model in-person, online, or through a blended approach.

Initial results show that students using the online technologically enhanced curriculum did as well as students learning with the RULE of 3 in person. Our research evidence suggests that the RULE of 3 acceleration model offers one solution for closing the achievement gap and leveling the playing field for ELs and other diverse learners.

Q: Share a success story. 

Our process to assess the efficacy of the RULE of 3 acceleration model for ELs and other diverse learners yielded exciting results. We present our research results as one solution for closing the achievement gap for ELs and we are currently submitting the results of three studies to ED’s What Works Clearinghouse.

In our initial study, we implemented the RULE of 3 learning system first in two Title 1 schools in Moreno Valley, California, with over 60% EL students. The first-year results showed that all students made significant gains in English language arts on state testing and the achievement gap was closed significantly.

In the second study, we focused on evaluating the impact of the RULE of 3 on early language and literacy acceleration through a randomized study that included 371 kindergarten students in nine schools with 89% EL students. The results using the DIBELS ® (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) showed that 76.1% of students in the RULE of 3 experimental classrooms attained national benchmarks as compared to 5% of students in control classrooms. Previous findings indicate that students who meet benchmark goals in kindergarten have an 89–90% likelihood of continuing to meet further literacy goals in subsequent grades.

Finally, in response to teacher demand, we created a transitional kindergarten (TK) RULE of 3 curriculum. After one year of implementation, we did a quasi-experimental study that assessed RULE of 3 and control classes on the Gates Mac-Ginitie test of early literacy. The study included four TK classrooms with 81% ELs. The results showed that TK ELs who were in the RULE of 3 classrooms scored higher than 74% of kindergarten students in the national sample. They acquired literacy and language skills significantly better than the control group.

Q: Are there resources that you’d like to share with the field? Where can we learn more about your work?

Project Moving Forward/Adelante has been featured in many newspaper articles. The RULE of 3 curriculum was also highlighted in 2019 on a PBS special series hosted by Harvard Professor Robert Putnam, which focused on programs that were closing the achievement gap. Parents and teachers interviewed for the series testified to the academic growth of students. Teachers stated that before the implementation of Project Moving Forward and the RULE of 3 curriculum in their classrooms, kindergarten students learned only about half of the alphabet letter names. After the implementation of Project Moving Forward, kindergarten students learned to decode words and they exited kindergarten as readers.

You can learn more about our work here:

Project Moving Forward Website


ABC RULE of 3 Introduction  

Mrs. Panda Sample Lesson   

Mrs. Panda Verse

Learning from Mrs. Panda, Illuminate Magazine 

Mrs. Panda Conquers Online, UC Riverside News   

Blog tags
NPD Grant Program
Early Language
Literacy Acceleration
Achievement Gap