English language learners improveGroup deemed proficient in testing for 2012-13 year
BRIGHTON — At the Washington Community School District (WCSD) school board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 9, the members of the English Language Learner (ELL) staff spoke to the school board about what they are doing to improve the program in the district.
Last October the district was notified of deficiencies in the ELL subgroup from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), said WCSD bilingual social worker and ELL coordinator Heather Lujano. According to the NCLB, the students were only 1.7 percent proficient and they missed the mark by 0.7 percent.
“We really missed the mark,” Lujano said, “and we were supposed to be 0.7 percent higher than that. You know, if you really think this through, they’re not proficient and that was a very, very low number, so we immediately took action.”
Lujano told the board what the ELL department did to become proficient on the Iowa Assessments again.
“What we did is, we created a corrective action plan that involved the administration as well as the ELL staff,” Lujano said, “and we were focusing on what can we do with our ELL time that will best help our students.”
The corrective action plan worked. This year the ELL department received notice that the ELL students met the annual measurable achievement objectives (AMAO) in the 2012-13 school year on the Iowa Assessments.
There are a few areas the students were tested in. The first one was growth in proficiency, achievement of proficiency, and adequate yearly progress in the Iowa Assessments, Lujano said. She had Patty Koller, who teaches ELL at Washington High School, explain the process of identifying a student who needs assistance.
Koller handed out a home language survey to the school board members. Every student in the district is required to take the survey home to his or her parents, Koller said. If they mark that there is another language spoken in the home, then the form goes to her at the high school and the ELL teachers at the other schools.
The students are then tested to see if they qualify for the ELL services. If the test determines a student qualifies for the program, a form is sent home to the students for the parents. It tells the parents what programs the student can participate in through the district, such as bilingual instruction, Koller said, and asks the parents if they want their student in the ELL program.
The program goes through the whole school year, and at the end of the year the student is tested again to see how the student is performing, Koller said.
In the spring of 2013, the district had 93 students participating in the ELL program, which was up from the spring of 2012. In 2012 there were 61 students participating in the program.
Board member Heidi Vittetoe asked if the numbers were increasing because there was a change in the qualifications for the program.
“I don’t have hard data, but we have had more English Language Learners in the community, and so I think if we look at these numbers and compare them to our other ELL numbers we would see it as a group that is a growing population in our school,” Lujano said.
She said the growing trend of students in the ELL population at Washington is reflective of the trend nationwide. Right now about 10 percent of the population across the United States is in an ELL program and by 2021 that is expected to grow to 22 percent.
Lujano had a few of the ELL teachers discuss how she uses the program at the different schools in the district. At Stewart Elementary School Catherine Glinsmann sees her ELL students daily in small groups for a half hour time period. She said she primarily focuses on vocabulary using the RAP [rehearsing, analyzing, and production of the words] program.
Beth Brice teaches ELL at Lincoln Elementary. She wasn’t present at the school board meeting, but Glinsmann said she focuses on vocabulary as well. Glinsmann said Brice also speaks to the other teachers at Lincoln and updates them on how the student is progressing throughout the school year.
Brandi Kauffman teaches ELL at the middle school. She also works on vocabulary but focuses on words the students will see in other classrooms that they’ll find in a textbook.
Lujano gave the word “table” as an example. ELL students will see “read the table” in their math textbook and will have to realize that “table” has different meanings to it.
WCSD superintendent Dr. Mike Jorgensen said he thought the presentation was very informative and was happy that the district had improved in the ELL subgroup.