1) Hampton Brown's High Point Program is terrible.
The writing is extremely poor. Essentially, you are to practice various reading strategies with each selection (cause and effect for example), but in many pieces, it is impossible to utilize the material to do the expected teaching. There is literally an article in High Point A where nothing happens, therefore no causes, therefore no effects. And boring? Holy crap, it's boring. It is clear the creators tried to skimp on copyright and usage expensive by using little known authors and their little-appreciated work. Look, just because the writing needs to be a lower level, doesn't mean it should be terrible.
2) Despite what is claimed, High Point is not an effective ELD program.
Grammar instruction consists of little blurbs like, Write a complex sentence on the board. Point out the independent clause and dependent clause. Ask students to write their own. This does not work. Not with ELL kids and pretty much not with anyone. At an official training, I was informed that kids would "pick up" grammar. Which makes sense, because we all readily intuit, without instruction, the grammatical rules and structure of a foreign language, right?
The vocabulary choices are bizarre -- is "babushaka" and "crazy about" really critical terminology? -- and the place of vocabulary in the writing is self-defeating. Kids will be asked to read a five sentence paragraph that contains four of their vocabulary words and three words or phrases define at the bottom of the page. How is a kid going to understand that paragraph when every other word is unfamiliar? This happens again and again. We read the majority of a selection and then here comes two paragraphs where every vocabulary for the entire selection is packed in.
3) High Point is being implemented incorrectly almost everywhere.
The creators say that this intervention program needs to be taught for three hours a day. Besides my own school, I don't know of any other place where this is occurring. If our schools are not set up to accommodate a program the way it was intended, why are we committing our resources and the future of our students to such a program?
The story is especially ugly in many elementary schools where High Point is used during ELD time, where kids are homogeneously grouped and switch classes for what amounts to 45 minutes (at best) of instruction. The program is designed for 3 hours, not 45 minutes. As a result, kids do not get the benefit of proper instruction, repeat the various levels unnecessarily, don't feel good about themselves, etc., etc., etc.
4) High Point does not cover all 6th, 7th, and 8th grade standards.
Instead it hits standards on 3-5. Now a good teacher is capable of adding to those standards to make them applicable to the grade their students will be tested on, and many do. Should they have to? Why do we have to teach at cross purposes with the program? Moreover, not every standard is addressed. The District ought to form a task force to analyze the program and document where teachers will need to supplement to reach all standards.
5) An exclusively whole language approach to ELD instruction is ridiculous.
Balance, balance -- we need both. If kids need to put all their cognitive resources into decoding words, then they have no resources left to put into comprehension. Moreover, the slower a kid reads, the more comprehension suffers. There is nothing in High Point, and no resources provided by the District, to address this need. An easy supplemental solution is the REWARDS program. It provides direct instruction on advance phonics, common beginning and ending sounds, the way words are structured as syllables, and provides fluency materials as well. Using this program 15 minutes a day, last year I saw 100% of my students either reach the 7th grade fluency benchmark, or demonstrate an excess of two years growth in fluency. All middle school language arts teachers should get trained in this program and receive access to the materials.
6) The lack of newcomer centers, especially at the elementary level, is ridiculous.
As a District it seems we have failed to understand that large numbers of new immigrants send their children to our schools. Putting those kids into English-only classrooms, asking teachers to differentiate and their classmates to translate, borders on the unethical. We ought to have a center where those kids go to receive basic survival English, as well as foundational phonetic and grammatical concepts so they can survive in English only classrooms. There should be set exit criteria which are required to be mastered before kids can exit. At my school we have classrooms where this is happening; why isn't there a more concerted focus District-wide?
7) ELL's need more time on task and smaller class sizes.
150 minutes of language arts, 75 minutes of math, in addition to social studies, science, P.E. If you have CELDT 3s and below, enrollment is capped at 20. Kick these ridiculously underperforming small schools off our campuses, utilize the extra facilities, hire some more teachers and get this done.
8) EVERYONE needs ELD training, no matter what they teach.
As a Language Arts teacher it is primarily my job to teach reading, writing, speaking, listening, vocabulary, spelling, and so forth, but it is not exclusively my job. Content area and math teachers need to not only understand how variations in English ability effect their teaching, but they should be skilled at modifying lessons to accommodate those differences.
9) Recognize that we are an ELD District.
You know these AYP sub-groups? ELLs, low-SES, etc.? Our District is the sub-group. This is our identity. It is not a burden; our kids will ultimately benefit from their ability to speak two languages, from a social fluency in interacting with individuals from different cultures, with the empathy that comes from seeing the underbelly of America that many are not even aware exists. It is not a burden, but it is who we are. I don't know how this realization could manifest itself in reform, but it needs to occur. Those pesky ELLs who are anomalies elsewhere? That's us. Completely and fully. As a District, we need to look around, embrace this truth, and become advocates for this type of learner.