Monday, August 27, 2007

Data Has Other Uses, Too* (doing better I)

(*Beyond gaming existing accountability systems and manipulating one's way out of PI status, that is.)

I made a point in the last post that certain students' success demonstrated the necessity of structural reform in my district. It was a throwaway line, but I was cruising through the scores of my incoming kids (63 percent Far Below Basic, 98 percent Far Below Basic and/or Below Basic), and I realized that this issue deserves more than a few passing rabbit punches. It deserves a Kruschev-shoe-pounding-on-the-table-at-the-UN moment. Maybe a lot of these.

Meet Ana. A composite of many former students, Ana immigrated with her family a few months ago. Ana is reasonably literate in her primary language (L1) and because she was lucky enough to live in our boundaries, was able to attend an actual Newcomer Center for kids with less than a year's residency in the U.S. In her first year Ana scores a 1 on the 6th grade CST in ELA and Math. This score was exempt for API and AYP purposes, given her recent immigrant status.

In her second full year in the U.S. Ana leaves the Newcomer Center and is enrolled in an intervention class that begins with 3rd grade standards. Armed with L1 literacy, functional L2 conversational skills, and emerging academic skills, Ana works hard, has access to the material, and soaks up syntax, vocabulary, and conceptual understanding like a sponge. At the end of the year, Ana scores a 3 on the 7th grade CST test in ELA and 4 in math.

In her third full year in the U.S. Ana enrolls in the on-grade-level ELA program, but in a strategic setting, wherein teachers support ELLs and skill-deficient kids, specifically in the areas of vocabulary development and reading comprehension. She also takes Algebra. Her L1 skills continue to serve her, as she further develops her writing abilities and literary analysis skills. The academic vocabulary is challenging, as are the extensive grammar demands and poetry analysis, but she's hanging in. She improves slightly in ELA, scoring a 3, while in algebra she earns a 4.

Her three-year test performance looks like this:
ELA 1 / 3/ 3
Math 1/ 4/ 4

Now meet Jorge, another composite. Jorge immigrated two years prior to Ana, in the beginning of fourth grade. Rather than begin in third grade, which would allow an additional year to learn English and garner basic skills, Jorge is placed into fourth grade. There is no Newcomer Center. Open Court and Saxon Math are the mandated curriculum. There is a 45 minute ELD period that is largely ineffective. Jorge is completely unable to access the curriculum because he lacks English language skills that are not offered as part of his educational program. He gets by because his teacher doesn't ask for much, let's him play Star Falls on the computer, and other kids translate for him.

Jorge limps through 4th and 5th grade, beginning to acquire some of the basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) he needs, but no academic language or higher order skills. When he enters 6th grade, after two years in U.S. schools, he speaks English like he's been here a week. Jorge has almost the same English needs as Ana, but is denied access to the Newcomer Center -- which do not exist at every site anyway -- because he has been in the country too long to qualify. Luckily, he attends a school that schedules by student readiness, and begins to receive the instruction he needs, including phonics, decoding, fluency, and key reading strategies.

Jorge is still a CST 1 at the end of 6th grade. By the end of 7th grade he has pulled himself up into the 2 range. By the end of 8th grade, he is still scoring Below Basic in ELA. His computation skills and conceptual understanding in General Math are adequate, but reading deficiencies impair his ability to demonstrate his full range of abilities. He scores Below Basic, again.

His five-year test performance looks like this:
ELA 1 / 1/ 1/ 2/ 2
Math 1/ 2/ 1/ 2/ 2

Data's other use is to remind us that while Ana is successful, Jorge is not, and none of this has anything to do with families, economics, or whether or not they were offered electives. The data show us that the district has (barely) sufficient structures and resources to foster success with the Ana's of the world, but dramatically fails to do so with Jorge and his ilk. The data show us this has been happening for quite some time, and we're doing pretty much nothing to change it.

I will teach five Ana's this year.

I will teach forty-three Jorge's.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll chime in having just sent this link all over. This is the strongest offering you have ever posted. And I am fully aware that that is saying something. Well done.


10:16 PM  
Blogger Future Spanish Teacher said...

As a high school senior and future Spanish major, I was informed that there had moved to our district a boy from Veracruz in Mexico knowing no English besides hi and bai-bai.

The counseling department, in its infinite wisdom, placed him into Earth Science, Algebra 1 and World History. Way to go. Well, I was confident that our ESL program would acclimate him to not only the school environment, but the real world.

Wait... you can't be serious. He has one hour a week of ESL? With three other kids? What is that going to do?

After an intense verbal "exchange" with the counseling office, I took it upon myself to teach him one of the classes - algebra 1, in this case. I knew it would be a while before he could learn enough ENglish to comprehend Imperialism as a cause for WWI, or Diverging continental boundaries, so I figured I"d help the kid with the international language of numbers.

I tried to fit in as much English as possible, but I knew that he would get discouraged if his grades plummeted. So, by the end of it, he was pretty decent at Algebra 1, but I still think a lot about what Pedro is going through now... There's no one, save any brave Spanish 4 kid, to guide him through High School. I have hopes for this school year for him, but I know that an apathetic counseling department with no urgency to create ESL programs... is probably just going to brush Pedro under the rug.

Good luck with your Jorges. They need help badly.

10:30 AM  
Blogger TMAO said...

"anon" -- Gotta tell ya, the adoptation and acceptance of the monikor first bestowed in the company of that former Laker great increases my happiness everytime I see its use.

Thanks also for the words.

FST: No doubt, no doubt. When did it become okay to pretend that our ELLs were just like everyone else? How dare we? Really. How dare we?

6:51 PM  

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