Commenter Ms. M asked what works for ELL instruction. Based on the work my school has done, this is what I think:
■ Create a master schedule that groups kids by academic readiness.
We accomplish this by triangulating CST, CELDT, and local program assessments/ teacher recommendations. First, put kids into groups based on CST data, then order that data based on CELDT scores, because while an EO and a CELDT 2 may both have scored Below Basic, they will need very different instruction to grow academically. Finally, look at past performance to ensure that starting placements reflect the entirety of student progress. Yes, this kid is a CST 2, but he’d been in the U.S. for three months when they took that test, so it probably reflects guessing rather than skill. Move her to this group. Here’s a kid who also scored a CST 2, but he’s proficient on all the subgroups and just bombed the writing test, so put him in HOLT. Etc, etc.
It’s nearly impossible to overstate the beneficial effects this has for the educator. The POY used to speak about administrators’ command to go differentiate as if there existed some magic differentiation dust that could be sprinkled upon the heads of children. This is not to say differentiation is not required, but rather that we must reduce the range of differentiation to make it reasonable, manageable, and time efficient.
This is not something that should be limited to middle/ high school schedules. I see no reason why elementary schools cannot group kids in this way. Nearby Brooktree Elementary does and check out their scores for ELLs. I don't need to tell ya about the hundreds of schools that can't sniff that level of performance.
I used to get all fired up justifying why our approach is not tracking – kids aren’t locked in; there is frequent assessment, tweaking, and regrouping; having middle and low kids see themselves as the high achievers is powerful beyond belief – but I’m over that sell. Dropping every kid into an on-grade-level program regardless of the demographics of academics, in a misguided quest to demonstrate high achievement, is a blatant disregard for the needs of the individual kids, especially the kids who struggle, especially the ELLs, and if you can’t see that, I don’t know what to tell you.
■ Infuse ELD strategies across the curriculum
This becomes easier once you create a master schedule that groups kids be academic readiness. More to the point, it's basically required once you schedule in this way. There’s literally no other way to function (which reduces the chance that folks would balk at teaching ELLs or changing existing practices for more effective practices -- not that this is ever a problem or anything).
One of the most successful math teachers I know has weekly vocabulary and spelling assignments, presenting vocabulary concepts with the rigor and accountability of any good ELA teacher. Concepts are presented with numerous scaffolds – note-taking structures, manipulatives, images, etc. – and are accessed and assessed in ways both language-neutral and language-dependent, all of which adds up to the kind of ELL supporting class structure that is all too often the domain of the ELA teacher.
Things like GLAD and SADAI take us most of the way here, but we need a deeper understanding of what we’re doing. It can’t be just completing your GLAD lesson plan form, right? We need to develop processes that function on that deep-down cellular level, not this superficial connect the dots approach.
■ Lengthen the school day.
There’s more to learn, so you need to more time to learn it.
A painter with a bigger house to paint submits a longer job estimate. A contractor with more
houses to build needs proportionately more time to build them. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had a longer production schedule than Jackass 2. School days need to be lengthened (as they have been at my site), teachers appropriately compensated (we get an additional 1/5 of salary for an extra hour a day), and statewide funding made available to accomplish this (we use SIIP funds for kids at risk of CAHSEE failure).
■ Newcomer Centers
Small classes, build language skills from the ground up, social studies in the this-is-America mold, limited writing toward the end, math in the newcomer setting for those who need it, mainstream math for those who can hang, and of course, lowering of the affective filter.
■ Kids with L1 literacy do better and therefore...
Ana succeeds where Jorge fails. Man, come see em. Ana's in my High Point B (4th and 5th grade standards) after only a single year in the U.S., during which she was enrolled in a newcomer center. She's kicking ass and I'll eat gross things Survivor-style if she's not proficient by the end of her second full year in the U.S. Jorge's in my HP A class (3rd and 4th grade standards) and struggling beyond belief despite the fact that he has been enrolled in our district's schools since Kindergarten. Except for a brief respite in 2nd grade, he has never scored higher than Far Below Basic.
I used to think this was a single-generation problem, but it's really not. We'll call it an unqualified success if Jorge graduates high school, but at this point, he's probably got one or two years of school left. Kid's gonna grow up and procreate (hopefully doing more of the former before any of the latter), and that kid will be a native born ELL who won't receive the type of instruction she needs. Perpetuating.
We need to get more kids more L1 instruction. There's folks who'll bemoan the lack of flexibility in the structure of the respective LEA, but that's not really the issue. We need the will. We need the systematic will to bring equitable, effective instruction to kids. We get that, and the traditional barriers that seem so impenetrable will prove to be very porous, indeed.