Saturday, November 10, 2007

ELD Functioning

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.


Anonymous Dan Meyer said...

Spelling tests in math? ¿Que? How is this anything but a total forfeiture of instructional minutes? I mean, are they spelling math terms?

Really compelling read in spite of my confusion on that point.

8:49 AM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Yeah, they're spelling math terms and the vocabulary is math vocabulary. The vocabulary part is both ELD and a move toward building more conceptual understanding. Many of our kids can do the computation but don't know why and don't understand the context in which they're computing. It's a problem when kids can't tell you what a fraction is, even after they demonstrate they can find LCDs and convert improper fractions to mixed numbers, etc.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous HoosierTeacher said...

Two comments in the same day, I'm on a roll.....

I was riveted by this post. Indiana's ELL population grows exponentially every year, and while we aren't FL, TX or CA, we are certainly having to shift our paradigms to meet the needs of our ELL students. Interestingly enough, our ELL students statewide are outperforming our native learners on our standardized math tests - that may change, as this year's math sections of the tests were much more vocab based, with very limited opportunity to demonstrate computation skills.

I'm particularly interested in this post for my second job, which is as a software designer for my own little company. We create products that help teachers measure, analyze and communicate data about both special education and ELL students. Your blog has been quite the repository of information, I'll be sure to give you a footnote/shout out for all the little nuggets of educational wisdome I've gleaned from your site.

Ability grouping has it's pros and cons in my book - I've found that my students with autism tend to stagnate in homogenous groups, while both the higher and lower performing students show improvement when we mix it up. Differentiating for such a broad range of abilities is difficult and time consuming, but it's proven effective for us. Do you advocate ability grouping for all students, or just ELL students?

I know your TFA training was very different than what is taught in typical teacher ed programs, but I'm curious if ability grouping is part of that program? I know that we learned that grouping kids by ability was akin to eating live kittens, but times and attitudes change.

3:35 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

HT: Thanks for the words. I appreciate it.

I advocate academic grouping wherever the range of differentiation is greater than say, a grade level, or 1.5. When your range is that extreme, you're really putting undue pressure on a teacher, limiting instructional effectiveness, and hurting kids. When we're talking ELLs, the issue of grouping is only that much more pertinant.

When I was TFAing, there was no talk about systematic school issues outside of a classroom walls. There probably still isn't, so grouping tends not to be part of the discussion.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering, does the 1/5 salary increase count towards retirement? My district was thinking about extended day, but the $ they were offering was a 'stipend' which meant that it would not impact our pensions.

7:49 AM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Naw, the 1/5 doesn't, because you'd need to alter existing contractual language. It is a stipend, right?

8:42 PM  
Anonymous LB said...

Would hoosierteacher be willing to share information about the work his company is doing? If you don't want to be accused of hyping things online you could send it to me at (We also develop tools for education and have an interesting opportunity to expand our work into ELL contexts)

8:06 PM  
Blogger just a teacher said...

We also have a fluidity with our ELD program for the first time this year and it has produced amazing results! Kids were grouped based on CELDT and DPI scores at the start of the year. Then every six weeks they have the option of taking the DPI again and moving up IF they have scored 80% or above on all the selection tests we have taken during that six week time period. It has had an amazing impact on our kids who finally see an opportunity to get out of ELD and to see an almost immediate impact on their efforts to improve! This is a first year project so we'll see how it impacts CST's but I'm excited with what we've seen so far.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Mold Inspection said...

When I was TFAing, there was no talk about systematic school issues outside of a classroom walls. There probably still isn't, so grouping tends not to be part of the discussion. Mold Inspection

2:53 AM  

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