We look forward to welcoming many participants in just over a week at the Spotlight on Innovative, Student Centered Schools, the one day Pre Conference Institute being hosted by CSSR at ASCD’s Empower18 Annual Conference.
The Spotlight will feature K-12 schools that are committed to implementing student-centered learning environments through strategies such as: competency based learning, student portfolio development, project-based learning and expeditionary learning. We are pleased to bring you more information about two of the presenting elementary schools: Elizabeth Shelton Elementary School and Long Hill Elementary School in Shelton, CT.
Presenting School Profile: Elizabeth Shelton and Long Hill Elementary Schools Work to Expand Personalized Learning Opportunities for EL Students
Shelton Public Schools is a medium-sized Connecticut district serving 4800 students in grades PK-12. Two of the district’s elementary schools, Elizabeth Shelton and Long Hill will present at the upcoming Spotlight on Innovative, Student-Centered Schools. Since the 2010 – 2011 school year, Shelton Public Schools has seen a 286% increase in the number of EL students they serve. Whereas in 2010 there were 59 identified EL students in the district, this year there are 240 identified EL students and an additional 160 students who are in the monitoring phase. These students represent a variety of countries, most of which are Spanish-speaking; there are 37 languages represented in the district. Teams from Elizabeth Shelton and Long Hill Elementary School will present at the Spotlight on the work they are doing to strengthen and personalize education opportunities for EL students.
“The vision for our work [with our EL population] is the education, not just of teachers and administrators, but of parents and community members in ways we can better support students and families by acclimating them to our schools and personalizing their learning opportunities in whatever ways and means are possible” shared Victoria White, Supervisor of Literacy. The district has taken a number of steps to make progress toward that vision. TESOL teacher Maria Zampano shared several strategies the schools are using to reach out to parents, including through Parent University and the use of the Talking Points app. Through Parent University the district is offering three different courses to educate parents in ways they can better support their students at home, and take advantage of community resources available to them. Through the use of the Talking Points app, the district is able to communicate student progress with parents in their native language. Parents are able to respond back and the app translates these responses back into English.
White and Zampano shared some additional work that is going on at the school level to support EL students. Teachers are now meeting monthly to review the language progression of their EL students and tiering those students in order to more effectively plan for instruction. Teachers are looking at data from student work samples such as the sophistication of vocabulary and sentence structures, along with performance on state-mandated tests, to inform the tiering process. In addition, teacher teams at each school are taking on a ‘problem of practice’ that they are working to resolve in order to better support students. At Elizabeth Shelton teams are responding to the fact that many EL students were not seeing themselves represented in the books they were reading. As a result they have invested money in building guided reading sets and classroom libraries that feature multicultural books. At Long Hill, teams have responded to the barriers that newcomer students and their families faced when matriculating into the school. They have developed kits that contain information about the school and staff, survival language, and activities for students to do so that the TESOL teachers have a means to interact with new families and build relationships right upon arrival at the school.
Shelton Public Schools is currently a participant in Project ExcEL, a multi-year, grant-funded program to create and expand personal learning opportunities for English Language Learners. As part of their participation they are receiving coaching and technical assistance from CSSR and other providers through the UCLA Center X project. District Superintendent Chris Clouet shared that “the Shelton Team is combining professionalism and passion to nurture the Project ExcEL framework so that it is firmly rooted in our district and community. The success of the students we serve today will be evident decades from now.”
The presenting team from Shelton will present on the work they are doing as part of the ExcEL project, and beyond, to best support all of the district’s students. The presentation will focus on those aspects of their work that could be translated into implementation in other districts without relying on grant-funding to do so.