• September 21, 2019

ECISD changing bilingual program - Odessa American: News

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ECISD changing bilingual program

Officials say proficiency reached earlier with new model

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Posted: Sunday, August 25, 2019 3:00 am

The bilingual program at Ector County ISD is moving to dual language this year.

With dual language one way, students’ instruction stays at 50 percent English and 50 percent Spanish. The expectation is that the students will reach English proficiency earlier than with the traditional bilingual model.

Through the years, ECISD’s bilingual program has been under scrutiny from the Texas Education Agency due to low test scores.

Three campuses piloted what’s called dual language one way in prekindergarten and first grade at Carver Early Education Center and Buddy West and Zavala elementary schools this past year.

This year, 14 additional campuses will offer dual language one way in prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grade, Executive Director of Bilingual/ESL Betsabe Salcido said.

ESL stands for English as a second language.

Campuses new to dual language one way this year are:

Blackshear, kindergarten through first; Carver Early Education Center, prekindergarten; Cavazos Elementary, kindergarten through first; Dowling Elementary, kindergarten through first; E.K. Downing, kindergarten through first; Murry Fly, prekindergarten through first; Goliad Elementary, kindergarten through first; Hays STEAM Academy, kindergarten through first; Jordan Elementary, kindergarten through first; LBJ, kindergarten through first.

Also, Milam, kindergarten through first; Pease, prekindergarten through second (they piloted the program last year, so they added a grade this year); Reagan, prekindergarten through first; Sam Houston, kindergarten through first; San Jacinto, kindergarten through first; West Elementary, kindergarten through second (they did a pilot last year, as well, so they are adding a grade); and Zavala, prekindergarten through second (they also piloted the program last year).

Carver Principal Sherry Palmer is looking forward to having dual language on her campus because she’s been asking for it. They had one dual language class last year and will have three this year.

She noted that children’s brains are more pliable to learn languages when they are younger.

“Parents are happy,” Palmer said.

She added that one reason a change was needed is that people were coming from different educational environments across the country and were asking for dual language. Many other districts in Texas and nationwide have gone to the dual language model, which is a way for children to become literate in two languages.

“Our bilingual program in the past has been late exit transitional, which means at every single grade level there’s a different percentage of English and Spanish instruction. So the child starts mainly getting instruction in their native language, which would be Spanish, and then gradually moves more and more into English as they go through the grade levels,” Salcido said.

The one way program serves students who have been identified as English learners in Spanish and in English at a much younger age than the late exit transitional model, Salicido said.

Students at the three campuses last year received instruction in English 50 percent of the time and Spanish 50 percent of the time.

“That’s one of the big differences. … It’s really making sure that our kids are bilingual; they speak both languages. They’re biliterate. They can read and write in both languages and they are bicultural, so they have a strong understanding of both cultures,” Salcido said. “There’s lots of researchers across the state, across the country, where most districts have moved to a dual language one-way program or a dual language two-way, which is what we have at Cameron.”

Salcido said the program will be a change.

“It’s a shift in many ways classroom with our teachers, culture wise. Also, it’s a different approach, a different understanding of the bilingual program. At the three campuses where they piloted, they’re going to add another grade level. West and Zavala will also have second grade now going to a dual language model,” Salcido said.

To get to this point took two to three years of planning. Salcido said the program has been effective.

She said she and other coordinators and Cameron Principal Jacob Bargas visited other districts where the dual language program was in place such as Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso. They talked to the bilingual/ESL departments, their directors and teachers and visited classrooms.

They looked at different models to see what would work best for ECISD. Salcido said they wanted to make sure it was well planned.

Gloria Phillips, bilingual/ESL program specialist, said parents have been very supportive of the program also.

Salcido said approximately 34 languages are spoken in the district. Most of it is Spanish with Vietnamese coming in a distant second. She said there has been an increase in the number of English learners, but the languages haven’t changed much even though Odessa has gone through many changes and grow spurts. 

Currently, Salcido said, there are about 6,300 in the bilingual program.

“As far as the programs that we use to support language learning, we use Rosetta Stone. We use Achieve 3000 overall. As far as the district, I think we’re seeing more technology; more of the students having access to Chromebooks, and of course there’s always Istation. … We have used Study Island to support social studies,” Salcido said.

Study Island is a program that can help close gaps in content areas, she said.

“We still use the translators. We have dictionaries available for all of our students in different languages to help support (them) if they’re newcomers. We also have dictionaries to help support the instruction in the classroom as far as from English to Spanish,” Salcido said.  

This year, Salcido said, her department is looking at a service that can translate documents or Skype in a translator so parents can be supported during important meetings with campus staff, or within special populations.

“We need the translation and the communication to be as clear as we can to make it to make sure we have a full understanding of what our students’ needs are. That would help and so we’re exploring those and we hope to be able to decide on one soon and pilot it and see how that will help us in different areas, especially when it comes to reaching out to parents,” Salcido said.

She added that so far, they have been lucky because staff, especially within the Bilingual/ESL department, can help when it comes to Spanish or some of the other languages.

As newcomers, they complete a home language survey and identify that there is another language spoken at home.

“Then from there, they have to be tested, and once they’re tested, they are identified as (an) English learner or not. If they are an EL student, then from there we have to identify the placement of those services that they will receive,” Salcido said.  

One of Salcido’s goals when she first started in her job was closing the gap for bilingual and monolingual students.

“We have done that throughout the past four years. Now of course we are as a district moving together to make sure that we meet that state standard and that we also move more kids from approaches into meets in all of the content areas,” on the STAAR test, she said.

Along with STAAR results, some of the factors that have contributed to the program’s scrutiny from TEA are parent denials of service, graduation rates and results from the TELPAS, or Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System.

Parents sometimes opt out of services because they are coming from another district and have received different services.

“So when they come here … sometimes it’s best to just go on into a monolingual classroom …,” Salcido said.

“When they come to us and they want to deny services, the principal at the campus meets with them. They have a conversation about what that campus has to offer. The next step before they deny is to have a face-to-face conference with us so that we go over every single piece of the child’s information from their test scores to their levels to the report cards,” she said.

They go through all those pieces to make sure the parents make an informed decision before opting out.

“We make sure that they have all the information and can ask questions to make that decision (about) what is best for the child. And the child might be ready for monolingual, but at the same time, we continue to monitor (them) and we continue to be mindful of what is this child’s schedule going to look like. And if they should struggle, they always have the option to come back into the program,” Salcido said.

Students can exit the program, or be reclassified as the state now calls it, if they meet state guidelines. They are required to be in the program for six years before exiting in addition to meeting testing guidelines, she said.

Parents can deny services at any point. If a student comes in at middle or high school, they’re in the English as a second language program.

“… It’s based really on their needs that we look at the placement, or look at the type of classes that they will take,” Salcido said. “If they’re a newcomer straight from say Mexico, then they are newcomer for only two years. During those two years what we try to do is we try to place them into classes that will help support the language development.”

“We try to be proactive, try to assist with language as much as we can at the beginning so that we’re not having to be reactive if the child doesn’t get that language support that he needs in order to be successful in (the) content areas,” she added.

Every year, the department offers an English language development academy to parents of English learner students. The last couple of years it has been at Bowie Middle School and will probably continue there.

“We start around mid-September and we have a great turnout,” Salcido said. “We have … three levels of English learners when it comes to our parents and we also offer Spanish to our ECISD employees. And we have daycare. If they are school-aged kids, we offer day care for them. They do homework, read books. They have different activities that they can use during that time.”

The daycare is offered to parents and employees.

Classes are held every Tuesday from 4:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Normally, she said, they run from mid-September to the end of April.

 

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