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Strategies for Success: Supporting English Learner Student Achievement – Panel Discussion Q&A

Strategies for Success: Supporting English Learner Student Achievement – Panel Discussion Q&A


RACHEL: Alright. Wonderful. Well,
thank you so much to all of our presenters for the wonderful
information that you’ve shared. I think that we’ve gotten some
questions in that I want to make sure that the whole group
has a chance to hear both the questions and the responses. First, there was a question that
came in, in terms of, what’s a good way to refer to supports
for English learner students without calling them necessarily
like, special supports? For example, the supports can often
be different, say, for example, for speech language impairment, or autism spectrum, or developmental needs. And so, José, you had provided
an initial answer for this through the chat box, but I’m wondering
if you’d like to speak a little bit about this for the group. JOSÉ: Sure. So, one of the ways
that we refer – in CMSD, we’re very big on our acronyms
and very big on our vocabulary. What we try to do is that, when
we see that there’s a need, or an aspect of a child that needs
to be referred to, part of the way that we refer to
those has been, what do the children need in order
for them to be successful? What does the family need? What
are the family’s wants? Trying to stay away from the words
special needs, because having been a former teacher
and administrator of ELs, and a former SpEd teacher, those
were one of the acronyms that really got me to the point
of frustration. So, we usually try to refer to
as needs and wants, rather than special – we try to
stay away from the word special. RACHEL: Thanks, José. Ms. Tarazona,
I think that you also had a response to share and
some thoughts on this. I don’t know if perhaps you’re still muted. Feel free to unmute yourself, if so. Okay. Well, we’ll give Ms. Tarazona
a moment to unmute herself. NUBIA: I’m sorry, we’ve missed
the question. RACHEL: Oh, I was simply asking,
it looked like you had started to have a response to this question about how to refer to supports for EL students without calling them special needs. You had written to the chat box
something about students with exceptionalities,
but I wondered if you wanted to share more with the group about
your thoughts on this. ERIKA: So, we indicated students
with exceptionalities, due to the fact that not all students
have special needs. And so, there’s a wide range of topics that we can discuss within the
exceptionality. We could discuss from language
needs, to behavioral, to advancement. And so, we use the term exceptionality
instead of special needs. NUBIA: And in New Mexico, even
gifted education typically falls in the realm of
special education. So, the gifted and talented is
in that same umbrella. And I know that’s different for our state, so that’s just usually how we refer to it. If you’re labeled as special education, you’re not only a student with
a disability, you could also be a gifted and
talented student. RACHEL: Yeah, that’s really useful. It’s true that there’s a lot to dig into, in terms of students who are English learners, and students who have some kind
of IEP type supports. And I think we could probably devote
an entire webinar just to that. But certainly, it starts with the right way to acknowledge these students and their needs. Thank you all for your thoughts on that. We did get another question about, specifically in Cleveland, the
Family Needs Assessment, and the question was a couple of parts to it. When is the Family Needs Assessment
administered? Who administers it? And who is
it administered to? JOSÉ: So, our Family Needs Assessment
is our way to, basically, find out what the family needs are. So, the family needs, ideally,
the Family Needs Assessment is administered upon enrollment
as part of the enrollment experience, although our current district families come in to our Welcome Center and they see
our family coordinators, both the Family Engagement and
Student Supports Coordinator and the Refugee Services Coordinator. If one of the coordinators is not
in the office, which usually happens, because
they’re all over the district – there’s only two of them, and 106
schools – our registration specialists do provide that needs
assessment to the family. Once the family has documented
what their needs are, or they’re able to provide a more
in-depth explanation of what their needs are, the completed
assessment is then handed over to the family engagement
coordinators. And they will then reach out to the family to get a deeper understanding. Our coordinators, like I said,
since our coordinators are all over and dealing with so many items at the same time, if they are not
in the office, then our welcome center staff will
provide that assessment. Once that happens, we then take
our rubric, and we then classify the needs once we have had that
interview with the family, which usually within 24 hours of
the family coming or calling or identifying a need, we will
each out to them. Then, a deeper interview goes into place, where our coordinators will then
classify the needs based on the rubric and a scale
from four to one. And usually, our emergency rated
cases are handled first, depending on what the rubric results are. RACHEL: Thank you, José. And I
think it’s really interesting to hear about what you do, and
to really sort of reach out and connect with the families of
these students, particularly given, in our research
study together, we found these really strong positive associations of different aspects of school
climate with the outcomes of the English learner students,
in particular, their speaking. And I’m curious to maybe just ask
you a little bit more, in terms of how you view your role
in supporting positive school climate, and what you think
are ways to – and particularly, positive support
English learner students maybe in that production phase,
like you were talking about earlier. JOSÉ: So, part of the initiatives
that we have is that, we have to recognize, as education
professionals of English learners, that our students come with tons of baggage. Although they come with tons of bag – I’m sorry, I think I just got muted. Although they come with tons of baggage, they also come with a wealth of knowledge. And I think that the sooner the
education world understands that, the better off everybody would be. Part of the initiative that we
have in our department that we’ve kind of spread out throughout the district is that families and students have
to feel welcomed and wanted. Regardless of their language barrier, regardless of how they see their
current situation. If you are greeted in the morning
with a smile on your face every day, by your teacher, by
your school principal, by whomever it is that is greeting
you in the morning, and you are treated in a sense of respect, regardless of whether you can understand
that individual, you’re going to want to come back. That’s one of the major points of trying to make that acculturation piece
so important. Because unless our students are feeling welcomed and wanted, then I think that’s key. Secondly, or furthermore to that, we also have to realize that, when we do our conditions for learning survey,
students are being honest. And those particular results are
shared not only with school staff, but it’s also
shared with the student body. And it’s also shared with the student
body in their native language. So, it’s important for them to
understand that their voice matters. And how they feel about school matters. RACHEL: I think that also resonates a lot with what we heard from our colleagues
in Las Cruces. In particular, I noted, for our
colleagues in Las Cruces, when you were describing the different ways that the Welcome Center sort of reaches
out and tries to engage students in different aspects
of school life, that you noted that you have this
particular goal of helping students finding their
sense of belonging in the school. And I wondered if you could speak
a little bit more about that. And in particular, I guess, if
there’s any sort of challenges that you’ve identified with helping students find their sense of belonging in the school, and what might be your successes
for meeting that challenge? GE ANN: So, some of the challenges
that we primarily face is obviously the language barrier,
but what we try to do is, thanks to our translation and interpretation department, we are able to provide interpreters
or translators to be active participants in all
of these school activities. We submit our documentation to
request these interpreters or translators, and they join the
students or the parents at these extracurricular activities
or school meetings, et cetera, to get them involved and be part of the decision making process
of our school. And so, we really try to limit
the language barrier so that that is not one of the main reasons
for the lack of participation. I would say that another challenge
is time and transportation. Many of our kids lack transportation,
specifically the school where I’m located, we are on one
of the outskirts of our Las Cruces. And so, our bus route doesn’t go
to the school. And so, the transportation has
gotten to be probably the second most challenging situation
for these kids in order to participate, however,
we have tried to make arrangements for transportation
with siblings or relatives to try to get the students to be
actively involved in extracurricular activities,
and for them to feel included in the school setting and the school culture. I know we are looking at possibly
getting activity buses for after hours, and a bus route
that could probably go that way. So, we’re trying to work with community resources to minimize
that barrier. ERIKA: And I think another barrier
we have is really getting our families and our parents involved. So, one of the other things that
our department does is we do the community outreach program. We have the language academy set
up where parents come in four days out of the week, every night. They have an English class, a Spanish
class, a computer class. We also partner up with our local university to provide ESL and GED classes. So, really, the parents feel –
they get all that information from our International Welcome
Center student and family advisor. And once that trust and that relationship
has been developed, that’s really where we start to
see the parents start to come out and attend our events, once that
relationship has been established. Again, bringing those parents into
the community, the majority of our schools are
dual language, 50/50 models. We believe in bilingualism and biliteracy. And our goal is to continue that model through high school so all of our
kids can graduate from Las Cruces Public Schools
being bilingual or having that bilingual seal in
their high school diploma. RACHEL: That’s great. Those are really – you gave a lot of information there. Very useful, and it’s true, it’s
sort of like this – there’s the sort of fundamental
issue of, sometimes, you don’t have the ability to connect by language. There can be the practical issue
of something like transportation. And then, I think this other sort
of third piece, in terms of, you want to connect with parents,
and sometimes, you need to tap into the folks around you. Whether it’s your local university,
or sort of other community organizations, to sort of engage and meet people’s different needs,
it’s all super useful. I wanted to check in about something
you said in a sort of similar vein from what you brought
up about, something could be more of a practical challenge,
like transportation. So, one thing that we found in
the report is, you know, these findings that suggested,
as you have a set number of ESL or bilingual paraprofessionals,
staff who are really sort of trained to support English learner students, as the number of those staff are
working with more and more EL students within a school, that
this is associated with decreased performance for the English
learner students, in terms of speaking proficiency
or math achievement. And certainly, one of the perennial
challenges of being able to support English learner students
is having enough staff in place. I’m wondering if we can hear from
both Las Cruces and Cleveland, in terms of, do you have any challenges with finding the appropriate staff in place,
training the staff that you have? And if so, how do you meet them?
What has been successful for you? JOSÉ: So, in terms of Cleveland,
and I think this is a nationwide issue, we face, every year, the finding appropriate certified staff. At least, in the northeastern part
of the nation, it’s very difficult. And it’s more difficult nowadays, because the education majors are
less and less every year, let alone add that layer of teaching
English learners. So, part of the initiative that
we have is that we are using our bilingual paraprofessionals
as a track to teaching. So, we have partnered up with the
universities – our local universities – and we
are working on a grant to continue the education of these
bilingual paraprofessionals in order to gain them as teachers. I think that growing our own is
the best way. And that’s how we’re trying to
meet the needs of properly EL licensed staff. RACHEL: Wonderful. Thanks, José. NUBIA: So, in Las Cruces public
schools, we usually, for the last two or three years, is when we have begun to see the struggle
for bilingual teachers. As you know, we are located right
next to El Paso, Texas. We are 45 minutes away from the
border with Juarez, Mexico. So, usually, years back, we did not have many issues filling bilingual positions. However, in the last three to five
years, we have seen a decrease of bilingual teachers
coming out of the university. Our teachers need to have a modern
and classical language degree, on top of the TESOL endorsement
in order to be able to teach, you know, in the secondary plus
their content expertise. So, we have seen the challenge. We have started a cohort to provide
TESOL endorsement to our teachers from Las Cruces
Public Schools. Another thing we noticed, looking at our data, is that we do have a lot of bilingual-endorsed teachers that are currently teaching out of program. So, we have started a campaign
to try to recruit them and get them back into teaching
within program. And right now, we work with two
of the universities, New Mexico State University and
the University of Texas at El Paso in recruitment, such as job fairs, to try to bring in people from
different demographics. RACHEL: Very interesting. That’s great. And interesting to hear about your
changing context over time. Well, I know that we are coming
close to time here. I wanted to mention that, of course,
you might have seen in the chat box, we really do appreciate
everybody’s feedback. If someone is jumping off, if you’re
able to make sure to either click on the link, or as
you jump off, you’ll be prompted to respond to
a quick survey. We really do value all feedback
that you can provide. So, thank you in advance, if you can just take a few minutes to respond. I also do want to, before we close
out, see if there’s anyone who has just one more question
to ask any of our presenters today. I think we could have time for one more, if there was something that anyone
wanted to ask. Well, if there aren’t any more
questions, I do want to note that there will be a recording
of this webinar available on both the REL Midwest and REL
Southwest websites, along with a copy of our slides,
and also, links to all of the different resources
that we have mentioned today. I definitely want to give a huge
thanks to all of our presenters for your time and for sharing all
of your insights. And thank you all for attending
and joining us today.

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