NABE 2024

Join us at the NABE 2024 Conference in New Orleans, LA! Booth #305 Click here for more information

MABE 2024

Join Alexandra at the MABE 2024 Conference in Providence, RI!

CABE 2024

Join us at the CABE 2024 Conference in Anaheim, CA! Click here for more information

La Cosecha 2023

Join us at the La Cosecha 2023 Dual Language Conference in Albuquerque, NM! Click here for more information

NABE 2023 Conference

Join us at the NABE 2023 Conference in Portland, OR! Click here for more information

La Cosecha 2022 Conference

Join us at the La Cosecha 2022 Conference in Houston, TX! Come visit us at our exibitor booth in the Santa Fe Convention Center (#20) and online! Click here for more information

NABE 51st Annual Conference 2022


Top 5 Ways to Spend Down F18 Budget & Grow Your Dual Language and Bilingual Programs:

In the next few weeks, schools and districts across the country are in the midst of a crazy time between now and June 30th called “spend down”, it is the last few months of the year where they are forced to either spend their remaining budgets, or risk losing that money altogether.  For many schools, this means ordering supplies, technology, and other catalog “wish list” items that were not possible during other times of the year. However, there is very little evidence that using funds for these “wish list” items has any impact on student achievement.  One reason might be that educators have very little time to learn how to best utilize these purchases to support the needs of their students.  Most likely, these additions rarely lead to improvement in practice and outcomes for students because the pressure to spend now before the time is up also prevents thoughtful planning for how these additions fit into current systems and structures.  So how do you avoid the shopping spree mentality and invest your final F18 budget in a way that makes a difference for your language learners?  As schools also begin planning their professional learning for the 2018-2019 school year, the five areas below are several “must have’s” that all schools should include and advocate for their dual language and bilingual programs. Program evaluation: Every dual language and bilingual program must analyze the needs of their educational community before building a comprehensive plan to coordinate supports.  Careful diagnosis of the districts’ programs must include an analysis of a variety of data sources, as well as utilizing other qualitative data to ensure effective services and outcomes.  The process should be methodical and flexible for dual language and bilingual program administrators to get a clear understanding of accountability, evidence to support a new program implementation, increase effectiveness of pedagogy and practices, or generally assessing needs. Leadership Training: Every leader should have the training and tools to lead and grow their dual language and bilingual programs.  This includes understanding how the curriculum and instructional practices should look the same and when they should look different in these classrooms. Additionally, every DL and bilingual program leader (building and district level) should have the opportunity to build their capacity for observing instruction that occurs in a language other than English and offering constructive feedback around strengths and opportunities for growth.  This cycle of feedback is a critical lever for improving student achievement. Equity Training: As record achievement gaps are reported across the country for dual language, bilingual, and English Learners, schools must work together to explore and analyze issues of inequitable distribution of resources, limited access in education, and how issues of race, culture, language, and identity create doors or barriers to opportunities for students. If schools are to change limiting beliefs, policies, and resource distribution models, misconceptions about students assets (rather than their deficits), social norms, and academic achievement must be rooted in a deeper understanding of the role that bias (both blatant and invisible) plays in the academic success of each student.    Accepting the sociocultural-linguistic biases within their schools improves educators’ ability to become mutually responsible learners with and from students to design more effective practices, materials, and systems that lead to student growth. Spanish Literacy: Teachers have many opportunities to build their expertise and knowledge of strategies to teach reading in English.  However, very few teachers in dual language and bilingual programs have received ongoing professional development that support their examination of the similarities and differences between English and Spanish. In addition to speaking Spanish, teachers in dual language and bilingual programs need to explicitly learn how Spanish literacy is developed authentically if they are to create a literacy experience that develops the sounds, words, sentence structures, and context that help students become biliterate. Ongoing coaching plans for key personnel: Educators need continuous follow up during the implementation of new ideas and practices – initial training is simply not sufficient. Ongoing coaching plans for key personnel (e.g. instructional coaches, dual language teachers, principals, etc.), allow schools to design coaching cycles which can encompass the following components: building the initial prerequisite skills & understandings, expertise in practices & tools to make new learning accessible, fidelity of implementation, effectiveness through formative assessment, and differentiated support based on need to continue improving practice. If you are interested in more information regarding any of these school supports, we would appreciate the opportunity to discuss supporting you through your program’s dual language, bilingual, ELL, and leadership training needs to improve your diverse students’ long-term success.  Please email us at alexandra.guilamo@tajulearning.com or call us at 312 – 800 – 3477.

What Makes an Exemplary Curriculum for Language Learners?

The success of linguistically and culturally diverse students has become a shared goal for educators and policy-makers across both political lines because there are now over 5 million students from homes where a language other than English is spoken.   The impact of this fast paced-growth began with grants, funding sources, and other program level compliances.  However, the consistent failure to see achievement and growth in both language and content, has created a shift in the conversation from minutes of instruction to what educators are teaching and what they are doing to change the consistent failure. It is a conversation that inevitably leads to curriculum. Is there a curriculum that is best for language learners?   Is there one that is better for dual language programs, versus bilingual programs, versus ESL programs?  And while I have my own views on whether curriculum should be the focus of the conversation, here is the short answer from an article I am in the process of submitting. Curriculum that have historically served language learners have consistently been characterized by learning that is less challenging, more repetitive, more focused on skills that require low levels of thinking and denies students the opportunity to engage in any type of productive struggle.  It is, in short, a curriculum that ensures language learners do not grow and remain uninspired to move beyond their current possibility in life. How do you know if you have this type of curriculum?  Ask yourself the following questions: Does the teacher do most of the thinking? Do the lessons leave students unsure of what to do with new learning after the lesson? Does the curriculum allow students to sit passively and “stay under the radar”? These remedial-mentality curriculum leave learners with little opportunity for achievement.  On the contrary, any curriculum that can reach the level of being exemplary must provide content, concepts, language, and meaningful opportunities to create knowledge that is worth learning within a context that allows every student to be a part of the larger community regardless of their language proficiency.  In thinking about curriculum in this way, there is no perfect curriculum.  Rather, the perfect curriculum comes from knowing who each and every child is, and using that knowledge to adapt the materials’ ability to help each child make meaning, seek the answers to real questions, and develop more complex ways to communicate their truth within the world. Even still, there are some criteria that must be part of how we evaluate the efficacy of our curriculum for our language learners. The following are not the only criteria that should be used to evaluate curriculum.  However, if you are looking to evaluate your current curriculum materials, or looking to adopt a new one, these three criteria should top your “look for’s”: The curriculum affirms the identity of the students that are meant its beneficiaries: meaning it provide content, concepts, and creation of knowledge (pedagogy) worth learning, and that it honors the life experiences that have shaped the individuals they are and will choose to become. Provides modeling, shared practice, oracy, and independent learning experiences that include variety and choice in how they apply that learning and challenge the way they look at things. Allows for authentic and high-quality pedagogy for the language of instruction, and authentic and worthy tasks/artifacts to support the access and achievement of each diverse learner.   These three criteria are critical.  If we cannot, at a bare minimum, say that our curriculum affirms the learners who it was purchased for, that there are a range of paths for students to apply that learning, and that the pedagogy is authentic, we cannot expect to have different outcomes.  So, what will you do to ensure that your curriculum doesn’t work against your goals?