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 email@example.com or call us at 312 – 800 – 3477.