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Column: District 518 monitoring progress of English Learners

By Dr, Mara Borges-Gatewood, District 518

WORTHINGTON — Last December we had a total of 1054 ELs (English Learners) in our district where English is their second (or third) language. This number is now up to 1,068: Prairie Elementary has 628 students, middle school 230, high school 180, and ALC 30.

EL students participate in statewide English language proficiency assessment (ACCESS) annually to monitor their progress. It is aligned with the ELD standards and assesses the four language domains: listening, speaking, reading and writing. ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 “is a secure large-scale English language proficiency assessment administered to kindergarten through 12th grade students who have been identified as English language learners” (WIDA, 2018). The purpose/use of ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 are:

  • Helps students and families understand students’ current level of English language proficiency along the developmental continuum.
  • Serves as one of multiple measures used to determine whether students are prepared to exit English language support programs.
  • Generates information that assists in determining whether ELLs have attained the language proficiency needed to participate meaningfully in content area classrooms without program support.
  • Provides teachers with information they can subsequently use to enhance instruction and learning in programs for their English language learners.
  • Provides districts with information that will help them evaluate the effectiveness of their ESL/bilingual programs.
  • Meets, and exceeds, federal requirements for the monitoring and reporting of ELLs' progress toward English language proficiency. (WIDA, 2018)

Last spring, 1,050 English Learners were tested on the four domains. With that we could look at their literacy, comprehension and composite score. I’m proud of our teachers and students because not only did they do their best, but the results reflect!

I am proud in a way that is difficult to explain because even though some of our population have never been to school before, they still were able to improve in the four domains that really matter to them. Some of our classes are large, and our teachers struggle to keep up and teach to the diverse population of students we have. Therefore, I can say without regret that I am so very proud and glad that I am a part of this school district. When we do it for the right reason, it shows.

We are just stating the new testing season, which goes until the end of March. We need everyone’s help during this time of testing — help from the parents/guardians to make sure students have a good night’s rest before going to school; help from the administrators in each building to provide the best atmosphere for all students; help from our teachers to encourage the EL students, especially during the testing time; and help from everyone in the school to encourage and support students to succeed. And I thank you, already, for all that you do for our students!

As EL Coordinator for the district for the past three school years, I feel very fortunate to be working among an extraordinary group of professionals who support all students’ educational needs. Also, I am so very proud of each English learner in our district that shows up every day and does their best, against all odds!

Dr. Mara Borges-Gatewood is English Learner Coordinator for District 518.