Research has proven over and over again that bilingual kids or kids who are non-native English speakers will do better when you provide an environment where that student is able to express himself or herself in a way that's understandable.
The School District of Palm Beach County serves Spanish-speaking students who are learning English, as well as English-speaking students working to become fluent in Spanish. According to dual language instructional specialist Lisa Capra, the district's No. 1 priority is to help students "become fully bilingual and biliterate." The district's two-way immersion program follows a 50-50 model — core academic instruction is divided equally between languages. Also, Spanish-speaking English learners and native English-speaking students come together in the classroom so both groups serve as language "model" and "learner" at different times of the day.
When Capra and her Florida team discovered Istation, they found a tool that could tell teachers exactly what students knew in their first language. As she recalls, "Differentiation in the classroom became easy after that."
A similar story was unfolding across the country. Teachers at Harney Elementary School in Vancouver, Wash., were on the hunt for an all-in-one assessment tool that would help them measure their dual language students' abilities to listen, read, write and comprehend. A pilot of Istation (which they came across at a trade show) convinced Principal Lucy Estrada-Guzman of the program's merits. Within just a few months of fully adopting Istation, the educators could identify recurring trends in student progress and map individual growth and skill development. Also, teachers could hold conversations across grades using a common language to talk about assessment and instruction, facilitating much better collaboration.
"Students bring knowledge and experience with them when they come,” says Palm Beach’s Capra about dual-language learning. “They are not blank slates where teachers have to start all over." Through the use of a program such as Istation, teachers can help their dual-language students tap into what they bring with them into the classroom. As a result, she says, "Students have an easier time transferring that knowledge to English."
Data can help guide custom learning paths but educators must have the right tools to make that happen. Download this SmartFocus on how data can bridge dual-language learning gaps and boost student success.