In 2011, the Salem Public Schools were designated a Level 4 district by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This means that the district was identified as needing significant improvement according to state and federal guidelines. In response to this, the district has developed an Accelerated Improvement Plan with a focus on increasing student achievement for all students.
How has the English Language Learning department in Salem Public Schools started to address the district’s Accelerated Improvement Plan?
We started by re-examining how English as a Second Language services are provided and delivered to English-language learners, by looking at ways to improve services for students, and by providing professional development to teachers and administrators.
What was one of the first changes you made?
The enrollment of English-language learners has increased. In order to better meet their needs, one of the major changes has been the hiring of eight additional ELL teachers who have dual certifications in both ESL and a content area, a part-time language evaluator, a part-time bilingual parent liaison, and an ELL coach/data specialist. These professionals have been instrumental in providing additional services to ELL students, coaching support to teachers, as well as bilingual support to families.
What about the English Language Learner program that is in place? Is it adequate?
The ELL Department looked at the various ESL models that are in place in Salem, as well as in other districts. We wanted to know: What is working? Where? Are there models we can emulate? The ELL Department arranged for ELL teachers, mainstream teachers and administrators from several of our schools to visit other school districts, such as Malden, to see firsthand what the Sheltered English Instruction classrooms look like, what materials are being used, and what struggles and successes other districts have gone through. Salem teachers and administrators returned with renewed energy and inspiration to collaborate and discuss ways to improve instruction and services for ELL students.