SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

November 30, 2012

Column: Changes on the horizon in Salem schools

Second of two parts

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.

You’ve begun to modify the program and have purchased new materials — what else needs to be done?

An additional major focus this year has been to train all educators and administrators in the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment standards. The focus of the five WIDA standards is to develop students’ academic language across disciplines. The English-language learners department has been busy training educators and administrators with an introduction to the WIDA standards. Approximately 175 educators have been trained so far; our goal is to reach 350 this school year. This training will give teachers some of the tools they need to teach every ELL student at their level of proficiency.

Do English-language learners take the MCAS, too? Wouldn’t that be hard without having proficient English?

ELL students do have to take the MCAS, and yes, it is very challenging to take a rigorous test in your second language. However, English-language learners also take a state-mandated test that measures their English-language abilities. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is not only changing to the WIDA standards, but it is also changing the assessment that is used to measure English-language learners’ progress and achievement. In January 2013, the new assessment, ACCESS, will be used for the first time to measure students’ academic language on the WIDA standards.

Are there additional supports for students, outside of the regular school day?

Another program offered by the ELL department is an after-school program for high school ELL students who need additional support to be successful in their academic classes. This program is offered after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 2:15 and 3:15 p.m., and is funded through Title III funds that the district receives for ELL students.

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