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3 Helpful Resources for Teaching English Learners

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Did you know that more than 11,000 English learner students attend Delaware schools, representing more than 100 different languages?

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Bishop, an English as a Second Language teacher in the Brandywine School District who also serves as treasurer and membership chair of Delaware English Language Learners Teachers and Advocates (DELLTA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the English-learner population in Delaware. Jen highlighted three ways that all teachers with English learners in their class can access additional resources.

  1. Visit the WIDA Consortium website. Delaware is a member of the WIDA Consortium, which designs and implements proficiency standards and assessments for English learners in grades K-12. The membership provides Delaware teachers with free Educator Resources and a detailed library that includes webinars specific to Delaware.
  1. Ask whether your district utilizes over-the-phone interpreter services. For instance, Brandywine School District uses CTS Language Link. This can be an incredibly helpful resource for fostering family engagement. For instance, Jen uses the service during for parent-teacher meetings with parents who do not understand, speak, or read English.
  1. Connect with DELLTA. Email Jen Bishop if you would like to be added to the DELLTA mailing list to receive information about upcoming meetings. Check out their website or Facebook page for resources, information about becoming a DELLTA member, and more about the organization’s goals, which include:
    • To advocate for appropriate legislation, sufficient funding, and community involvement for English learners throughout the state of Delaware
    • To create an awareness and appreciation of the contributions that linguistic minorities bring to Delaware and the nation
    • To promote and support the professional development of educators of English learners
    • To recognize the achievements of linguistic minority students through scholarship grants
    • To provide opportunities for group study and discussions of challenges educators of English learners encounter
    • To assist as a resource in posting the latest educational English learner research

Extra Credit: Did you know that a guiding coalition of parents, community representatives, district subject matter experts, and the Department of Education has developed draft recommendations for the future of English learner instruction in Delaware known as the “English Learner Strategic Plan?” Read the draft plan, submit your input via an online survey, and learn more about upcoming community feedback meetings here on the Delaware Department of Education’s website.

7 Things You Need to Know About WEIC’s Interim Redistricting Plan

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Don’t have time to read the 170-page interim plan for redistricting the City of Wilmington released by the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) last week? Let me point you in the direction of some essential pieces of information and answer a few questions you may be asking about both the content and the process.

Content

1.   What is WEIC recommending in this plan? Here’s my one major recommendation: Make sure to read the five-page executive summary! I found it very helpful. The recommendations fall into two buckets: Redistricting Recommendations and Funding Student Success.

2.   Remind me again why redistricting is needed? Another must-read is the impassioned The Case for Redistricting found on pages seven through nine of the report’s introduction. Also, WEIC has created an infographic that illustrates its theory of change for how these systemic changes will lead to improved student outcomes.

WEIC theory of improving student outcomes

3.   What’s the proposed timeline for how to make these recommendations a reality? WEIC lays out a multi-year timeline for how to implement its recommendations, once they are approved. This timeline is below. If you want to see more concrete milestones of progress for each phase, check out pages 152-157.

WEIC implementation timeline

4.   What’s the difference between this plan and the previous recommendations of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC)? WEIC used WEAC’s report, Strengthening Wilmington Education: An Action Agenda, as a foundation for its analysis, and built off most of the previous recommendations to provide further detail. There are a few areas of difference:

a.   WEAC initially recommended that the Colonial School District be removed from the City of Wilmington, but the current draft of the WEIC plan does not include that recommendation.

b.   In order to allocate funding based on the needs of students in poverty and English learners, WEAC recommended either a weighted student funding system, or a modification to the current unit system. WEIC has narrowed in on a recommendation to modify the current unit system in the short term.

c.   Some of WEAC’s recommendations that are not immediately related to redistricting are still being discussed by the WEIC committees, such as improving collaboration between and among districts and charters, and creating a statewide plan for coordinating services for low-income students, families, and schools.

5.   What else is in this report that I may not know about? In addition to the recommendations, there is a lot of other new substance baked into the report, including:

a.   Implementation plans from Christina and Red Clay school districts that outline what decisions would have to be made, when actions needs to be taken, who needs to be involved, and how to engage the community on a plethora of topics from transportation to capital assets, to impacts on students and educators (page 107).

b.   Specific definitions and GIS maps of the districts’ current and proposed boundary lines (page 121).

c.   Explanations of how WEIC’s work relates to other initiatives in the state such as Student Success 2025 and the Early Childhood Council, (page 95).

d.   Ways WEIC will measure progress as its recommendations are implemented (page 150).

Process

6.   Is this report final? How do I make my voice heard? This is an interim report that is open for public feedback, which WEIC is accepting through this Google form. There are also five formal public hearings currently scheduled during which the public can provide testimony on the plan before it is submitted to the State Board of Education. More information can be found on the WEIC website.

7.   What next? What has to happen in order for this plan to be adopted?

a.   December 9th, 2015: The Commission will meet on to review and discuss public feedback.

b.   December 15th, 2015: The Commission will meet to decide whether to send the plan forward to the State Board of Education.

c.   The State Board of Education can then send the plan back to WEIC to address areas of concern and resubmit, or it can approve the plan. Under current law, the ability of the State Board of Education the act sunsets after the last day of March.

d.   If the State Board of Education approves, the plan need to be approved by the General Assembly via a joint resolution in order to move forward. If both chambers approve the joint resolution, the plan would need to be signed by the governor.

 

As a program officer at Rodel, Neil Kirschling closely follows education in Wilmington, including the work of both the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.

This information is current as of 11/18.

College Application Month kicks off today

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Today marks the start of Delaware College Application Month!

From now through November 20, 2015, all district and charter high schools will host their own College Application Week, during which schools will set aside time during the day for students to fill out and submit college applications, along with the help of local volunteers. The ultimate goal is to provide every student the opportunity to apply to college.

college

I’ve volunteered in schools during College Application Month for the past two years and I am excited to return for a third. Don’t worry if you’re no college admissions expert. I don’t profess to be one! To help you answer the technical questions, there are training materials available from The Institute for Public Administration at the University of Delaware and the Delaware Department of Education. Aside from that, the real benefit (for both students and volunteers) comes from the one-on-one conversations. My favorite thing about being a College Application Month volunteer is getting to connect with students over their interests, learn about their future aspirations, and share my experiences as a college graduate.

If you’re interested in volunteering you can learn more and sign up here on the Delaware Goes to College website. From personal experience, I know this is a great way to get involved with and learn more about the work underway in our state’s high schools.

And on the topic of college access, the “ultimate guide to scholarships for Delaware students” has arrived. The Delaware Higher Education Office recently published the 2015-16 edition of the Delaware Scholarship Compendium: A Guide for College-Bound Students. This is a great resource to pass along to any high schoolers in your life. Make sure to watch the video below for more information.

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