Professional Learning to Make the Transition
None of this is possible without a targeted professional development strategy. As is the case with many districts, professional development is an extremely high priority at SBCISD.
This year we offered five days at the district level and three days at the campus level prior to the first day of instruction. By front-loading our professional development at the start of the year, we ensured that our teachers’ tool belts were full of the tools they needed to apply the differentiated instruction to our students on the first day of school. This also largely eliminated the need to pull teachers out of their classrooms for training after school began.
We are continuing our professional learning throughout the school year after school hours with our Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) program.
During TTTs, teachers meet by grade level and content area after school and share their most effective teaching practices based on the standards taught during that grading period. This ongoing professional development program encourages our teachers to open up, present, and share what is working well in their classrooms with their colleagues. TTT exemplifies the belief that we are strongest for our students when we work collaboratively.
Using Literature to Our Advantage
We also recognize that a strong emphasis on reading is the key to addressing the needs of our at-risk students. This is especially true in assisting our ELL students to become proficient in English at an accelerated rate.
To facilitate our goal to have our students read as much as possible, we recently partnered with myON, an online digital library, to provide our students with 24/7 access to books and learning.
We piloted myON this last summer with a goal of having our students read more than 5,000 books to prevent the summer slide. We were very pleased when the final report came in and revealed that our students had more than doubled our district goal by reading more than 11,000 books in a period of only two months.
By providing 24/7 access to reading material for our bilingual students, we are helping them to acquire English proficiency, which promotes our early exit goals for them. Having instant access to quality, high-interest English and Spanish literature connects our students to reading in an unprecedented way in SBCISD.
ELL Instruction for the Future
Technology is advancing so quickly that we need to prepare our students to embrace any form that education may take in the distant future. Our desire to offer a curriculum that supports and prepares students who will be living well into the 22nd century also supports the P-20 Goal of our five-year strategic plan.
By integrating myON as a support for the early-exit bilingual program, we are equipping our students as early as pre-kindergarten with the essential skills and guidance that will follow them all the way to their doctorate (hence the P-20). In our fast-moving, competitive society, we feel obligated to equip our 22nd-century citizens with the tools and mindset that will prepare them to be leaders in the technologically advanced world of their futures.
As we make this transition to an early exit bilingual model for our students, we are looking forward to the opportunities we will have to equip our ELL students with the essential language skills they will need to be successful in our multilingual society.