There are unique challenges that come with being a large urban school district. High mobility rates, socioeconomic conditions, and sheer population size can all impact student success. But, there are also many rewarding and exceptional opportunities that come out of being a part of an urban district. In Chicago Public Schools (CPS), we have more than 370,000 students, requiring a delicate balance between resources and individualized learning.
As principal at Richard Edwards Dual Language Fine and Performing Arts IB School, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to build relationships with thousands of students, each one bringing a unique sense of culture to our school community. More than 90 percent of our school’s students come from low-income backgrounds, and 49 percent are English language learners. With this in mind, we’ve had to discover innovative ways to supplement our curriculum in both languages, Spanish and English, to ensure that every student is being supported.
Literacy is a core skill, but is also one that each student learns differently. Pacing and methodology each play a role in a student’s learning journey. With that said, our school has worked diligently toward finding a way to ensure that each student is receiving what he or she needs to be successful, including the integration of literacy across the curriculum, bridging their oracy skills in both languages.
We haven’t always had success in achieving this mission, but with a well-thought-out plan and a dedicated faculty, we were able to develop a system that ensures each student has the opportunity to gain the skills needed for success after graduation.
Here are six ways that CPS improved literacy in our school.
1. Dual-language support.
Our school is proud to be a dual-language school. Through this effort, students are exposed to inclusive learning opportunities and support when they need it most during language learning. We have removed language and cultural barriers by providing extra support for all of our learners. For example, dual-language immersion allows students to learn in their native language—while learning English, beginning in pre-school—10 percent of the instructional time. Gradually, their instruction is 50 percent of the time in both languages by grades four and five, resulting in a well-rounded and equitable literacy program in two languages.
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