ELL early exit

How ‘early exit’ prepares students for the 22nd Century

By offering ELLs 24/7 access to digital books, San Benito CISD is accelerating their transition from bilingual to all-English classrooms.

San Benito CISD (SBCISD) lies at the southernmost tip of Texas, right on the border of Mexico. We have 20 schools serving over 10,000 students. Of those, approximately 2,700 are English Language learners. That’s roughly 26 percent of the student population.

As the Executive Director of Leadership and Performance at SBCISD, I work cooperatively with the administrative team to develop action plans for our at-risk student populations.

SBCISD offers a variety of programs to help remediate our at-risk kids. One such program is our very successful Gateway To Graduation alternative campus. This program incorporates a “catch and release” model providing individualized credit recovery support for students who have fallen behind on their credits so that they can get back on track for graduation.

As a result, over 500 of our students who were at-risk of dropping out have now earned their high school diploma.

In an effort to target our at-risk ELLs, our district recently embarked on a new endeavor focusing our attention on a preemptive plan for students in the earlier grades, with the aim of reducing the need for alternative education measures later on in their schooling.

To do this, our school board recently approved an administrative bilingual education action plan changing our approach from a “late exit” to an “early exit” bilingual model.

Early vs. Late Exits

For 20 years, our late exit system kept our students in a bilingual program from pre-K through fifth grade. Under this plan, our bilingual students exited into all-English classes once they reached middle school. The transition from bilingual to strictly English classrooms was often a jarring experience, affecting our student’s grades and performance on state assessments.

In an early exit model, students who demonstrate the readiness to transition from Spanish to English instruction can do so as early as the first or second grade. With this goal in mind, we are training our teachers to deliver differentiated instruction to our students by grouping them in correlation to their Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced levels of language acquisition.

With the proper transition pedagogy in place, we are providing our bilingual students the opportunity to transition into English instruction at an earlier age if they are ready to do so.

(Next page: ELL instruction, early exit for the future)

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