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digital-ELL

Digital curriculum targets ELL learning gap


Middlebury Interactive Languages launches new program for school districts; also available through partner Fuel Education

digital-ELLA new suite of digital instructional materials is designed to boost language acquisition and achievement for English Language Learners (ELL), which, with nearly five million students is among the largest and fastest growing demographic in U.S. schools.

Middlebury Interactive Languages, the academic leader in language instruction for K-12 learners, along with partner Fuel EducationTM (FuelEdTM), launched the new  programs, which include digital curriculum frameworks for elementary and middle school students and teacher professional development, were developed by Middlebury Interactive’s in-house academic team of language professors, ELL experts and education technologists.

The ELL programs are modeled after Middlebury Interactive’s world language courses and, like those programs, integrate research-based learning techniques, cultural awareness and project-based activities into blended learning classrooms.

Next page: The programs’ availability and structure

“All students deserve the opportunity to succeed in school and careers but the explosion in the ELL population has created significant challenges for school districts across the country,” said Middlebury Interactive Languages CEO Jane Swift. “Our programs provide a new, more flexible approach to helping non-native English speakers learn and will empower schools and districts to customize cost-effective ELL programs. Teachers will appreciate the professional development and academically rigorous materials, while students will connect to the interactive activities, engaging projects and focus on culture.”

The ELL programs, which align with Common Core and WIDA standards, will be available for the 2015-2016 academic year for students in grades 4-8. The programs will be available to school districts through Middlebury Interactive and FuelEd, which also offers Middlebury Interactive’s K-12 world language programs in Chinese, French, German and Spanish.

“By making Middlebury Interactive’s innovative programs available through our PEAK™ Personalized Learning Platform, we can provide our more than 2,000 school and district partners an integrated, high-quality solution to address the growing need for effective ELL instruction,” said Gregg Levin, general manager for FuelEd. “Educators can take advantage of seamless access to the ELL programs—as well as tracking and reporting capabilities—through PEAK, which provides a single platform for administration and course customization for all of their online and blended learning programs.”

Middlebury Interactive has been piloting its ELL program in the Hartford (CT) Public Schools over the current school year. The Hartford pilot reaches approximately 300 ELL middle and high school students at eight schools and is scheduled to expand next year. The pilot program has been met with praise from administrators and teachers, and overall students have shown increased engagement in the classrooms. Middlebury Interactive has also tapped Johns Hopkins University to conduct a third-party assessment of the Hartford program that will be released this spring.

“The Hartford experience shows that proven world language learning principles can also be very effective in helping non-native speakers learn English,” said Middlebury Interactive’s Chief Learning Officer Dr. Aline Germain-Rutherford. “It was very important that our ELL offerings are held to the same high academic standards as our world language courses, so the new program integrates research-based learning, cultural understanding and digital tools.”

Dr. Germain-Rutherford, who is also a French professor at Middlebury College, noted that the curriculum frameworks are designed at the specific grade level of the learner and can be used to teach students with all native language backgrounds, including Spanish, French/Haitian Creole, Chinese, Arabic and Vietnamese. In support of the academic team’s design of the curriculum modules, Middlebury Interactive worked with Dr. Jim Cummins, one of North America’s foremost experts on ELL instruction and the author of some of the most influential academic studies on the topic.

The professional development program is customizable and provides extensive support and training for ELL teachers. Districts can choose from a menu of upfront and ongoing professional development themes to meet specific needs of their teachers. In addition, teachers have access to a variety of digital support, including webinars, online communities of practice and other digital resources.

In addition to the digital curriculum frameworks and professional development in the Hartford pilot program, Middlebury Interactive has been working over the past several years with districts in Massachusetts to offer ELL summer academies, which have proven to help students improve English speaking, writing, reading and listening skills.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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