A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Helping Hispanic Students Reach High Academic Standards, December 2000

Implementing Effective, Aligned, Standards-Based Programs

Learning occurs through guidance, practice, and experience. Effective school programs provide the kinds of guidance, practice, and experience that enable Hispanic students to absorb their schools' curriculum and to demonstrate their learning on tests designed for that purpose. Different types of learners may need different opportunities to master the same curriculum. For example, a beginning reader who has little experience with books needs to be guided through the basics--how to hold a book, where to find the first page, and how to fit the pictures and words together. A beginning reader who is familiar with books from read-aloud sessions with adults may already know these things. Similarly, different types of learners may need different tests to demonstrate the same mastery. A youngster who comes to school speaking only Spanish may well be able to demonstrate academic readiness skills such as retelling a familiar story, elaborating on the plot and characters, or counting to 10--but not in English. Appropriate practice and experience for learning vary according to the learners, even when the learning goals are the same for all.


Classroom Instruction Is Aligned with Standards and Assessments

During the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, efforts to improve student achievement led to widespread adoption of state standards and development of related assessment systems and, in many cases, curriculum frameworks. As communities fleshed out the detailsof these ambitious agendas, districts and schools began to change what they taught and tested to reflect their overarching standards for achievement.

Translating standards into classroom teaching strategies has posed a serious challenge, both for schools that have long served Hispanic populations and those just beginning to do so. If they are faced with students who lack the requisite skills to complete a standards-based lesson, teachers may opt for an easier lesson at which students might succeed; or the teachers may intend to teach to the standards but do not have the training to do it successfully. The tale often told in studies of compensatory education is about the curriculum that never gets covered. Furthermore, some conventional methods of teaching unprepared students that have appeal on other grounds--for example, extended skill drills and engaged but unfocused conversation--may not efficiently lead to achieving standards. 1

Programs that actually help Hispanic students achieve high standards give students lessons that take into account not only their starting points but also the finish line. Schools that effectively accommodate differences in culture and language do not dilute or defer academic experiences but enrich opportunities to learn by closing the gap between what students know and what they need to know. Successful programs for Hispanic students share some key features with successful programs for other students, but they are distinct in a few ways:

  Planning for Success: Florida's Curriculum Planning Tool
The Florida Department of Education and partner districts have created an online Curriculum Planning Tool (CPT) that enables teachers to easily access and share classroom activities that are aligned with the Sunshine State Standards and Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT). Each activity in the CPT consists of a lesson plan and classroom assessment that are identified by benchmarks derived directly from the state standards. Through the Florida Department of Education's Web site (www.firn.edu/doe/curric/prek12/ecpt.htm), educators select CPT lesson plans keyed to specific state standards.

Beginning in 1996, nine participating districts each assumed responsibility for creating and evaluating CPT activities in designated content areas and grade levels. Each summer, teams of teachers spend time being trained, agreeing on expectations for the product and process, developing and evaluating activities, and submitting them to the state department of education. Pasco County, for example, creates lesson plans for science (K-12) and health (6-12). Each lesson plan provides information for teachers on how to modify the activity for students with limited proficiency in English. District experts in English-language development assess the quality and usability of all the lesson plans and their modifications.

  Helping Teachers Concentrate on Instructional Objectives
As part of a long-term study of a two-way bilingual program in Texas (Calderón & Carreón, forthcoming), two teachers discovered differences between the way they aimed to teach and the way they actually taught. The teachers had participated in extensive, state-of-the-art professional development to learn new skills in teaching, methods of analyzing professional performance, and ways of using peer coaching. Their goal was to offer their shared class--15 English-dominant and 15 Spanish-dominant students--a learning experience that valued and used English and Spanish equally and engaged students actively in a literacy-focused curriculum. Early in the project, they observed each other's lessons, kept careful notes on activities, and critiqued what they saw. In one 90-minute literacy lesson, they clocked only 78 minutes spent on academics. Of this stretch, students spent only two minutes actually reading. None of the activities addressed the standards that the teachers had explicitly designed the lesson to address. The teachers learned that they had not been concentrating on particular learning objectives, as they had intended to do. Their continued participation in the project eventually helped them meet their goal of challenging and engaging students.

  Creating Challenging, Aligned Local Standards
The Real World Academic Standards of Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD) are aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge Skills (TEKS) and have been implemented in core curricular areas for four years. CCISD has developed both content and performance standards. Academic performance standards define students’ expected level of performance in the attainment of content standards. For instance, at the sixth-grade level, the content standard for listening, viewing, and speaking is, "Develop skills in listening, interpreting what others say, and making presentations." The performance standards for this content standard are, "After listening to a presentation, analyze the content including main idea, purpose, and speaker’s bias; evaluate messages delivered through visual media" and "Give a 10-minute presentation as part of a group using visual images created with computer technology or other media." Academic standards are disseminated to parents, students, and teachers, and are posted in every classroom.

To help teachers implement the standards in language arts, the district developed an extensive curriculum book written in both Spanish and English, Celebrating Literacy. The book provides K-12 lessons and assessments that are aligned with the district's standards. According to one Corpus Christi educator, "Celebrating Literacy offers supplements to every bit of reading instruction. Celebrating Literacy is a great tool kit." Teams of teachers were involved in its creation, and teachers were trained to teach other teachers about the new reading curriculum.


Curricula Are Challenging and Literacy Focused

Curricula that help Hispanic students succeed academically close the gap between conventional assumptions about students' resources for learning and demonstrating mastery, on the one hand, and students' actual cognitive, social, and cultural resources, on the other hand. These curricula are based on sound research about how best to stimulate student learning and are closely tied to the standards of achievement. Literacy is a priority because it underlies mastery of all other academic subjects.

  Serving an Emerging Population in Georgia
Roan Elementary School, a Title I schoolwide program, has seen a dramatic increase in Hispanic students in the past 10 years, from 14 percent in 1989-90 to about 80 percent in 1999-2000. Roan is a public school in the rural Dalton Public Schools, in northwest Georgia, where carpet and poultry industries have attracted many former migrant workers, and they, in turn, have brought their families to the area from Mexico. The district’s school enrollment increased from 3,876 in 1989–90 to 5,027 in 1999–2000, mainly as a result of the rapid influx of Hispanic families. In 1998–99, Roan served 743 students in grades preK-2; 74 percent were Hispanic, 10 percent were white, 13 percent were African American, and 3 percent were multiracial. About 25 percent of Roan students are ELLs, and 81 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

Roan students receive at least three hours per day of reading instruction, about half of which is integrated into the content areas. All instruction is aligned with Georgia's state standards and curriculum. Roan, like other elementary schools in Dalton, uses Direct Instruction (a CSRD model). Direct Instruction is a highly structured, phonics-based program that emphasizes decoding skills, language development, and comprehension skills. Teachers assess students continuously so that students can proceed at their own pace in small instructional groups. Students participate in Direct Instruction for one hour each day. Both teachers and paraprofessionals receive intensive training to implement and support Direct Instruction. To ensure that students also have experience with literature, Roan uses Accelerated Reader, a computer-based program that assesses children's reading skills, recommends appropriate books, and tests students' comprehension of those books before they move on to another text.

ESL instruction is well integrated at Roan. ELLs participate in Roan's regular reading program and, depending on their individual needs, also receive assistance from the school's ESL teachers. ESL teachers work with classroom teachers, often during Direct Instruction, to coordinate instruction. Students who need more intensive assistance attend ESL classes. Roan (like all schools in Dalton) also uses reading and math software from the Computer Curriculum Corporation. An ESL component is included for students who need it.

Dalton has implemented a systemwide elementary Spanish foreign language program for all students. Roan uses commercially available programs, Estrellita and Estrellota. The programs incorporate language skills, reading strategies, and native-language literature.

  Serving an Emerging Population in Georgia (continued)
ELLs whose native language is Spanish can move through the program at an accelerated pace. Roan students participate in Spanish instruction for about 30 minutes each day.

To serve its growing Hispanic population, which includes many students with limited English proficiency, Roan has actively recruited certified teachers who are bilingual, as well as well-qualified bilingual paraprofessionals. Three paraprofessionals at Roan are funded under a systemwide Title VII grant to recruit graduates of Monterrey University in Mexico to serve as paraprofessionals in Dalton. Several of these paraprofessionals have gone on to earn Georgia teaching credentials. Local funds have made it possible for some Dalton teachers to spend up to a month during the summer learning about Mexican culture at Monterrey University.

In May 2000, 87 percent of Roan first-graders were reading at or above grade level in English. Of the 61 kindergartners who had attended Roan's preK program and participated in Direct Instruction, 85 percent were reading at or above grade level.

Evidence suggests that schools have found many effective ways to engage Hispanic students in learning. Some schools take advantage of resources and conditions that are specific to a school, district, or region. Other schools have assembled strategies with widely documented effectiveness, including those that have been disseminated nationally.

From syntheses of thousands of studies, researchers at the Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence (CREDE) at the University of California at Santa Cruz have identified five principles to govern programs intended to help Hispanic students achieve high standards (Rueda, 1998; Tharp & Gallimore, 1988):

  1. Joint productive activity. Teaching and learning are social activities, and learning takes place when students collaborate to solve problems. Joint activities, such as cooperative learning, generate the kinds of engagement and conversation that promote learning. Among learners with different levels of skill or knowledge, novices' questions elicit explanations from more advanced fellow students that extend the learning of the novices while consolidating the learning of explainers.
  2. Reading and language development is embedded in the curriculum. Good programs stimulate growth in students' reading and language skills in all instructional settings. Language proficiency at the level needed to succeed academically is one key to success in all subjects (Collier, 1985). Whether the focus of a given lesson is science, math, or any other core subject, one theme is the development of reading and language skills.
  3. Connections to everyday life. Good programs root their explanations of new concepts and skills in students' everyday experiences. Using familiar language, concepts, materials, and examples enables students to extend what they know to new directions. Making families and communities into teaching partners can lead to learning that endures.
  4. Challenging expectations. Good programs expect great things of all students. All students, regardless of their primary language or cultural background, need cognitive challenges. Analyzing and evaluating are essential skills for learners, even those who need to spend time memorizing basic skills as well. Effective lessons take into account both the limitations of students' existing knowledge and skill and the potential inherent in their general intelligence.
  5. Instructional conversations. Good programs engage students in instructional conversations. These conversations help them relate formal school knowledge to the knowledge they share with family and community. They go beyond the conventional strategy of recitation, when teachers ask questions for the purpose of hearing students report what they have learned in a lesson. In "instructional conversations," teachers stimulate students to describe how they think and what they know so that teachers can link new knowledge with the familiar.
Programs that promote the academic success of Hispanic students will show the influence of these principles in appropriate ways.

Nationally disseminated models. Nationally disseminated programs that have demonstrated success in helping Hispanic students meet high standards have several characteristics in common (Fashola, Slavin, Calderón, & Durán, 1997). The methods and materials in these models connect explicitly to the goals of instruction. Teachers regularly measure students' progress toward those goals and use the results to adapt instruction to student needs. Furthermore, these models have well-defined program components, including plans and materials for professional development. And, equally important, the group responsible for disseminating the model monitors the quality of implementation.

Among those programs that have successfully designed parallel models to serve both English and Spanish speakers are Success for All/Éxito Para Todos, Consistency Management and Cooperative Discipline/Disciplina Consistente y Cooperativa, and Reading Recovery/ Descubriendo La Lectura. Carefully controlled, extended studies have documented significant academic gains on state assessments and other measures among students who participated in these programs (Fashola et al., 1997).

Success for All/Éxito Para Todos, the most widely adopted CSRD model, provides a comprehensive preK-6 curriculum in reading, writing, and language arts. Students across grade levels form small homogeneous instructional groups for 90 minutes every day. During this time they are directly instructed in phonics and comprehension, read silently and in pairs, engage in group discussion of comprehension and vocabulary, and write both individually and in small groups. Cooperative learning strategies promote critical thinking and language development. Tutoring by highly trained staff speeds up the lowest achievers' progress. Regular, program-specific testing ensures that each student is working at the appropriate instructional level. A program support person serves as project manager and coach, and a family support team provides a kind of "triage" for troubled students, solving some problems and referring others to appropriate specialists. The Spanish version of Success for All is not simply a translation, but an adaptation that reflects the influence of language and culture on content and materials. A third version, adapted for use with ELLs in multilingual, high-poverty schools, is also producing large gains in student literacy.

  Promoting "Success for All" through CIRC/BCIRC
Developed by Dr. Margarita Calderón in conjunction with the originators of Success for All, BCIRC is a Spanish bilingual adaptation of Johns Hopkins University’s Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition (CIRC) curriculum. Schools, including those using CSRD and Title I schoolwide program funds, can choose to implement CIRC and BCIRC in grades 2-8 without becoming Success for All schools. CIRC and BCIRC have become the reading and writing components of Success for All for programs implementing bilingual and ELL models.

CIRC and BCIRC draw on instructional practices designed to develop social, academic, and communication skills. The CIRC and BCIRC programs contain three principal elements: direct instruction in reading comprehension, "treasure hunt" activities, and integrated language arts and writing. In all of these activities, students work in heterogeneous teams of four. All activities follow a series of steps that involve teacher presentation, team practice, independent practice, peer pre-assessment, additional practice, and testing.

BCIRC helps students succeed in reading their home language, Spanish, and then in making a successful transition to reading English. Success for All and BCIRC are aligned to the standards of the states where they operate. The program's manuals for teachers provide everything that teachers need to present their lessons--plus activities and recommendations that help students to meet the standards.

BCIRC integrates students' experiences with literature and with reading and writing. As students begin to move from Spanish to English reading, teachers use an adaptation of CIRC. The ELL CIRC curriculum makes the language more comprehensible to students who are still learning English. The combined sequence of activities, which focuses on students' cultural backgrounds as much as possible, offers students rich language experiences that integrate speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Because students learn strategies in Spanish first, they can transfer these strategies to the English-language context. As students begin reading in English, they know the routines and their role and function within each instructional event.

During CIRC/BCIRC's 90-minute reading blocks, students first build the background and vocabulary they need to understand the lesson, make predictions, and read a selection. Teachers ask students to read alone silently and with partners aloud.

After partner reading, pairs--who are carefully selected by reading ability--discuss key elements of the narrative: characters, setting, plot, problem/solutions. Teams of four then map the story, retell the stories to partners within their teams, and do writing activities related to the story. About 10 words found throughout the story become a word bank that students use throughout the week orally and in their writing.

To assess their own progress, partners initial a student assessment form indicating that they have completed the list of activities that they are expected to complete at their own pace. Partners have a vested interest in making sure that all students complete their work correctly because individual students' scores become the team's score. At the end of three class periods, students are assessed on what they have learned.

Consistency Management and Cooperative Discipline/Disciplina Consistentey Cooperativa (CMCD) is a schoolwide program, and a CSRD model, that has generated measurable improvements in learning environments and student achievement. The achievement is attributed to significant increases in academic learning time. The program emphasizes students' and staff's shared responsibility for making and keeping rules that maintain safety and order, largely through a framework that emphasizes caring, prevention, cooperation, organization, and a sense of community. Staff assess their school's needs in the spring, participate in summer workshops conducted by local and national program trainers, and continue meeting throughout the school year to improve the program's implementation. School staff, eventually in cooperation with students, write explicit rules for behavior that correspond to their own school's needs. Students and staff, including support staff such as office aides and custodians, enforce the rules. Evaluations document dramatic reductions in rates of serious and minor misbehavior (Freiberg, 1996), and teachers report having up to 40 minutes more each day to use on academics (Opuni, 1998).

Reading Recovery/Descubriendo La Lectura is a tutoring program in which a specially trained teacher works 30 minutes a day with each of the lowest-achieving first-grade readers. Tutoring focuses on helping students use effective strategies for reading and writing. Sessions consist of reading familiar stories together, writing stories, reassembling cut-up sentences, and reading new stories. Teacher training focuses on diagnosing students' literacy problems and teaching students how to solve them. It features "behind the glass" sessions in which one teacher works with a student while other teachers observe from another room, followed by a collaborative analysis of the lesson and its applications of the program's principles. Studies conducted by program developers and others show substantial, enduring effects on reading performance in both the English and Spanish versions (Fashola et al., 1997).

"Made to order" models. Many schools and districts find it efficient to adopt programs created close to home or to invent programs specifically tailored to their community's population and resources. Because these often have the advantage of local appeal and ownership, they may elicit more thoughtful and whole-hearted implementation. For example, to serve its large and growing Hispanic population, the El Paso Collaborative in Texas has created its own CSRD-approved literacy model, Literacy in Action. Home-grown models differ considerably in format and approach, but their effectiveness arises from the aforementioned key principles of good practice. Like national models, the models' success relies on schools to conduct ongoing analyses of students' performance to ensure that they are achieving to high standards.

  Creating a Locally Relevant Curriculum
Lennox Middle School in Lennox, California, serves about 2,000 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders through a Title I schoolwide program. Nearly all of its students are Hispanic, and almost 70 percent are Spanish-speaking ELLs. Ninety-six percent of students are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches.

Teams of three to five teachers work with groups of 90 to 130 students on a locally developed curriculum that transcends specific subjects. Each team consists of a math/ science teacher, a language arts teacher, a physical education teacher, an exploratory teacher (for classes once called "electives"), and sometimes a special education teacher. Teachers often follow their students from grade to grade to maintain a link.

Lennox's curriculum is aligned with state standards. It emphasizes reading, along with justice, peace, and tolerance. Teachers work hard to find culturally appropriate and motivational literature for Latino children and books by Latino writers.

Between 1998 and 1999, on the Stanford Achievement Test, Lennox students' scores in reading, language, spelling, and mathematics, on average, increased or remained stable, as did the number of students achieving at or above the 50th percentile. ELLs' reading scores in several grades also increased.

Students with limited English proficiency bring different resources to language and content lessons presented in English. Some have prior knowledge that gives a boost to learning, regardless of the language of instruction. Some have particular facility in language acquisition as a result of experience or native ability. Some have family situations that especially encourage English-language development and other academic learning. Others have limited early schooling, underdeveloped skills in language acquisition, or difficulties outside school that impede the speed of learning. These variations in readiness and aptitude lead to comparable variations in the length of time it takes to become fluent enough in English to master academic lessons under mainstream classroom conditions.

Research does not offer conclusive guidance on how long it usually takes students to acquire a second language. Some studies suggest that, on average, children may spend five to seven years acquiring the proficiency that regular classroom instruction demands (Genessee, 1999; Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, 1997). Providing adequate support to students for as long as it takes them to learn English and using educational resources-- including bilingual and ESL teachers, who are generally in short supply--efficiently require having a valid and reliable method of testing for readiness to move on to mainstream classes. This is particularly important where support for language development will not be readily available after students exit a program.

For English-language learners, lessons presented wholly in English can be particularly problematic. Students may be ready to learn the next step of a math equation, a new science concept, or the principles espoused in the U.S. Constitution, but unable to grasp information if it is given in English. When instruction fails to take into account the strengths and weaknesses of a student's learning resources, it severely restricts the student's opportunity to learn. Students with limited English proficiency who lack proper language support--whether it is provided in English, in the student's native language, or in some combination of the two--may not grasp the curriculum and may fall behind academically, putting them at high risk for dropping out of school (Faltis & Wolfe, 1999). Because the long-term economic costs of low achievement are high--including the cost of remedial education and the constraints on an individual's ability to participate in the workforce-- schools use an array of strategies to help English-language learners.

  Learning the Same Curriculum
Teachers at H.D. Hilley Elementary School, a Title I schoolwide program in Texas's Socorro Independent School District, take pride in offering the same curriculum to ELL and English-proficient students. Hilley serves 766 students in grades preK-5; virtually all its students are Hispanic and 24 percent are Spanish-speaking ELLs. Ninety percent of students receive free or reduced-price lunches.

All students participate in the same curriculum structure and complete similar challenging assignments; to help ELLs grasp the curriculum, teachers use Spanish and sheltered instructional techniques. Hilley's method eases the transition of ELLs--all of whom speak Spanish--into the monolingual English classroom. Students are used to the instructional routine. "They need to do the problem of the day using the Problem Solving Plan structure. They need to write in their journal. They need to read a book and do their reader's response," explained a third-grade teacher. "The curriculum and the instructional methods [of the ELL and English-language activities] are as similar as they can be."

Between 1995 and 1998, Hilley students' scores on the TAAS increased 30 points in reading and 18 points in math, winning recognition for achievement from the Texas Education Agency.

English language learners and Title I and Title VII. ELLs can receive services under both Title I and Title VII. Title I supplements opportunities to learn for all eligible students enrolled in Title I schools, whether they speak English or another language. Title I plans describe how the districts will coordinate and integrate education services, including those for ELLs. Federal law encourages districts to integrate Title I and Title VII services, for example, by strengthening parental involvement or professional development efforts.

Title VII, the Bilingual Education Act, specifically serves students with limited English proficiency. The purpose of Title VII is to educate these children and youth to meet the same rigorous standards for academic performance expected of all children and youth, including state content standards and challenging state performance standards. Title VII, Part A, awards four types of grants to districts and states:

  1. Three-year development and implementation grants to initiate new programs
  2. Two-year enhancement grants to improve existing programs
  3. Five-year comprehensive school grants to implement whole-school reform with a focus on improving services to LEP students throughout the school program
  4. Five-year systemwide improvement grants for districtwide projects in districts serving high concentrations of LEP students

These programs—both together and independently-support schools as they employ strategies to help Spanish-speaking and other English language learners.

Strategies for reaching high standards. Schools that serve long-established Hispanic ELL populations and schools that are just beginning to serve such groups can use varied strategies to help students with special language needs. Sheltered instruction, English as a second language (ESL) classes, developmental and transitional bilingual education, and two-way bilingual education programs are all options to consider. ESL and sheltered instruction are approaches for teaching English. Bilingual programs may build skills in both Spanish and English using instruction delivered in Spanish as well as ESL methods and often sheltered instruction. In addition to these approaches, which are tailored specifically for ELLs, schools can use cooperative strategies to promote interaction among students that helps all students learn English as well as content in various subjects (Fashola et al., 1997).

English as a Second Language (ESL). Typical ESL programs build students' English grammar, vocabulary, and communication skills. Research has shown that using a content-based approach for teaching English to students is more effective than isolating language skills from academic content (Genessee, 1999). Content-based ESL is structured around academic content, cultivating English fluency and mastery of core subjects. Students usually move through successive levels of ESL before exiting the program.

  Learning English through Content
Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, promotes literacy in both English and Spanish by offering its students with limited English proficiency four levels of content-based ESL programs as well as separate classes to improve their Spanish literacy skills, all with the state content standards in mind. Funded in part by Title VII, the school serves more than 2,000 students in grades 9-12; 85 percent of the students are Hispanic and 69 percent are Spanish-speaking ELLs. On the Gates-MacGintie assessment, ELL students' reading scores showed improvement as they moved through grades 9-12.

The school uses the Language Assessment Scales (LAS), a commercially available English-language assessment, to determine when students are ready to move from one level of the program to the next. Level IV--the final ESL level at Rio Grande--helps students make the transition to an English-based program.

Rio Grande's four ESL levels enroll students in all grade levels. The levels are as follows:

ESL Course Prerequisites Course Description
Level I: Transitional ESL Very limited or no knowledge of English Opportunity to learn English in a no-stress environment. Students participate physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually, and linguistically in meaningful situations as they acculturate to the school environment and the community. Skills taught include listening, speaking, reading, and writing, as well as cultural understanding.
Level II: English Language enrichment Transitional, enrichment, and teacher- or test-recommended Continues process of acculturation and helps students understand and produce more complex oral and written language. Teachers integrate language development with science, art, and other subjects. Students are able to function better in content area classes. The course reinforces skills in listening, comprehension, oral production, reading, and writing, as well as cultural understanding.
Level III: ESL Transitional, enrichment, and teacher- or test-recommended For students who have mastered listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing skills recommended learned at previous two levels. Designed to incorporate second language with content in different subject areas. Emphasizes study skills and cultural understanding.
Level IV: ESL Completion of levels I, II, and III or teacher recommendation For students who have mastered listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and study skills presented in previous levels. Usually taught simultaneously with a regular English class; designed to provide advanced language support for a main-streamed limited English speaker. Level IV ESL also helps students develop independent learning skills so that they can cope with different learning situations.

  Igniting Learning for Gifted ELLs in Louisiana
Project IGNITE (Identifying Gifted LEP students In and Through ESOL) offers ELLs in the East Baton Rouge Parish Schools a "pregifted program" as a steppingstone to gifted and talented education. The program is funded by Title VII and local funds. Because ELL students are often underidentified and underrepresented in gifted programs, Project IGNITE works with educators in three schools to identify potentially gifted students who are not yet proficient in English. Students are identified through multiple measures, including some that are not language dependent. Identified students participate in three hours of Project IGNITE each week during the regular school day for up to two years. About 15 percent of East Baton Rouge students served are Hispanic.

Project IGNITE is modeled on Project GOTCHA, first developed in 1987 as a U.S. Department of Education Office of Bilingual and Minority Education (OBEMLA) Academic Excellence Project in Broward County, Florida. Project IGNITE uses the Project GOTCHA curriculum, which is aligned with Louisiana standards and the standards advocated by Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). The curriculum takes a multicultural, thematic approach that meshes language objectives and ELL teaching strategies with authentic, content-based tasks. Since Project GOTCHA in Broward County ended in 1996, its developers have consulted and worked with districts, including East Baton Rouge, to develop new projects like IGNITE. The consultants help districts to write Title VII grants to fund implementation. So far, three Florida districts, in addition to East Baton Rouge, have received Title VII grants to implement GOTCHA-based programs.

Project IGNITE activities focus on developing students’ critical thinking skills. For example, to make their family trees, students study real trees from both the United States and their native countries, learning science, geography, and new vocabulary. They then choose the tree they feel best represents their family. The specially trained and certified Project IGNITE teacher encourages students to place their relatives on whatever tree "branches" they believe make the most sense, to allow room for nontraditional family structures. Project IGNITE also trains all teachers in the elementary schools in which it operates to provide continuity between the regular and IGNITE classrooms and to ensure that all students in the school benefit from the project.

In 1999-2000, the first year of Project IGNITE in East Baton Rouge, five of the 67 students served so far have entered the regular district gifted program, and many more are expected to follow next year. Data from Project GLITTER, a very similar, longer-running GOTCHA-based program in Broward County, indicate that participating students increased their scores on the SAT-9 by nearly 5 percent, while scores of nonparticipating students in a comparison group decreased by nearly 3 percent.

Sheltered instruction. Sheltered instructional techniques help ELLs grasp subject-specific content through instruction in English. These techniques are less language-dependent than other teaching methods and rely more on hands-on activities to convey the lesson to students. For example, teachers might use supplementary materials such as graphs, models, visual aids, and manipulatives. Text can be outlined or rewritten in more understandable language or graphically depicted. Content objectives in a sheltered algebra or physics course, for example, are exactly the same as the objectives in their mainstream English counterparts, but the teacher constantly monitors and adjusts instructional methods and complexity of English used according to students’ developmental language needs. Sheltered instruction, conducted in English, may be used specifically to teach students to read, write and speak in, and listen to English (i.e., ESL) or can be used as an instructional method for teaching the content areas (e.g., sheltered algebra, sheltered biology). ESL and bilingual education teachers can incorporate sheltered instructional techniques into those models as well.

  Helping New Immigrants Understand American Culture
At Liberty High School in New York City, a newcomer school and Title I schoolwide program, students in the bilingual program have the opportunity to participate in Multicultural House, a program for students from several primary language groups. Liberty serves 525 students, all of whom are new immigrants with limited English proficiency and about a third of whom speak Spanish. Students in this program take their ESL courses together. The curriculum for these combined classes includes topics such as the immigrant experience, the contributions of different ethnic groups in America, discrimination, cultural clashes, job search, and survival skills. Students also complete two interdisciplinary projects: "Names and Naming Customs" and "Gender Roles in Different Cultures." Students use a teacher-created student workbook that is based on the state standards and written in three languages. Teachers used sheltered instructional techniques to help students grasp content while they build their English skills. Title VII helps support Liberty's programs.

Districts can develop sheltered curricula in accordance with state and local standards, aligned assessments (including alternative assessments such as portfolios and ongoing teacher assessments), and professional development to help teachers implement sheltered instructional techniques for ELLs.

Bilingual education. Bilingual education is another option for serving ELL students. In bilingual education programs, students study academic content in their native language while they learn English. Transitional bilingual education, development bilingual education (also called maintenance programs), and two-way bilingual immersion models are the three most common types of bilingual education programs, with transitional programs constituting the majority of bilingual education programs overall.

Although most Spanish-speaking students are not enrolled in bilingual programs, the majority of bilingual education programs do serve Spanish-speaking students (Genessee, 1999). Title VII requires that funding priority be given to programs that promote bilingual proficiency in English and another language for all students participating in the program.

When implemented properly, a bilingual education program can help students meet high standards and achieve proficiency in English. Evidence also suggests that bilingual education lowers dropout rates and enhances student achievement by signaling to students that the school values their language and culture (Krashen, 1998). Students transfer the content and skills learned in Spanish to those later learned in English. For example, students who study algebra in Spanish do not need to study the same concepts again in English, but continue on to the next math course in whatever language they can handle.

  Earning Bilingual Seals for Graduation
Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque is one of two schools in the nation where students may earn a bilingual seal on their high school diplomas. The bilingual seal program is supported at the school by Title VII. To earn this distinction, which shows that students are proficient in both Spanish and English, students must complete Level IV of Spanish-language instruction with a "C" or better. They also must complete a college preparatory program with a minimum of four academic classes each in mathematics, science, social studies, and English, as well as two electives.

Students apply for the bilingual seal during their senior year. A committee of teachers, administrators, counselors, and bilingual staff reviews applications and tests students' Spanish and English listening and speaking skills using a locally developed performance assessment, and their reading and writing skills in both Spanish and English with the Language Assessment Scales. Students must pass all sections of the exam with a 70 percent score or better to earn the bilingual seal.

In 1999, 40 Rio Grande students received the bilingual seal on their diplomas. In 1997 and 1998, 30 students received the seal each year.

TRANSITIONAL BILINGUAL EDUCATION (TBE) is the most common type of bilingual education for ELLs in the United States (Genessee, 1999). The goal of TBE programs is to use students' native language skills for grade-level instruction in the content areas until students develop the English skills for them to move to an English-based instructional program. Students enrolled in TBE programs learn English through ESL classes while studying grade-level academic content in their native languages. Teachers sometimes also use sheltered instructional techniques to teach content as students make the transition from native language to English instruction.

TBE programs often begin in kindergarten or first grade, with the goal of attaining basic English proficiency within two years. Program designs assume that students will exit the program within three years, at which point it is hoped that they have learned enough English to succeed on their own in mainstream English classrooms. If they have not, they may receive additional help with developing their English-language skills. Students' transition to English-only instruction often begins with English-taught (and perhaps sheltered) mathematics and progresses from the least to the most language-dependent subjects, ending with social studies. Because Hispanic students learn much content in Spanish, especially in the first year, the program requires fully bilingual teachers well trained in TBE methodology.

Besides the usual requirements for good instruction, effective TBE programs for Hispanic students feature:

  Implementing TBE at Liberty High School
Liberty High School offers Spanish-speakers several types of TBE programs. The curriculum of each is aligned with the new content standards set by the New York State Education Department and the academic performance expectations of the New York City Board of Education.

Students lacking literacy in both Spanish and English enroll in the minischool, a self-contained program that develops Spanish and English literacy skills as well as the academic skills necessary to succeed in an American classroom. Minischool teachers base the curriculum on practical themes, relying heavily on &hands-on& instruction. Minischool students take two Spanish-language classes at one of two levels, ESL classes at one of nine levels, global skills and math in Spanish, and science (taught in English).

Students who are literate in Spanish typically take three periods of ESL, content courses in Spanish, and one period of Spanish language arts. In this way, students earn content course credit that they may not have otherwise earned because of their limited proficiency in English. The native language arts course curriculum reflects students' Spanish-literacy level. For example, some less advanced students write friendly letters in Spanish, while more advanced students read Don Quixote.

DEVELOPMENTAL BILINGUAL EDUCATION programs (DBE), or maintenance programs, teach Hispanic ELLs content in both English and Spanish, cultivating academic proficiency in both languages. In these programs, often supported by Title VII, students add English to their language repertoire and enhance their Spanish. Many DBE programs begin in kindergarten or first grade and ideally continue through secondary school. Most DBE programs in the United States are for Spanish-speakers. Research on DBE shows that such programs, after four to seven years of participation, help students to perform at grade level in English and narrow the achievement gaps between students who are fluent in English and those who are learning English (Genessee, 1999). DBE environments value students' native language, closely tied to culture, thus keeping students' self-esteem high, a factor linked with success (Calderón & Carreón, forthcoming; Genessee, 1999).

High-quality DBE features:

TWO-WAY BILINGUAL EDUCATION. Two-way bilingual, also known as dual immersion, programs provide standards-based, integrated language and academic instruction for both native English-speakers and ELLs. All students learn a second language, develop first-language proficiency, and deepen cross-cultural understanding. Two-way bilingual education differs from DBE in that most DBE students are English-language learners, while two-way programs serve both language minority and native English-speaking students.

Teachers teach students some subjects in English and some in a second language, most often Spanish. Most programs begin in kindergarten and span the elementary grades. Usually, each class is divided equally between native English-speakers and native Spanish-speakers. In the early grades, teachers may provide about 90 percent of instruction in Spanish and 10 percent in English, working up to roughly equal time for both languages as students gain proficiency. In others, instructional time may be more equally divided from the start. The time spent learning in each language often depends on school resources and teacher capacity (Calderón & Carreón, forthcoming).

A well-implemented two-way bilingual program features:

  Producing Bilingual, Biliterate, Bicultural Students
Coral Way Elementary School in Miami serves 1,375 students in grades preK-5. Eighty-nine percent of these students are Hispanic and 25 percent are Spanish-speaking ELLs. About 70 percent of students in this Title I schoolwide program receive free or reduced-price lunches. Title I helps the two-way bilingual education school support small-group instruction, low student-teacher ratios, and a parent coordinator. Coral Way's objective is "to help students become bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural."

Coral Way prides itself on using the CORE knowledge curriculum, developed by E.D. Hirsch. It is the only school in the Miami–Dade County district to implement the program in both Spanish and English. There is also a bilingual curriculum in prekindergarten. The CORE knowledge curriculum uses a cooperative approach to learning, includes technology in its teaching, and focuses on literature. The school links the thematic units recommended by the CORE curriculum to language arts, science, and social studies and aligns these with district standards, which in turn align with Florida's Sunshine State Standards. At Coral Way, 95 percent of students read at grade level by second grade. On the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, students scored six points above the state average in fifth-grade mathematics and four points higher in fourth-grade reading.

  Immersing Students in Spanish and English at Key Elementary School
Francis Scott Key Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, a Title I targeted-assistance school, serves 575 students in a Spanish-English two-way bilingual education program. Fifty-nine percent of students are Hispanic, 33 percent are white, 7 percent are African American, and less than 1 percent are Asian American. About half the students are ELLs, virtually all Spanish-speakers.

All students at Key study Arlington County's elementary curriculum, aligned in both Spanish and English with Virginia's Standards of Learning (SOLs). Students learn social studies and language arts in English, and mathematics and science in Spanish. Students are also taught art, music, and physical education in English. The program is designed to teach English- and Spanish-speaking children a second language through content instruction and everyday conversation.

Each group of approximately 50 students has two teachers. One teacher teaches in Spanish and the other in English. Students are divided into two heterogeneous groups, each with approximately 12 Spanish-speaking students and 12 English-speaking students each. One group spends its mornings with the English-speaking teacher while the other group is with the Spanish-speaking teacher. In the afternoon the groups switch teachers.

The Key School is one of only three schools in Arlington that met the state's achievement expectations on the SOL test in 1998. Only 7 percent of schools across the state earned this distinction.

Cooperative learning strategies. Well-structured cooperative learning activities provide opportunities for elaborated, on-task conversation among students with different language strengths and needs. When teams include English-language learners at different stages of English acquisition, the task structure engages students in helping each other complete assignments, offering explanations and assistance in the available shared language (Cohen, Lotan, & Holthuis, 1995). In studies of Bilingual Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition (BCIRC), for example, students emerged with greater mastery of reading and writing in both English and Spanish by the end of two years (Calderón, 1994).

Two key conditions characterize cooperative learning strategies that have demonstrated their effectiveness in accelerating student achievement. First, teams work toward a common goal, such as earning recognition by performing well. Second, team success depends on individual learning. For example, a team of students with diverse abilities can earn recognition for achievement when the sum of students' improvement scores reaches a preset high standard. In a typical cooperative learning lesson, the teacher presents new information at the appropriate level of challenge, and then students work in teams on assignments designed to lead to mastery. Depending on the subject, students may be working on the same or different assignments, but everyone is expected to offer encouragement and support to teammates. Students take mastery tests individually, to demonstrate whether each has attained the lesson objective, but their individual performance becomes part of a team improvement score that establishes eligibility for recognition (Leighton, 1999).

  Implementing Complex Instruction
Complex Instruction (CI) is a research-based, cooperative learning approach designed for academically and linguistically diverse classrooms. The model, grounded in educational and sociological theory, is used in hundreds of elementary and middle schools serving Hispanic students. Designed by Dr. Elizabeth Cohen at Stanford University in 1979, it features carefully crafted group work that provides all students access to engaging, higher-order learning activities. This is accomplished in part through "multiple ability curricula" that require use of a wide array of intellectual abilities so that students at different levels of academic achievement and with different strengths can successfully work together to complete a group project. For example, the completion of a group activity on the Maya Indians could require students to use visual skills, musical or dramatic abilities, analytical reasoning, or other academic skills.

Creating equitable classrooms is at the heart of CI. All students participate in group work, regardless of their achievement level. To ensure that all students have a chance to work to meet the same standards, CI students learn the norms of cooperation and the importance of everyone's contribution to a group task. In addition, teachers receive extensive training in all aspects of the program, including how to use "status treatments" to broaden students' perceptions of what it means to be smart and how to encourage students to talk and work together to solve group assignments. (CI also trains preservice teachers in the California State University system.) Research has consistently shown that the more the students talk and work together on CI's multiple ability tasks, the more they learn.

CI's approach to group work is ideal for classrooms serving Hispanic students. CI offers all Hispanic students culturally relevant, intellectually challenging curriculum. Also, ELLs comprehend better and are more engaged in a task when graphs, diagrams, or other visual aids are used, as they are in CI's approach of engaging students' different learning strengths. CI also offers ELLs valuable "practice time" for language development as they talk and work with fluent English-speakers and each other on group products. At the elementary level, research on the model has found that the more frequently the Spanish-speaking ELLs talked about a group task, the larger their gains in the English language. The multiple-ability curriculum also offers a variety of ways for ELLs to show their "smarts," raising their status in the classroom and increasing their participation in group work. Bilingual students are viewed as valuable resources because they translate for ELLs in their group and support ELLs' language development. CI's approach to group work has also been shown to improve low-achieving, disengaged readers' reading and writing skills because students practice these skills for a "real" purpose: to communicate, contribute, and understand.

Newcomer programs. Some districts have implemented newcomer programs for newly arrived secondary school students, most of whom speak Spanish and many of whom have limited English- or native-language literacy skills and little formal education of any kind (Short, 1998). Newcomer programs offer intensive language development and other studies to help students--most of whom have been in the United States for one year or less-- adjust to their new country both academically and culturally. Normally, the programs serve students for an adjustment period of 6–18 months before the students move on to academic and ESL classes in regular schools. Federal Immigrant Education grants support the newcomer programs at many sites.

  Welcoming New Immigrants
Liberty High School, a newcomer program in New York City, came into being in 1986 after the New York City Board of Education decided to dedicate a school to students who arrive during the semester instead of trying to place these students in other schools. Upon noting that most of these students were new immigrants, the board decided that the new school should focus on immigrants. Four members of the staff (including the principal and assistant principal) have been at Liberty since its inception. Liberty offers a one-year transitional program for students who are between the ages of 14.5 and 19 and have less than eight years of schooling.

Typically, newcomer programs offer instructional activities that meet older students' special educational needs, including sheltered content instruction in English and academic instruction in students' native languages (TBE). Many programs offer native language literacy instruction as well. About half of newcomer programs receive Title I funds (Short, 1998). Many of the programs reach out to parents, offering orientation and adult ESL classes.

Newcomer programs take several forms. Some are in schools near where the majority of newcomers live. They may offer full- or part-day programs where students also participate in electives with their English-speaking peers. Others are free-standing programs. Some districts operate short-term newcomer programs at the district's intake center, where all new ELLs must come for placement before entering a regular school.

To determine when students are ready to move from the newcomer program to another school program, schools usually assess each student's language capacity. Programs often support student transfers, pairing newcomers with more advanced English language learners (often less recent immigrants), arranging for students to sit in on classes before enrolling in them, and tracking students' progress for the first few months after the transition (Short, 1998).

Migrant students are among the most educationally and economically disadvantaged groups in the nation (Gonzales, Stief, Fiester, Goldstein, Waiters, & Weiner, 1998). Because they move often as their families travel for work in agriculture and other seasonal industries, migrant students' reading and mathematics achievement tends to be lower than that of other students (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1994). More than two-thirds of migrant children live in households of the working poor (Anstron & Kindler, 1996). More than 80 percent of the country’s 580,000 migrant students are Hispanic, and about half are English-language learners (Henderson, Daft, & Fong, 1998; Strang & von Glatz, 1999). Migrant students tend to begin school with fewer academic skills and at an older age than the general school-age population; they test below the national average on basic skills and drop out of school at a higher rate than other students (Gonzales et al., 1998). Because of interruptions in their schooling, migrant students need special supplemental services to help them succeed. Students who have moved with migrant parents within the previous three years are eligible for federal Migrant Education Program services, funded under Title I, Part C.

Part C of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act--the Migrant Education Program (MEP)--provides funding to coordinate services for migrant children across states and districts so that there will be continuity in their educational experiences. Schools using MEP funds give priority to recent arrivals who have the highest risk of academic failure. These students often have special needs not only in academic and language development, but also for dental, nutritional, medical, and social services. MEP funds address these latter needs as well. Like other students, migrant students may receive services coordinated under Title I, Part A, Title VII, and other federal, state, and local programs. Educators can also offer extended-time programs during the summer to help migrant students catch up on schoolwork they may have missed while moving.

Because migrant students move across local and state boundaries, and because no single school district--and, in many cases, no single state--is responsible for their education, these students often need extra help to overcome the effects of poverty, mobility, and limited English proficiency. Some districts have developed flexible programs that follow migrant students from district to district without seriously interrupting their studies. There are also follow-up techniques for students whose families often travel in "streams" to the same districts year after year.

  Identifying and Tracking Migrant Students
Since 1997, using MEP funds (about $400,000 per year for five years), ESTRELLA (Encouraging Students through Technology to Reach High Expectations in Learning, Lifeskills, and Achievement) has used technology to help migrant students earn the credits they need to graduate from high school. Students--all of whom are Hispanic--come from six Texas school districts that average 96 percent Hispanic enrollment and an 85 percent poverty rate. In 1999-2000, the program served about 50 students. All ESTRELLA students have at least a functional understanding of English, although their levels of proficiency vary.

The program, a collaborative effort of Illinois, Montana, New York, and Texas educators, brings technology into the lives of migrant farmworker youth (and their families) who are in middle school or high school, are earning GEDs, or are out of school. ESTRELLA helps students make the transition to higher education and the workforce. The project targets students who travel between home-base school districts in the Rio Grande Valley (La Joya, Mercedes, Pharr–San Juan-Alamo, and Welasco) and Winter Garden (Eagle Pass and San Felipe–Del Rio) areas of Texas and 12 receiving school districts in Illinois, Montana, and New York. The Illinois Migrant Council in Chicago administers ESTRELLA, with a field office in Welasco, Texas.

ESTRELLA uses the New Generation System (NGS), a multistate electronic information system, funded in part with states’ federal Migrant Education Program allocations, that maintains current education and health records on migrant students to identify students who migrate among the participating communities. The selection process begins in the receiving states, where the state’s ESTRELLA coordinator consults with local project directors and secondary teachers to select students who meet the program’s criteria. The project's Interstate Student Coordinator (ISC) reviews the lists of recommended students with the appropriate personnel, especially high school counselors, from the Texas home-base school district. The ISC then contacts these students and their families to explain the program and explore their interest in participating.

For each participating student, the program develops an ESTRELLA Student Profile. The profile contains basic demographic information about students, their plans beyond high school, their exposure to computers, and their hobbies and interests. The profile also includes information on the family's planned migrations, interest of other family members in project involvement, and family contacts in both Texas and receiving states. Guidance counselors from home districts collect data on the students' current academic status, including credits earned to date, partial credits, incomplete or failed courses, and performance on the state proficiency test, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). For each student, counselors recommend specific courses and TAAS preparation needs for the upcoming summer.

The Interstate Student Coordinator uses toll-free telephone and pager numbers to keep in touch with students while they are away. The coordinator works with the Texas home districts and receiving districts to ensure that all necessary information is exchanged and students have the materials and equipment needed to pursue their studies.

  Extending Time for Migrant Students to Learn during the Summer
The Miami–Dade County Migrant Education Program sponsors Title I-funded summer programs. Community Resource Centers at two migrant camps, staffed by two full-time teachers, two full-time paraprofessionals, and two part-time paraprofessionals, provide tutorial services in reading and math to migrant students. Students work on appropriate reading and mathematics objectives (between 5 and 10 in each subject) from the district's curriculum, and earn regular credits toward promotion and graduation. MEP staff base their assessments of students' achievement on teachers' observations, students' performance on mastery tests, and student portfolios. For migrant students in grades 6-12 participating in summer school, MEP sponsors a summer counseling/advocacy program as well.

Sometimes it is difficult for migrant students to accrue the proper academic credits to keep up with their peers. They may miss school to work in the fields or to care for younger siblings while parents work. In these instances, some programs rely on technology to keep migrant students’ studies up-to-date.

  Supporting Academic Progress
ESTRELLA students use laptop computers equipped with modems, Web-based, standards-based Texas curricula, and software applications to keep up with their studies while they are away from their home schools. College students, trained as "cyber mentors," serve as role models, encourage ESTRELLA students to stay in school, and increase students’ awareness of postsecondary options. Students and cyber mentors meet face to face at an annual workshop held on the mentors' university campus. Participating staff receive online and face-to-face professional development. Students use the laptops and a toll-free number to help them complete coursework to meet graduation requirements.

Counselors from each of the home districts assess students' needs for graduation or promotion to the next grade and then select district-required courses from NovaNET's network of course offerings. NovaNET, the online curriculum used by ESTRELLA and students' home-base schools, offers thousands of hours of instruction in more than 100 subject areas, including reading, writing, and math; ESL; GED preparation; middle and high school subjects; life skills; study skills; career development; and keyboarding. It also helps students prepare for the ACT, SAT, and the TAAS. Because each district has approved the NovaNET curriculum, which is aligned with Texas's curriculum standards, all coursework and credits earned are recognized and accepted by students' home-base schools.

  Lighting an Academic Fire for Migrant Students
Miami–Dade County Schools’ Migrant Education Consortium for Higher Achievement Program (MECHA) ["flame" in Spanish] is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Migrant Education Program. MECHA is a collaboration among Barry University, Dade County Public Schools Migrant Education Program, public television, telecommunications and software publishing industry partners, and school districts. The program serves migrant children and youth in five states along the migrant stream of the eastern coast of the United States. MECHA is a comprehensive model that promotes greater continuity of instruction for migrant students as they are served in different school districts and helps migrant students achieve high academic standards through innovative uses of technology. MECHA provides about 200 migrant students with WebTV so that they can use the Internet to continue learning and keep in touch with a teacher as they move about. Before receiving the WebTV hardware, students complete a checklist that shows they know how to use the machine.

Key program elements are:

  • Individualized learning plans (ILPs)
  • Teachers who monitor and support the same group of students over the school year via technology
  • Instruction independent of time or place
  • Educational opportunities for parents
  • Online monitoring and support of students during the year by Barry University students
  • A 1-800 homework hotline for students and parents
Students sign onto a Web site that provides the MECHA-developed curriculum; the curriculum combines competencies for each grade level from the Miami–Dade County Competency-Based Curriculum and the Sunshine State Standards. Students receive the support of one of five MECHA teachers. When a MECHA student moves, the MECHA teacher contacts the new school and the student's new teacher via the Internet to inform them that they can access the student's ILP and progress reports online.

According to program staff, MECHA students show an increased interest in school and careers, low-performing students have improved their skills, and the program has enhanced communication among parents, teachers, and school administrators.


Assessment Is Appropriate and Informative

Assessment is a powerful tool for ensuring that Hispanic students meet high standards. Effective assessment systems have certain essential qualities and use numerous strategies to gather information about students' progress over time. To promote high-quality, standards-based instruction, Title I and Title VII programs mandate certain kinds of assessments and the inclusion of all students in those assessments.

Good assessment provides sound information about what students know and can do. It gives educators reliable evidence for deciding about further instruction and gives communities reliable evidence for determining their school systems' accountability. Four traits characterize effective assessment (Evaluation Assistance Center East, 1996; Linn & Herman, 1997; White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, 1999):

  Measuring Students' Progress toward District Standards
The Real World Standards of Corpus Christi, Texas, encourage students at each grade level to achieve goals that are more rigorous than the state standards to earn promotion to the next grade and graduation. The district has an official policy banning social promotion; the district employs standards-driven grading processes to determine whether students should be promoted to the next grade.

The district also issues individual report cards that list the standards by grade and subject area and show each student's progress toward the goal. At the elementary and middle-school level, students receive six progress reports and six report cards each year. High school students receive a minimum of four progress reports and four report cards. Progress reports show whether students have a failing average or are almost failing for a particular performance standard.

To be promoted in grades 1-3, students must achieve each performance standard with a grade of 70 or above in language, reading, and mathematics. To be promoted in grades 4 and 5, students need to achieve each performance standard with a grade of 70 or above in language, reading, mathematics, science, and social studies. To receive course credit in grades 6-8, students must attain a composite average of 70 or above for the year in all courses taken. In addition, students have to earn a grade of 70 or above in all performance standards in language arts (English/reading), mathematics, science, and social studies, and must meet attendance guidelines. To receive course credit in grades 9-12, students must achieve the district performance standards or state standards with a grade of 70 or above in each course taken, and meet attendance guidelines.

Since the Real World Academic Standards have been in place, Corpus Christi students have scored significantly higher on the TAAS. From 1994 to 1999, the proportion of students in the district who achieved a score that was academically acceptable on all TAAS subtests rose from 51 percent to 76 percent. During the same period, the rate of students passing the TAAS reading test rose from 75 percent to 85 percent and of those passing the TAAS math test, from 56 to 83 percent. The district’s rate of students passing the TAAS in Spanish is significantly higher than the statewide average.

Teachers, schools, districts, and states use a number of different assessments to measure Hispanic students' progress:

  Ongoing Student Assessment
Half of the 730 students enrolled at Montview Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado, are Hispanics with limited English proficiency. To keep instruction focused on goals at this Title I schoolwide program, educators measure student performance through teacher-administered tests that guide instruction and planning; standardized assessments required by the district and state; and writing and mathematics assessments developed specifically for the school.

Teachers administer the districtwide Idea Proficiency Test (IPT) several times during the school year to determine students' progress in learning English. Teachers also continually assess students using class work, writing samples, and running records that document literacy skills. Teachers hold frequent conferences (weekly or biweekly) with their students to discuss and assess students' progress in writing. Teachers keep a log of students' knowledge and the desired next steps for the students' instruction. Classroom teachers and the principal meet quarterly to discuss the assessment results and to make decisions about future instruction.

Title I mandates that, by the 2000-01 school year, all states adopt or develop statewide student assessment systems that are aligned with their standards in at least reading/language arts and mathematics. While Title I requires states to use the same assessments to measure the performance of all children to the maximum extent possible, particularly in reading/ language arts and mathematics, it also requires states to assess ELLs in the language and form most likely to yield accurate and reliable information on students' mastery of skills in subjects other than English. States are required to make efforts to develop appropriate assessments for ELLs if they are not currently available. Title VII requires programs to report student gains in English, academic content, and a second language, where appropriate (e.g., in dual immersion programs).

Assessment contributes to teaching, learning, and accountability systems only if it produces valid outcomes, that is, if students’ scores bear the intended relationship to their learning. Student test scores should not be a misleading consequence of factors that interfere with students demonstrating their learning, such as their cultural differences or lack of language proficiency. When students are unable to show what they have learned on a given measure or at a given time or circumstance, they can often demonstrate their learning if the assessment is modified or other means of assessment are substituted.

  Preparing for Assessment
Like other California students, students in the Calexico Unified School District in California take the SAT-9. Calexico serves about 7,000 students, of whom 98 percent are Hispanic, 80 percent are ELLs, 30 percent are migrants, and virtually all receive free or reduced-price lunches. The district uses a commercial computer program, TUDOR, to create quarterly district tests that are aligned to the SAT-9 and that prepare students for taking the test. Teachers use the tests as benchmarks to measure students’ progress throughout the year on skills needed to pass the SAT-9. Teachers had input on the skills to be tested and received training on using TUDOR to create tests.

At the district level, Calexico's dropout rate (2.7 percent) is significantly below the California average (3.3 percent). Furthermore, Calexico's class of 1997 sent 69 percent of its students to local community colleges and four-year institutions.

Multiple test-taking opportunities. Students who are unfamiliar with the format and structure of tests may fail because of their inexperience with taking tests rather than their lack of learning. These students may need extra opportunities to develop test-taking skills.

  Helping Students Most at Risk of Failure
Schools in Corpus Christi intervene to help students who are not progressing to meet district standards. One school changed its schedule to give teachers more time to work individually with students who need such help; another school recruited military personnel from nearby bases to provide tutoring to failing students. Other interventions include peer tutoring, Saturday school, a "zero period" before school begins, after-school tutoring programs, and a Saturday drama program at Title I schools. The Saturday drama program, which students are encouraged to attend, emphasizes reading and language arts standards.

  Tutoring to Reflect Success
In addition to assessing students with the SAT-9, over the course of three years the curriculum committee at Lennox, California, schools has created district-level language arts/writing and mathematics standards, which are aligned with state standards. Lennox administers the district's language arts assessment three times a year to track student progress; it gives the math test once a year.

The district disaggregates assessment results for both ELLs and students fluent in English. These data guide the instructional program. Assessments are scored and discussed by teacher teams rather than by the teacher of that subject alone. This enables the team to "know the student's strengths and weaknesses." Teachers then adapt their teaching strategies to accommodate students' learning needs. Title I funds staff development activities to develop these teaching strategies.

Between spring 1998 and 1999, students' scores on the SAT-9 improved in virtually all areas of reading, language, math, and spelling. Seventh-graders' language scores increased by 10 percentage points; reading scores increased by 5 percentage points. Seventh- and eighth-graders' mathematics scores increased by 5 percentage points.

Multiple measures. Title I requires that educators use multiple measures to assess students' progress toward standards. Using multiple measures increases opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Managing different forms of assessment for instructional improvement requires the systematic aggregation, sorting, and streamlining of many different kinds of information. Teachers, districts, or states use work samples, portfolios, or other forms of data for this purpose.

Options for assessing ELLs. ELLs need opportunities to demonstrate their progress so that teachers can guide their instruction. A checklist or rubric designed around the responses expected at different proficiency levels is useful for assessing students' language proficiency and making instructional accommodations. Other forms of alternative assessment useful in defining student strengths and needs are:

  • Oral presentations
  • Models or constructed figures
  • Exhibitions or demonstrations
  • Results of experiments or procedures
  • Text retelling
  • Anecdotal records
  • Observations
  • Peer assessments
  • Student self-rating scales

  Using Multiple Measures: Success for All and CIRC/BCIRC
In El Paso, Texas, Success for All schools (including one implementing BCIRC)--four of which receive CSRD funds--assess students every eight weeks. Because the assessment measures the same skills tested by the state, the eight-week tests serve as indicators of how students are progressing toward the state standards. The test is a composite of tests that students have taken after every three or four lessons. When making instructional decisions, teachers also look at students' attendance patterns as well as ongoing student performance and daily assessment results. SFA/BCIRC use two tests in addition to the other measures of student performance: students' scores on both the Spanish and the English TAAS, which assess reading, writing, and mathematics.

Teachers use the results of these multiple measures to assign students to tutoring, suggest alternative teaching strategies in the regular classroom, and adjust reading group placement, family support interventions, or other means of meeting students' needs.

In a 1998 study of CIRC and BCIRC in the Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, CIRC students scored marginally higher than comparison students on the TAAS reading scale and significantly higher on the TAAS writing scale. On the NAPT reading scale, BCIRC students also scored higher than comparison students. Students who were in the program for two years scored better in reading than did students in the program for one year, who in turn scored significantly better than students in a control group.

At the end of third grade, Ysleta students could exit bilingual education if they score above the 40th percentile on NAPT reading and language tests in English. In reading, four times as many BCIRC students as comparison students met the exit criterion. In language, twice as many BCIRC as comparison students met the exit criterion.

Some content measures are available in languages other than English. Generally, though, the development of these measures--particularly in aligning the assessments with standards-- has lagged behind other types of assessments. To make assessments fairer to participating ELLs, educators can choose among several accommodations (Butler & Stevens, 1997; Elmore & Rothman, 1999):

States can create more valid measures for Hispanic ELLs not only by translating tests into Spanish but also by modifying the tests to ensure that they have the same degree of difficulty in Spanish and in English and are culturally and psychometrically appropriate. Simply translating a test can produce a culturally and linguistically inappropriate assessment. Oregon, for instance, created a Spanish-language test with questions that matched the psychometric properties of the English version, rather than translating the English test into Spanish.

It is important for educators to modify tests carefully. Inappropriate modifications can render test results invalid. Even when the modifications are made with care, caution is the watchword in comparing ELL students' test scores with those of native speakers. Unfortunately, the misuse of test results has caused many Hispanic and ELL students to be inappropriately placed in special education classes (U.S. Department of Education, 1995b).

  Assessing ELL Students in Texas
To determine whether Texas students should take the Spanish or English version of the TAAS or should be exempted because of low literacy skills in both languages, schools convene their language-proficiency assessment committees (these committees are required in schools that serve ELLs). The committees consist of a school administrator, a bilingual educator or ELL educator, and a parent whose ELL child currently attends the school. Once the committee has decided that a child should not be exempted from TAAS, it uses six criteria to determine in which language a student should take the test:
  • Literacy in English or Spanish
  • Oral-language proficiency in English or Spanish
  • Academic program participation
  • Language of instruction and planned language of assessments
  • Number of years continuously enrolled in school; previous testing history
  • Level of academic achievement

In addition, all ELLs, including those exempted from TAAS, take the state's newly developed Reading Proficiency Test in English, a criterion-referenced test developed specifically for ELLs.

Accommodations for migrant students. Assessing migrant students for placement, instruction, and accountability purposes presents special problems. Because students often move from state to state or even out of the country several times during a single school year, it is sometimes difficult to determine where to place them in a program and to judge their achievement in a given school. Many districts use technology to help track students as they migrate.

  Tracking Migrant Students' Progress Online
ESTRELLA student progress on NovaNET is tracked online. Student reports, which are accessible by teachers, include time spent online, lessons completed, and test scores. All student data are stored on the central NovaNET system and can be viewed online, printed, or downloaded by project staff. To help keep everyone appraised of each student's progress, the interstate student coordinator generates biweekly reports that are sent to instructional staff in the receiving states.

Once students return to Texas, the interstate student coordinator meets with students and their parents to discuss each student's progress and educational needs. The coordinator also meets with each student's guidance counselor to discuss course completion and progress to date. Together they determine the students' placement needs. When a student completes a course, the coordinator produces a grade report and works with the counselor to ensure that the student receives proper credit.

  Assessing Migrant Students in Miami–Dade County
The Miami–Dade County Public Schools assess migrant students in the Migrant Education Program both informally and formally. Informally, a teacher may note how well a younger student writes sentences or how fluently an older student can read complex paragraphs or respond in writing to a story. On the more formal side, migrant students complete a writing assignment at the beginning of every year that teachers assess according to Florida Writes' writing rubric. At the end of the year, students complete another writing assessment. Students also take the state assessment and the Stanford Achievement Tests. To graduate, students must also pass the High School Competency Test.

Equitable tests. Educators have worked hard in recent years to ensure that tests administered to Hispanic students are fair. Such tests have the following characteristics (Linn & Gronlund, 2000):

Historically, standardized tests often emphasized values and content more familiar to white, middle-class students than to others, including Hispanic students, and particularly those from homes with lower socioeconomic status (SES). Many test publishers and states now control for forms of bias to the maximum extent they can, although reviews of language bias are rare. Still, no test is without some bias. It is important to keep the issue of bias in mind, particularly when using assessments for high-stakes decisionmaking in matters such as promotion and graduation. Examining multiple measures for data-driven decision-making helps minimize the effects of cultural bias in testing (Linn & Gronlund, 2000).

Different stakeholders in education use assessment data for different purposes, but some uses of assessment are common across all stakeholder groups. At the classroom level, assessment allows students, teachers, and parents to determine students' ongoing progress and to plan and improve instruction.

  Using Data to Improve Student Achievement
Like other Texas students, all students at H.D. Hilley Elementary School, a Title I schoolwide program, take the TAAS. ELLs take this examination in Spanish. To measure students' progress toward the standards, Hilley students take two pre-TAAS tests each year. Hilley's mathematics and literacy support specialists analyze the data from test results and create individual student reports as well as a summary score chart for each class and each grade level. Hilley encourages teachers whose students do not perform well on certain objectives to pair with teachers whose students excel in order to share instructional strategies. Hilley uses its overall test results to modify its yearly standards-based goals and long-term campus action plan. Between 1996 and 1997, the percent of students at H.D. Hilley passing the reading component increased by 7 percentage points to 81 percent, and between 1995 and 1997, the percentage of third-graders mastering all objectives on the test increased by 18 percentage points, to 48 percent.

At the district level, administrators, parents, and the community can use assessment results to determine which students have met standards, guide teachers' professional development, evaluate program effectiveness, and review assessment policies. States use assessment data to measure students' learning of state standards, report information to the public, shape policy, and help districts improve student achievement (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, 1998). Disaggregating data by different demographic categories is essential for identifying strengths and weaknesses of instruction. The scores of a high-achieving subgroup may obscure the struggles of other students. For example, a persistent achievement gap between native English-speakers and English-language learners who have exited language development programs could indicate a problem with the process of deciding when students are ready for mainstream intruction.

  Using Data to Improve Instruction

Since 1991, the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence has worked with civic, education (both K-12 and higher education), and business leaders to improve the city's educational system, by helping all stakeholders use data as well as by emphasizing intensive professional development.

El Paso districts serve a very large, and growing, Hispanic student population. The city's population is 74 percent Hispanic and 21 percent white. The city's poverty rate is about 29 percent--higher than the state average--and about 43 percent of children in El Paso live in poverty. El Paso's three largest school systems enroll about 134,000 students, 82 percent of whom are Hispanic; other, smaller districts in El Paso serve populations that are more than 95 percent Hispanic.

Based at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), and working with the El Paso, Ysleta, and Socorro Independent School Districts, the collaborative's three overarching goals are promoting students' academic success from kindergarten through college, ensuring that all students who graduate from area high schools are prepared to enter and succeed in a four-year college or university, and narrowing the achievement gap between minority and poor students and their more privileged peers. To achieve these goals, the collaborative focuses its efforts on entire schools and whole school systems. All of the collaborative's efforts are based on a set of academic standards developed locally that are grounded in national and state standards and aligned with TAAS and local assessments. Using data to improve instruction is one key strategy the collaborative employs to achieve its goals.

The collaborative helps schools and systems to improve student achievement by collecting and using data that are part of the Texas accountability system aligned with TAAS: student assessment data, data on college enrollment and success, achievement test scores, and college entrance rates. Where appropriate, data are disaggregated by ethnicity, grade, and subject area. The collaborative has worked with most schools in the city to bring together teams of 7 to 10 teachers and administrators in one school to learn how to examine data on classroom progress toward the standards, explore the process of school change, and determine what is working and what needs improvement. Using the information gleaned from the data, the collaborative works with the school teams to draft action plans that include instructional and policy changes as well as professional development and plans for sharing the skills and information learned through the program with the rest of the school staff. The collaborative also uses data to guide professional development in mathematics, science, and literacy. The collaborative also works with superintendents and administrators, as well as parents, to help each of these groups understand and use data appropriately.

The collaborative's efforts are reflected in the city's growing student success. In 1998-99, 82 percent of El Paso Hispanic students passed the TAAS mathematics test, and 84 percent passed the reading test. The number of all students passing all portions of the TAAS mathematics test in grades 3-8 and grade 10 has doubled since 1993. All ninth-graders are now enrolled in Algebra I, compared with only 62 percent in 1993, and the number of freshmen entering UTEP who test into remedial mathematics classes has decreased by 25 percent.

Students benefit most when educators use assessments for the purpose for which they were intended. For example, data from language placement tests serve specific diagnostic purposes; they are not indicators of content knowledge. Similarly, tests that measure English-language proficiency are different from those that measure English language arts, and the two cannot be used for the same purpose. The purpose of proficiency tests is to aid in making placement decisions and to measure students' progress in learning the English language, while tests of English-language arts measure what students have learned in the language-arts content area.

  Assessing for Placement and Measuring Progress
At Liberty High School in New York City, teachers used Title VII funds to develop a set of student performance indicators aligned with state and city expectations. Teachers developed pre- and posttests in ESL and content areas, measures for tracking the percentage of students passing each course as well as the percentage of students passing the New York State Regents' Examinations. Students also complete a multicultural awareness survey and a self-esteem survey.

When students are first assigned to Liberty and before they leave, they take assessments of English-language proficiency, math, multiculturalism, and self-esteem. Liberty places students who score between the first and fourth grades on the native-language reading component of the school’s placement exams in native-language literacy classes. Students take tests to move from one ESL level to the next.

In math, science, social studies, and native-language arts, teachers have created tests aligned with New York State’s New Standards. All students who have completed at least 140 days in the program must take the tests in the subjects they are studying, and are expected to show statistically significant gains on their test scores. Students studying biology also can take a test to identify who needs help in preparing for the Regents' biology exam.

  Assessing Migrant Students InTIME
The Oregon Department of Education, with a consortium of partners--the University of Oregon, the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), RMC Research Corporation, Willamette Education Service District, Ontario School District, Forest Grove School District, Salem-Keizer School District, and Capital Community Television--is using $3 million of Title I Part C funds from 1997 to 2002 to develop Integrating Technology into Migrant Education (InTIME).

Because of their circumstances, migrant students are often exempted from testing. The absence of assessment data makes it a challenge to evaluate students' academic performance. To facilitate the appropriate placement of migrant students, the InTIME project is developing academic placement instruments through the NWEA. The placement instrument is a computerized, adaptive test that customizes the assessment to each student's achievement level.

The placement instrument, which is currently being field-tested, will facilitate timely and accurate placement of migrant students in mathematics. Students take pre- and post-tests to determine appropriate instructional levels and measure their academic growth. Using a unique identification number, an InTIME database tracks students as they move from school to school. Teachers receive training to generate and interpret reports that target students' academic needs.

More than 1,000 migrant students in a dozen districts in Oregon have participated in field-testing the assessment. At least 300 students must respond to each item before it is incorporated into the test. When InTIME began, NWEA had already developed placement tests for grades 3-10 aligned with Oregon’s state mathematics performance standards. NWEA is developing a pencil and paper version for grades 3-10 in Spanish and converting the math placement assessments to an online Computerized Adaptive Test (CAT). The pencil and paper version was pilot-tested in spring 2000, and the CAT is expected to be available by fall 2000.

  Assessing ELLs in the School District of Philadelphia
Philadelphia's shift to a standards-based education system has promoted changes in curricucum, instruction, and assessment. The SAT-9, which is a component of the district's assessment system, is believed by Philadelphia educators to reflect the district's standards and to assess students' higher-order thinking skills in reading, mathematics, and science.

The district recognizes that ELLs in ESL and bilingual programs may require testing accommodations. Philadelphia has approved 18 strategies that provide ELLs with more opportunities to accurately demonstrate their knowledge of content. The accommodations help to mitigate the fact that standardized tests written in English are to some extent testing knowledge of the English language as well as the knowledge of the content areas. Some accommodations used in Philadelphia are:

  • Extension of allotted time per test by 50 percent
  • Use of multiple shortened test periods (e.g., tests can be administered over several periods or days, or breaks can be built in after sections)
  • Simplified directions, developed by ESL teachers
  • Reading questions aloud, for the math and science tests only
  • Translating words or phrases--but without interpretation or explanation
  • Testing in a separate room or in a small-group setting
ELLs enrolled in bilingual education programs who have little or no knowledge of English may take the Aprenda, the Spanish version of the SAT-9. In 1996, 56 percent of all ELL students took the SAT-9; in 1999, this number rose to 82 percent. In 1996, only 19 percent of ELLs who took the test scored at or above the "basic" proficiency level. In 1999, 34 percent did. The district attributes improvements among ELLs to the availability of the various accommodations, as well as to the fact that the district worked with the SAT-9 and Aprenda's developers to review and adjust test items for cultural bias and language accessibility (e.g., idioms that might confuse some students were removed.)


Learning Time Extends beyond the School Day When Necessary

The traditional school day consumes only a small part of students' time. In fact, children spend the majority of their waking hours outside of school. To take advantage of students' time beyond the regular school day, schools and communities can work together to extend the time that Hispanic children have to develop the skills that lead to success in school and beyond. Many program planners and instructors in before- and after-school, summer, Saturday, and intersession programs are linking their activities to children's school experiences, particularly by directing them toward high academic and behavioral standards (U.S. Department of Education, 1995a).

Recent research on effective schools has found that many schools use extended learning time to improve achievement in reading and mathematics (U.S. Department of Education, 1999b). For example:

Through ESEA, Congress encourages schools to increase the amount and quality of instructional time for disadvantaged students. Recent data indicate that extended-time programs have increased substantially in Title I schools since the last reauthorization. For example, the proportion of Title I elementary schools offering summer school programs rose from 15 percent in 1991-92 to 41 percent in 1997-98. Likewise, the percentage with before- or after-school programs grew from 9 percent in 1991-92 to 39 percent in 1997-98 (Heid & Webber, 1999; Millsap, Moss, & Gamse, 1993). The U.S. Department of Education encourages Title I schools to operate extended-time programs to reinforce student learning.

In addition to the ESEA focus on extending learning time, Congress appropriated $450 million for 21st Century Community Learning Center programs (targeted to rural and inner-city schools) in FY 2000, compared with $200 million in FY 1999 and $40 million in 1998. As policymakers and other school staff implement extended-time programs for Hispanic students, they need to ensure that the added time is used effectively. For example, Project EFFORT (Educational Enrichment, Fitness, Food, and Nutrition Opportunity), a one-year-old extended-time program funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, serves students in Garden City, Kansas, about 52 percent of whom are Mexican American, and more than half of whom are children of migrant workers. Project EFFORT teachers and tutors align their instruction with Kansas’s benchmarks and standards. Students participate in skills-building instruction in accordance with their individual needs to master state standards.

Many settings other than schools--among them YMCAs, public libraries, and museums-- offer opportunities to provide Hispanic students with more learning time. Recent reviews of promising practices stress that, whatever the setting, extended-time programs that help students most are culturally sensitive and incorporate challenging curricula tied to what students learn during the regular school day (U.S. Department of Education, 1995a).

Successful extended-time curricula challenge but do not overwhelm students (U.S. Department of Education, 1995a). Research indicates that a challenging curriculum accommodates individual students’ needs and is coordinated with other instruction. In addition, the extra time focuses on more than remedial instruction (U.S. Department of Education, 1995a). Top-performing, high-poverty schools are moving away from low-level instruction, such as filling out ditto sheets, and toward developing higher-order skills by creating more time for students to discuss subject matter (Education Trust, 1999).

  Helping Failing Students through a Summer Program Tied to Standards
The Corpus Christi Independent School District in Texas serves 39,844 students, of whom 69 percent are Hispanic and 53 percent are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches. The district offers two summer school programs to students who do not meet the district's standards for promotion to the next grade. In the program that helps students to achieve standards they have not met, funded in part by Title I, using a curriculum that promotes acceleration rather than remediation, carefully selected Corpus Christi teachers work with students who have been assigned to classes by grade level, subject area, and the standards they need to meet. Students are deemed to have successfully completed summer school when they achieve the standards necessary to be promoted. In this way, as classes become smaller, teachers have the opportunity to work more intensely with students who need to make the most progress. The majority of students pass to the next grade level after attending summer school.

  Extending Learning Time for Migrant Students
The Miami–Dade County Migrant Education Program—funded through Title I, federal Migrant Education Program funds, and state migrant education funds—serves about 3,500 students in grades K-12 each year, most of whom are Hispanic and all of whom are migrants. The project is part of a state program that serves about 45,000 migrant students each year, 15 percent of whom are ELLs.

Each quarter, Migrant Education Program staff develop writing and language arts/reading checklists for each student. They give the checklists to regular program teachers, who check off the reading and writing objectives (aligned with district and state standards) that they want the Migrant Education Program teachers to work on with the students. The language arts/reading checklist, designed for different grade levels and semesters, lists various objectives, and points out the correlation between the objectives and stan-dards; room is provided for migrant program staff to comment on students' progress.

The Migrant Achievement Resource program serves elementary school students. This program offers migrant students supplemental academic instruction, homework assistance, guidance support, tutorials during and after school, computer training and access, and recreational and cultural activities. The program operates through the schools that have the greatest number of migrant students and Neighborhood Learning Centers at two of the main Migrant Housing Centers. Staff have flexible schedules to meet migrant students' scheduling needs.

Between 1996-97 and 1997-98, 81 percent of K-5 students who received at least 40 hours of tutoring/supplemental instruction through the Migrant Education Program mastered 80 percent or more of the language arts/reading objectives assigned by their classroom teachers, and 90 percent of students mastered at least 80 percent of their mathematics objectives. Eighty-six percent of these students improved by one letter grade or more in subject areas for which they had received tutoring.

Cultural sensitivity is one of the characteristics that, according to research, promotes successful extended-time programs. Fostering cultural awareness and appreciation should be a goal in all student and staff development programs (U.S. Department of Education, 1995a).

  Enriching Schools and Communities through Culturally Relevant Activities
The ASPIRA Association, Inc., is a national nonprofit association devoted to education and leadership development for Puerto Rican and other Latino youth. ASPIRA has statewide offices in six states and Puerto Rico and an annual budget of $16 million. Roughly 350 full-time staff and more than 1,000 volunteers serve 25,000 youth and their families each year. ASPIRA operates the ASPIRA Clubs Federation, a national network of school-based clubs, to help students improve academic and leadership skills, learn to work together, and improve self-esteem through pride in their cultural heritage. In addition, ASPIRA provides after-school and summer activities.

In Connecticut, the ASPIRA Lighthouse project provides K-8 Puerto Rican/Latino students with after-school activities such as prevention programs, homework help, field trips, computer familiarization, the arts, and math and science tutoring--all enhanced by an emphasis on cultural enrichment. For example, at Luis Muñoz Marin School, a Title I schoolwide program in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Light House after-school program serves about 225 students five days a week, from 3 to 6 p.m. Instructors who are certified teachers, student interns, Title I paraprofessionals, and local volunteer college students provide instruction and activities to groups of about 25 students. The academic portion of the afternoon lasts for about one hour and 15 minutes and provides homework help and tutoring to reinforce what students learn during the regular school day. To keep things interesting and promote cultural pride and self-esteem, the theater teacher instructs three days a week, using poetry and song to celebrate the different Latino cultural traditions.

Because of the high demand for ASPIRA services, ASPIRA requires school districts to provide some funding. However, with the approval of the district, ASPIRA and other similar academically oriented, community-based programs can use federal Title I and Title VII funding to help Hispanic students reach the same high standards expected of all students.

The arts are a popular way to foster cultural awareness and appreciation--and at the same time develop Latino students' academic skills. Recent research has explored how young people and professional artists in economically disadvantaged communities can contribute to students' learning through community-based organizations devoted to production of and performance in the arts. This research found that engaging in arts activities helps students to test and develop ideas and explain processes--skills that any educator would agree are necessary to school success (Fiske, no date).

  Drawing on the Arts to Extend Learning for Hispanic Students
The El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, a Title I-funded high school in Brooklyn, New York, sponsors a daily after-school Arts and Cultural Center program. This extended learning time program is reportedly producing educated artists and community leaders who may go on to rewarding careers in the arts. About 130 El Puente students and 100 students from other public schools ages 12 to 21 can take courses in areas such as music and video production; band; Latin percussion; hip-hop, jazz, and Latin dance; drama; creative writing; fashion illustration; graphic design; and women's literature. They also receive homework help, SAT preparation, computer training, and tutorial assistance. Most days the activities are offered from about 3:00 p.m. until 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. On Tuesdays, El Puente instructors participate in regular staff development after school, and the activities are offered from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The student-to-instructor ratio is no greater than 15:1, although the homework help and tutorial assistance often take place in smaller clusters or even one-on-one.

The academic instruction students receive after school is closely tied to their regular school day experiences. For example, teachers whose students attend the after-school program often visit their students there to tutor them and help with homework. In addition, the El Puente after-school staff monitor students' grades in the regular school program and attend weekly meetings with the principal and guidance counselors. The El Puente after-school parent coordinator regularly contacts parents to report students' absences or to let them know about adult programs or family cultural events, such as poetry readings.

In 1998-99, all of El Puente graduates were accepted into colleges, and all students who took the New York State Regents Examinations in English and mathematics passed.


Checklist for Implementing Effective, Aligned, Standards-Based Programs

Have we aligned classroom instruction with standards and assessments, so that daily lessons:

checklist Accommodate differences in culture and language, enriching opportunities to learn by filling the gap between what students know and what they need to know?

checklist Lead to mastery of standards set for all students in forms that accommodate the particular resources and needs of Hispanic students?

checklist Offer special support for Hispanic students who are English-language learners?

checklist Enhance continuity and progress in migrant students' educational experience?

Does our curriculum challenge Hispanic students, especially in literacy, by:

checklist Closing the gaps between conventional assumptions about students' resources for learning and demonstrating mastery and students’ actual cognitive, social, and cultural resources?

checklist Making use of proven, effective, flexible program models that:

checklist Fostering use of strategies for reaching high standards, including:

checklist Meeting migrant students' requirements through:

To ensure that it is appropriate and informative, does our assessment system:

checklist Align with standards and curriculum?

checklist Have the capacity to measure different types of students equally well?

checklist Contain stimulating items?

checklist Generate evidence useful in determining directions for professional development and instructional improvement?

checklist Help students succeed by providing:

checklist Report and use data effectively:

Do we provide learning time beyond the school day when necessary, so that students who need extra time have some school options available:

checklist After school?

checklistOn Saturdays?

checklistOn weekends?

checklistDuring the summer?

checklistDuring intersessions?

Do our extended-time programs make the best use of the extra time by:

checklist Connecting with the regular school day?

checklist Helping students meet high academic standards?

checklist Including culturally relevant enrichment activities?

checklist Challenging students with effective curricula and enrichment activities that engage higher-order thinking skills?

Can our students take advantage of effective programs that are offered elsewhere in the community, including:

checklistYMCAs or YWCAs?

checklistBoys & Girls Clubs?

checklistPublic libraries?



1 Jeannie Oakes has written extensively about the nature and effect of different opportunities to learn offered to students viewed as academically able and those viewed otherwise; see, for example, Oakes, Keeping Track (1985).

[Chapter 1: Helping Hispanic Students Reach High Academic Standards: An Idea Book]
Table of Contents

[Chapter 3: Building Teacher and Organizational Capacity to Serve Hispanic Students]