Category Archives: St. Louis RPDC

RPDC: How can Missouri schools best serve the growing ELL population?

STL RPDC 2015 Logo UpdateBlog post by Marlow Barton,
MELL Instructional Specialist

Does the state of Missouri strike you as “global” or “international”? If not, it may surprise you to learn that one of the fastest growing populations in Missouri public schools in grades K-12 is English Language Learners (ELLs). Kansas City houses the largest concentration of ELLs with nearly 12,000 ELLs in their school systems, St. Louis comes in second with nearly 10,000 and the Springfield and surrounding southwest region is third with nearly 6,000.

The top five languages spoken in these homes are Spanish-Castilian, Bosnian, Vietnamese, Arabic and Somali.

According to the Department of Education, during the 2012-2013 school year, the ELL population grew by 259% while the native English speaking population slightly declined. Last year alone, nearly 28,000 ELLs across the state of Missouri were tested for English Language Proficiency and the majority of these students are primarily in grades K-3.

How can Missouri schools best serve this growing population? The answer is constantly evolving. When a student enrolls in a Missouri public school they are given a “Home Language Survey”. If the family indicates that a language other than English is spoken in the home, the student is given a language proficiency screener. The scores from this screener determine if the student will receive direct English language instruction services. If so, the student begins ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) services with a certified ESOL teacher.

A common question about teaching ELLs is “Do the teachers know all the languages of their students?” The answer is no. Thankfully, there are many methods for teachers to use without speaking the exact language of their students. ESOL programs and instruction differ across the state. Some districts pull ELLs out of the regular classroom for individualized instruction while other districts employ a “push-in” program bringing the ESOL teacher into the regular classroom. Other districts combine these methods. Co-teaching with an ELL teacher and general education teacher working together to provide comprehensible input is common while some use the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP). Interactive learning strategies, such as Kagan for ELLs, are helping to boost academic achievement as well.

Missouri is also a part of the WIDA (World Class Instruction and Design) Consortium which provides many tools to help teachers who instruct ELLs. One tool is called the “Can Do” Descriptors. This chart provides a “snapshot” of what a student can do at their current proficiency level and then the teacher can get an idea of how to take them up to the next level.

The ELL students in Missouri have many linguistic/cognitive and social/economic advantages over monolingual students because they are “bi-cultural and bi-literate” (Gusman, 2015) and they add a “cultural richness” to the classroom learning environment (Cole, 2014).

To learn more about ELL programs in the St. Louis area,
contact Marlow Barton at EducationPlus.

RPDC: Focus on Top Issues in Early Childhood

STL RPDC 2015 Logo UpdateBlog post by Tricia Buchanan,
Special Education Improvement Consultant

Coming up for the 2015-2016 school year, we have developed a five-part series on early childhood topics that will focus on top issues in the world of students pre-K through first grade. The topics include:

Classroom Management and Family Involvement
This workshop will focus on integrating parental involvement in the world of classroom management by establishing a mutually supportive relationship to provide consistency, respect and a continuity of expectations for the student.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) for Early Childhood
Experts in education, industry and national security all agree that there is a national imperative to graduate students with a thorough understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But many parents and teachers wonder, at what age is it appropriate to start teaching STEM? And how can we implement these concepts into early childhood education? The answer is: it is never too early to start STEM education. There are multiple areas, such as nature, to start teaching STEM concepts.

Language, Literacy and Vocabulary Building for Early Childhood
Words and their meanings are the building blocks of literacy development. Building children’s language, literacy and vocabulary foundations is at the core of a high-quality preschool curriculum. Young children, especially those at-risk or with special needs, require supportive learning environments that nurture these skills in order to ensure success in future reading and writing achievement. Discuss the most critical language, literacy and vocabulary skills to incorporate into classroom lesson planning as well as innovative ideas for creating developmentally appropriate learning experiences that will be enjoyable for all.

Brain Research, Developmental Delays and Transition for Early Childhood
Did you know that during the first three years of life, an infant’s brain will make an estimated 1,000 trillion synapses?  The experiences a child has in the first five years of life will either strengthen those resulting neurons or they will be discarded.  As early childhood professionals, we are in a position to observe and encourage activities that will strengthen those neurons and help them connect to needed skills. This session in the series will explore how educators can use the latest research on brain development to enhance these experiences for children. We will also explore the way developmental delays figure into these experiences and how all of this information can be used to promote successful transitions from early childhood programming to kindergarten.

Strategies for Developing Self-Determination skills for Early Childhood
Developing children’s self-regulation, problem-solving, advocacy, communication, goal setting and engagement skills are primary goals of early childhood education. These skills are fostered in both home and preschool environments and can lead to improved educational outcomes. Self-determination helps youth with disabilities achieve positive adult outcomes. The result will be a measurable increase in self-sufficiency and, perhaps even more importantly, greater sense of purpose and satisfaction in adulthood.

For more information, contact Tricia Buchanan at EducationPlus: tbuchanan@edplus.org.

RPDC: re-tooling literacy pedagogy

blog post by Laurie Milburn PhD,
Special Education Improvement Consultant

blog post bySummer vacation is a time for teachers to recharge and refocus as they prepare for another group of students. Summer can also be a time for teachers to re-tool their literacy pedagogy for working with the “not-so-common-learners” and students struggling to make reading progress commensurate with their peers. In July, St. Louis will host the International Literacy Association 2015 Annual Conference. This conference will bring together more than 6,000 literacy educators and experts from around the world to explore ideas, best practices and resources for literacy education and advocacy. In addition, the conference will feature more than 300 sessions on key topics affecting literacy educators today, including content literacy, children’s literature, classroom engagement, innovation, international literacy instruction and professional development. This is a great opportunity to gain practical, research-based professional development from literacy luminaries. The MELL and Special Education Consultants hope to see you at ILA 2015!

RPDC: Take a Cultural Plunge this Summer!

Blog post by Marlow Barton, MELL Instructional Specialist

St. Louis provides many opportunities to explore the different cultures of our students this summer!

blog post byOn a recent visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden, I noticed large, colorful and interesting lanterns being placed all over the garden for the upcoming Chinese Lantern Festival. I began to reflect upon the Chinese speaking ELL children I had in my classes when I taught English to children in various districts around St. Louis and how much I enjoyed having them as students. I loved learning about their families and cultural backgrounds.

As I reflected, I started to wonder what the Chinese population is in St. Louis as I have noticed many activities this summer about Chinese culture. According to the Chinese Culture and Education Foundation, “various unofficial estimates show the figure from 15,000 to 20,000, among which a predominant majority reside in suburban communities and constitutes one percent of the total suburban population of St. Louis.”

In addition to the Chinese Lantern Festival, the Magic House is sponsoring Children’s China: Celebrating Culture, Character and Confucious. Can’t get enough of Chinese culture? Check out the Dragon Boat Races at Creve Coeur Lake!

International Institute | Wayne Crosslin
photo courtesy of the International Institute, Wayne Crosslin

If you are teaching summer school, or tutoring this summer, make sure to check out a cultural artifacts kit from the Office of International Studies at UMSL (cislibrary@umsl.edu). UMSL has kits from many countries, including one from China.

Want to experience other cultures? Try the Festival of Nations from the International Institute of Saint Louis or the Japanese Art Exhibit at the Saint Louis Art Museum called Creatures Great and Small.

All of this got me thinking it would be fun to try to experience something from each of the countries where my students and their families originated. So don’t sit around inside all summer- take a trip around the world right here in our own city!

Strategies and Resources to Raise Graduation Rates and Prevent Dropout

Graduation for All! According to current estimates, more than a quarter of all students do not graduate from high school on time. Getting and keeping all students engaged in learning and on track to graduate from high school and ready for post- secondary education and the 21st century work place is going to require wider, deeper and more systemic change. This two-day symposium with Chris Holmes (July 8) and Sandra Covington Smith (July 9) will provide strategies and resources to assist schools and communities with identifying students at risk of dropping out and provide the supports necessary to keep them on track to graduation.

About the keynotes: 
Chris Holmes has been the journalism teacher at Hazelwood West High School in suburban St. Louis County for nine years. During his tenure, he helped create West Writers Week, an annual five-day celebration of writing during which professional authors, journalists, poets and song writers share their experience; he led a group of student journalists to the U.S.-Mexico border to study immigration reform; he helped develop Project WALK, a nationally recognized dropout prevention program and in 2015, he was named Missouri State Teacher of the Year. But nothing has impacted him more – as a teacher, a father and a person – than his kids in the dropout prevention program.

Dr. Sandra Covington Smith holds a Ph.D. in Special Education with an emphasis in behavior disorders from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Dr. Smith develops curriculum to be used by state education agencies, policymakers, local education agencies and parents. She coordinates and provides training and technical assistance to state education agencies to grad 4 alldevelop effective dropout prevention programs and interventions based on assessment of recipient needs.

For more information, including registration, click here.