Mississippi School District’s New EL Framework Leads to Greater Learning and Growth
From 2000–2018, the number of English Learners (ELs) in Mississippi increased by nearly 580 percent (2,176 to 14,771).
Pascagoula-Gautier School District (PGSD), a suburban district located on the Mississippi coast, has the second-highest EL population in the state. In 2018, its leaders decided they needed to overhaul how the district approached EL instruction. “We know how important it is to reach our ELs,” said Mireya Garay, PGSD’s federal programs coordinator. “We’re committed.”
When it came to choosing a new EL framework, Dr. Melissa DeAngelo, PGSD’s director of English language education, knew her district needed a research-based and proven approach. After diligent information gathering and observing a Georgia district, DeAngelo and other PGSD leaders determined that the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) was the best fit for PGSD’s students.
SIOP would maximize the amount of time ELs spent in the classroom with their native English-speaking peers as well as their exposure to academic language and grade- level content. It also would enable PGSD educators to make the most of valuable programs they already used, including Ellevation®, a comprehensive EL platform, and i-Ready Assessment and i-Ready Personalized Instruction, Curriculum Associates’ integrated formative assessment and instruction programs.
What They Did
Nearly 13 percent of PGSD’s 7,000 Pre-K–12 students are ELs, and meeting their needs is, on its own, an impressive task. However, in adopting SIOP, and leveraging Ellevation to streamline collaboration on monitoring forms and meetings, PGSD educators strove to improve learning for all students, not just their ELs.
Through rigorous professional development (which continued despite COVID-19), the ongoing use of i-Ready and Ellevation, and the adoption of Ready® Mathematics, a standards-aligned, discourse- centered math curriculum, PGSD educators have steadily introduced rich instructional practices that help all students build their academic language and access grade-level content.
Expertise: PGSD leadership quickly recognized that the fastest way to spread new best practices was to make the most of relationships with trusted partners and foster internal SIOP experts. Teacher leaders who master cornerstone SIOP concepts are now asked to train their colleagues throughout the district. All teachers working with ELs use Ellevation’s Data and Instructional Planning platform to ensure that the key data and program information needed to meet diverse program requirements are in one convenient place.
Collaboration: Using Ellevation’s customizeable dashboards, PGSD has created workflows that align to their goal of ensuring all teachers have the tools they need to support their ELs. Teachers are using Ellevation’s digital monitoring forms to provide valuable feedback on EL students’ progress. In this way, PGSD leverages Ellevation’s monitoring solution to go beyond compliance and provide pathways to success for EL students.
Community: In addition to best practices, such as providing resources in multiple languages and having Spanish-speaking educators at every school, PGSD ensures ELs’ families feel valued and supported by offering skill-building workshops for nonnative English speakers and programs that celebrate families’ cultures and provide community learning opportunities. PGSD educators also utilize Ellevation’s Meeting Center and translated Parent Letters to keep families informed of their children’s progress and changes in their EL status.
What They Accomplished
Though PGSD is still building its educators’ SIOP and Ready Mathematics knowledge, the district’s educators are encouraged by the accomplishments students and educators have already made.
PGSD became the first district in Mississippi to implement a Seal of Biliteracy, which recognizes students who demonstrate proficiency in English and at least one other language with a seal on their high school diplomas and transcripts. When Mississippi’s Department of Education decided to create a statewide Seal of Biliteracy program in 2019, educators from PGSD served on the Mississippi Seal of Biliteracy panel.
For now, PGSD educators are focused on the continued dissemination and implementation of best practices, integration of EL families, and success stories.
“We have a lot in front of us to do, but I just think it’s great that everybody’s on the same page,” said Garay.