Focus School: American International School of Lusaka

Submitted by:  Rob Martin, EAL Specialist

Date: May 2020

Founded in 1986, the American International School of Lusaka (AISL) is an independent co-educational day school that welcomes children from 3-18 years of age. With a student body of approximately 450 students, the school is fully accredited internationally by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (US) and the Council of International Schools (UK). The school attracts students from a wide range of nationalities, including approximately 26% European, 31% North and South American, 28% African. The international nature at AISL is reflected in the school's curriculum and programs. AISL is one of a handful of schools in Africa authorized to deliver all three of the International Baccalaureate’s (IB) core programs: the Primary Years Program (PYP), the Middle Years Program (MYP), and the Diploma Program (DP).

Why did your school decide to join the WIDA global network?

AISL joined the WIDA global network because it is the premier resource for assessment tools and resources to support educators who work with multilingual learners. Through professional development opportunities, newsletters and publications, as well as a growing list of schools joining the WIDA International School Consortium, AISL can continually stay abreast of current research and practices in language development, while building connections and learning opportunities for our teachers. AISL shares the same values that WIDA values for multilingual learners, particularly the “Can Do Philosophy” which recognizes and builds upon the assets and contributions that our diverse student population brings to our classrooms. We believe that all teachers are language teachers and that the WIDA resources provide and encourage an inclusive approach to language learning and collaborative practices around co-teaching and co-planning.

How has working with WIDA impacted teaching and learning at your school?

At AISL, we use the WIDA Screener assessment for new students entering grades 1–12 to help identify whether they are English language learners (ELLs). Along with other data we collect during the application process, we find that the WIDA Screener is an excellent tool to quickly assess all four language domains. WIDA MODEL is used annually to assess language growth. Based on their score, students will be eligible for Tier II or Tier III support. It also informs planning, placement, exiting, as well as type of support (in-class vs. pull-out support in place of a modern language for beginners). Most importantly, data gathered from our WIDA assessments allow us to heterogeneously build class groups.

The WIDA Can Do Descriptors are used to create appropriate learning goals and expectations and to reference for report card writing. At AISL, we have shifted conversations about English learners to what students “can do” in the classroom with the language skills they possess and away from what they can’t do. We value the diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds of our student population at the American International School of Lusaka, and we believe that the support of WIDA allows us to make informed decisions about supporting our English language learners, their parents, and our teachers.

Two boys smiling and holding stacks of books in a library
Photo courtesy of AISL​​​​​

two women reading a booklet together

Become a WIDA Focus School

Tell us about the ways WIDA has helped your school discover what your learners can do. Please contact Jenny Hill-Wild at hillwild@wisc.edu to nominate your school – or a colleague’s – to become a Focus School for an upcoming issue of the WIDA International Newsletter.