Why Did you Start Using WIDA?
WIDA standards, resources, and assessments came to the American School of Bombay at a time then we were seeking institutional alignment around the teaching of English, approaches that would take us to the forefront of language teaching and learning and a way to further activate our school vision. We desired a more inclusive model that fostered a collaborative and differentiated approach towards education.
Our student body is an amalgamation of diverse cultures and languages that span fifty-three citizenships and thirty-one languages. With such diversity, it is crucial that teachers have a toolbox of differentiated strategies and forms of scaffolding that do not lie exclusively with EAL teachers. All teachers guide students through the double challenge of learning English while gaining access to grade-level content. To see these goals come to fruition, the roles and responsibilities of EAL teachers have gone through many iterations; from one EAL teacher stretched across two grade-levels to that of a language coach and classroom co-teacher who co-plans on shared documents and models effective language learning strategies to mainstream teachers. Having a shared pedagogical language, inspired by WIDA resources and LADDER training, heightened the level of discourse and questioning about how teachers effectively instruct CLD students. Our work with WIDA helped us to actualize our innovative philosophy of language development, which mirrors the WIDA Essential Actions. We also believe in cultivating a strong parent-school relationship through education sessions, by inviting parents to engage in learning activities with their children, and completing Language History Forms for every EAL student so as to better understand their varied experiences with languages. Another way in which we leverage our diverse parent community is to have them bring their own languages into the classroom, thus highlighting the importance of the home language as a piece of each student's identity and as a tool to further language acquisition. Home languages are woven into the classroom culture through activities, literature, music, and in assessing EAL beginners (they complete their assessments in their home language, which we then translate and score using grade-level rubrics).
WIDA LADDER training shaped the way teachers think about collecting and analyzing data. It aided in honing our skills in using data to guide instruction, identifying trends across our student population, and setting the stage for programmatic improvements for ELLs. After three years of work by a dedicated WIDA LADDER team comprised of EAL teachers, mainstream teachers, and administrators, data-driven decision-making has become a mainstay of how to make instructional choices to support ELLs. Data inquiry cycles are now used throughout our school to ensure that decisions are steeped in evidence and remain on a continuous track to improve capacity. At this point, we will continue to climb the ladder towards improving student learning and growth for all.