Why Did you Start Using WIDA?
The American School of Brasilia (Escola Americana de Brasilia - EAB) began using WIDA in 2013 after attending our first WIDA Conference in Milwaukee. After not being satisfied with our in house language assessment, the Deputy Head of School suggested exploring the WIDA Model. Around the same time, EAB hosted an external consultant who completed an audit of our EAL program. The consultant recommended the systematic use of the WIDA Model as well. As a team, we then developed a two-year implementation plan composed of five stages:
- Collecting data,
- Preparation/training of classroom teachers,
- Co-panning and co-teaching
- Program expansion,
- Continuous growth and systems building.
Throughout the implementation process we began to develop policies and procedures to guide the work and maintain school wide consistency. While our original interest in WIDA was for assessment, we have come to use several of the tools (Can Do Descriptors, Essential Actions Handbook, Guiding Principles of Language Development, rubrics) to transform our program.
How has it supported student learning and program growth?
The adoption of WIDA has supported not only the language learners, but all students in the Lower (Preschool to Grade 5) and Upper (Grades 6-12) school. The WIDA framework supported the identification of English proficiency levels and offered ways, through the descriptors, to differentiate based on what students "can do." This assets-based approach has allowed educators at EAB to set language goals with the classroom teacher and begin productive language-based conversations in meetings.
The emergence of WIDA at EAB has supported program growth as we have developed a range of documents and procedures that guide instruction. The need for teacher collaboration was key to ensure the WIDA tools were being optimized to improve language. For instance:
- The need for ELL and classroom teachers to collaborate led to a co-planning checklist and template used every week. Time was set aside for both teachers to come together and co-plan.
- Co-teaching models were established and emphasized when the ELL teacher is pushing-in the classroom.
- Co-reflection has taken a part of our weekly co-planning meetings as it centers around what students are doing, what scaffolds have been using to guarantee their success, and what can be done next time to continue the success.
- Language policy was developed as a follow up to accreditation process to clearly define the regulations, and policies for the language learners at EAB.
- Clear roles and expectations defined for classroom and ELL teachers based on WIDA performance definitions.
- Based on the WIDA proficiency levels, an ELL Teacher Responsibility guideline was in place to clearly define roles and expectations to make push-in more successful.
- An Exit Criteria Meeting Guideline was developed.