Focus School: American School of Milan

Submitted by: Alexandra Palmieri
Date: April 2021
Photos courtesy of American School of Milan

a bulletin board with the title A Window into our Diversity. The board has a map in the middle surrounded by flags, photos and information about various countries

The American School of Milan (ASM) is an independent, co-educational, college preparatory day school with a state-of-the-art campus located south of Milan. Founded in 1962, we have been educating international students from more than 50 countries for more than 55 years. Our school’s mission is to provide a modern and rigorous education for international students to excel in the changing world of tomorrow. ASM is accredited through the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and is an IB World School offering the Diploma Program since 1983.

During our accreditation process in 2013, one of our goals was to develop a clear structure for our multilingual program. An essential piece of this process involved finding a new assessment that we could build our program around. After research and review of successful programs, we chose WIDA because of the extensive framework it provided.

“From an admissions perspective, [WIDA] has also been beneficial when new students transfer as a baseline for learning or in some cases when they have already been tested,” said Dr. Buren, elementary school principal. “WIDA has been an effective tool which allows our teachers to better meet the needs of their students.”

One thing about WIDA that spoke to us immediately was the asset-based approach to student learning. The Can Do Descriptors gave us language and a framework for discussions. WIDA not only filled our assessment needs through using WIDA Screener and WIDA MODEL, but also made it possible to fulfill the mindset that our multilingual students are a vibrant part of our community.

“Joining WIDA provided us with a consistent and cohesive approach to meeting the needs of our multilingual students across the entire school, said Jane Segre, director of teaching and learning. “Our WIDA specialists are able to provide mainstream teachers with clear data about the English levels and even profiles of their multilingual learners.”

Being able to attend  WIDA Institutes, Symposia and co-teaching workshops at crucial parts of our program development, truly helped to drive change and commitment to teaching and learning at ASM. We’ve implemented many strategies learned in these professional development opportunities, such as Student Profiles, that helped to increase the connection between students and teachers while helping to present data in an accessible way. “All of the professional development and growth we have had as a school in terms of multilingual learners has been because the teachers are able to comprehend, apply, and believe in the WIDA process and the teachers of multilingual students that guide its implementation,” said Mr. Capello, assistant principal of the upper school.

WIDA helped to provide a clear and concrete definition of multilingual learners. As our school population is about 80% non-native speakers of English, it is important to be able to talk about all of our students as multilingual learners who are working at different levels. Our upper school principal, Mr. Amodio said, “WIDA has been instrumental in establishing the baseline by which we monitor and celebrate growth. WIDA data are helpful when discussing placement and growth with parents.”

Over several years of implementation, it has been possible for teachers and those who provide support for multilingual students to be more responsive and provide support for a greater span of students’ needs with the use of concise data. In the elementary school, we are working on being data-driven in instruction, and WIDA functions in conjunction with other resources. Paired with the Can Do Descriptors, we are able to further evaluate student performance and meet students where they are. We introduced co-teaching two years ago and it has been enhanced with how we use data from WIDA MODEL. Co-teachers can have constructive planning discussions to make the classroom more inclusive.

“The use of WIDA has given us more data as it relates to where we might expect to see our multilingual students perform within writing, reading, listening, and speaking,” said our middle school counselor, Ms. Ely. “Our teachers have then been able to use this data to create learner profiles for students' teachers, as well as the ability to co-teach and plan with these profiles in mind.”

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