Why Did you Start Using WIDA?
The Anglo-American School of Moscow is a dynamic international school that was founded in 1949. The international student body of approximately 1200 students represents more than 60 countries. With such a diverse population of learners, we embrace a culture that values various backgrounds, home languages and personal learning styles. Therefore, our mainstream teachers and support teachers work alongside each other to ensure that our support matches the learning needs of all our students. We believe the principles of good practice for children learning English are the principles of good practice for all children.
We began our journey with WIDA six years ago. For a long time we were using various language assessments for English language learners; however we wanted a tool designed with our international school diversity in mind. We were looking not just for an English language assessment, but for an integrated system that is connected to learning standards. We needed a system that would promote academic language development and academic achievement for students of a variety of language backgrounds. This is what we have found in WIDA. Besides using WIDA assessments for English language learners – including both the WIDA Access Placement Test (W-APT) for prospective students and WIDA MODEL for current students – we are also able to use the Can Do Descriptors across all of our grade levels to plan English instruction that will meet students' needs where they are.
Now that we have been implementing the WIDA system of standards and assessments for more than six years, we have begun looking into ways of continuing to promote the WIDA Can Do Philosophy. Besides using just the WIDA assessments and Can Do Descriptors for instructional planning, we are creating personalized goals for and with our students based on their current levels of development, and reporting on student progress toward reaching their individual language goals. We have also begun looking for ways to integrate the WIDA standards and language instruction more seamlessly into the day-to-day classroom instruction, for as WIDA focuses attention on expanding students' academic language, we believe our role as support teachers is to equip all teachers, as well as parents, with resources and tools to support our linguistically and culturally diverse learners.
We have begun to empower the classroom teachers and all specialists who work with students to specifically target the academic language students must acquire to be successful at school. In the Elementary School, for example, we have begun looking into various ways of integrating WIDA standards and instruction into the Units of Inquiry, including developing language rubrics for the Units of Inquiry to support English language learners. We use WIDA Can Do Descriptors to create language targets for various levels of English language proficiency. An additional rubric provides teachers with various tools for differentiating the summative assessment task and gives various scaffolding tools based on students' English language proficiency. We are piloting this approach in Grade 2 and we have found it to be useful. Another way this rubric can be used is to communicate to parents of English language learners on not only the level of conceptual understanding their children have acquired but also on what was done during the Unit of Study to support their children's learning and promote their success.
While this is just the beginning of what we hope to accomplish by working more closely with classroom teachers, we are confident that we are on the right track to being able to provide students with the right amount of support to develop their success and independence with the English language, and WIDA has given us the tools to make this possible.