Submitted by: Kelly Somerville and Tim Hudson
Date: December 2020
Photos courtesy of Australian International School
AIS (Australian International School) Singapore is a K-12 school with 2600+ students in total, approximately 20% being ELL. AIS became a WIDA International Consortium member school in 2016. Prior to this, AIS had been using school-developed placement tools for eight years, and prior to that the MAC II assessment. The initial attraction of the WIDA system was the clearly articulated language progression for ELL students, aligned with the academic language expectations at various stages of schooling. A great function of the WIDA assessments is the use of year level appropriate academic language across key learning areas. Additionally, the support WIDA provides for teachers when planning for ‘scaffolding up’ was viewed as a major attraction over other test and placement-only based systems.
All students (whose Mother tongue is not English) at AIS are tested using the New WIDA Screener at the point of enrollment, after which they are appropriately placed in the program with the required support structures. In the Elementary school, WIDA scores are used to determine the English class placement in either the Beginner or Transitioning EAL phase. The school is moving away from the partial sheltered model in lower secondary (Year 6-8) to the EAL Co Planning/Teaching/Assessing model in Science and Humanities classes. Initially, working closely initially with Dr Virginia Rojas as the catalyst for this change in 2016, and then over the past two years with Mrs Bronwyn Custance from Australia, who is a co-author of the widely renowned TESMC Course.
The school is at the stage now where WIDA Can Do Descriptors are being used in the Secondary school when discussing student expectations and in the co-planning process to scaffold up for ELLs. Language co-planners are written and sit alongside departmental content planners shared with all involved. This ensures the co-planning process remains embedded in the lower secondary school, and resources are shared and further developed each year. In the Elementary school, the WIDA scores have been mapped against the AIS Language and Literacy Levels to show student’s progress through language skills development. Currently, the EAL department are working on supporting the mainstream teachers with greater detail of student skills with a combination of the ‘Can Do’ statements and the Language and Literacy levels.
Each year all year 8-10 and 12 ELLs sit the WIDA MODEL Online assessment to monitor growth and areas for focus for each student. These are shared with students, and with parents/guardians upon request. Year 12 WIDA results are shared with the IBO to ensure students receive external examination provisions they are due, based on their current academic language level.
Aligned with the WIDA Guiding Principles, mother tongue learning is strongly supported at AIS with options to study in Spanish, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian and Mandarin. The secondary school also has a strong mother tongue program embedded in the timetable which is essential for students developing additive academic bilingualism. Additionally students with scores less than 4.5 have access to our EAL English program, which runs parallel to English First Language. In the Elementary, students are able attend their chosen language study after school hours during the week.
The introduction and ongoing use of the WIDA Screener has been a significant improvement for appropriate placement and identification of English at AIS. We enjoyed working with Jon Nordmeyer at the Response to Intervention School Summit in Singapore in October 2019 to develop our skills in co-teaching. We are also actively involved in the International MTSS Online Forum Series which includes several WIDA sessions.