Focus School Group: Qatar Foundation Schools

Submitted by: Stephanie Drynan — EAL and Dual Language Coordinator and Jeff Coleman, Principal at The Learning Center, Qatar Foundation Schools

November 2019

qatar school teachers at WIDA Institute in Bangkok
Qatar Foundation staff at a WIDA Institute

In Qatar Foundation Schools’ EAL-rich environment it is essential that we support students with language needs by providing teachers and faculty with the best tool possible. Serving a large family of schools with very different profiles and needs, we needed a tool that would serve our district, but be flexible and adaptable to the particular culture of each of our unique school buildings. We began expanding the use of the WIDA Standards Framework through hosting a WIDA Institute in 2017. As our use and understanding of WIDA MODEL, the WIDA English Language Development Standards, and the Can Do Descriptors became more sophisticated, Qatar Foundation Schools began sending staff to additional learning opportunities with WIDA.

Each of the K-12 schools uses WIDA MODEL in its own way and at their own pace. Over the last three years our use of WIDA MODEL has shifted from a single school using WIDA MODEL to nearly all of our schools using it to assess English language proficiency of students. Teachers, interventionists and coaches use the Can Do Descriptors to design scaffolds for lessons, and integrate targeted and appropriate language support.

For examples of how schools in Qatar Foundation have benefitted from WIDA MODEL, the Can Do Descriptors, and the Model Performance Indicators, please see the quotes below.

“We share WIDA assessment data in combination with the Can Do Descriptors with teachers to support student learning in the classrooms. The information provides an avenue for teachers to understand where students are in terms of their language proficiency across the domains of speaking, listening, reading, and writing, and how to plan the trajectory of their learning next. Teachers have found it to be beneficial when differentiating classroom activities for students who are English Language Learners,” said Dr. Biji Philips, Student Services Coordinator, Qatar Academy Doha Primary School.

“At QAD Senior, when we use WIDA [MODEL] data, it helps us to provide students with the language supports they need. As a school we feel that student engagement and understanding is enhanced and supported when we can use WIDA’s Model Performance Indicators to highlight our understanding of student needs,” said Jane Angwin, Student Services Coordinator, Qatar Academy Doha Senior School.

“WIDA [MODEL] is a vital tool in our collaboration with staff. We use WIDA [MODEL] data in our student support team meetings. It helps us develop appropriate strategies to improve student engagement and learning," said Angela Sampson, Student Services Coordinator, Awsaj Academy. Awsaj Academy recently sent two Primary School and two Secondary School Lead teachers to the WIDA Institute in Bangkok.

“I attended Silos to Systems hosted by NFI and WIDA. My biggest takeaway was the need for more interdisciplinary and interdepartmental collaboration in schools. Since that conference, I have helped establish a Language Acquisition Team at Qatar Academy Sidra. The school has now developed a classroom visit program called the '10 Minute Student.' We are piloting the program this month wherein teachers will visit other classrooms outside their discipline and play the role of the student in order to experience the support structures provided, as well as witness various teaching approaches and styles. The teachers will fill out a reflection sheet from the perspective of a student, with a final metacognitive question to be addressed from a teacher perspective. This is all in its infancy, but the Silos to Systems conference was the genesis of the movement to interdisciplinary support and collaboration," said Jay Arduser, Language Acquisition and Classroom Methods Coach, TLC.

At the Learning Center we are thrilled with the way schools have adopted WIDA MODEL and the Can Do Descriptors as an instructional tool. Administrative teams are learning to look at student data with all four language domains in mind. "System-wide, the discourse about our students with language needs has shifted and continues to shift towards an asset-based conversation where all the domains of language acquisition are included," said Stephanie Drynan, EAL and Dual Language Coordinator. There is a broader and deeper understanding system-wide around BICS and CALP, and this has helped faculty recognize pockets of disconnected communication that might have gone unregarded in the past.

An additional strategic step in broadening and deepening our discourse around supporting our students’ language needs is the WIDA Symposium. The EAL Coordinator attended the Symposium last year in Beijing, and this year Awsaj Academy and Qatar Academy Al Khor will both be sending School Leaders/Administrators to the WIDA Symposium in Seoul in November.

Qatar Foundation Schools are a growing family of thirteen schools and 5,000+ students. Our schools serve the Qatari and Expatriate populations. Our students are predominantly Qatari. Nonetheless, our student body represents 40 nationalities and multiple languages. Most students learn Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) along with English. Some schools run dual-immersion programs whilst others are English as a medium of Instruction schools. Most students are diglossic, speaking their national Arabic dialect at home and Modern Standard Arabic at school. We are thankful to the partnership we have with WIDA, and the consistent support and solutions-based responses from the WIDA, WCEPS, and WISC team(s) every step of the way.

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