Focus school: International School of Dongguan

Submitted by: Alexander Paulson
Date: November 2022 
Photos courtesy of Alexander Paulson 

The International School of Dongguan (ISD) is in the newly-minted Tier 1 city of Dongguan, Guangdong, China in the Pearl River delta. We serve 330 students from early childhood to 12th grade with more than 20 nationalities represented in our learning community. Our main language of instruction is English with home language instruction in Chinese and Korean. We also prepare students to participate in our robust IB program. 

ISD’s language philosophy: “Language is at the core of who we are as human beings. We use language to make meaning for ourselves and to connect with others. At ISD, we recognize the skills, abilities, and knowledge our students have gained through their mother tongue experiences as assets to their learning of English. The diversity of languages and cultures represented by our students enriches our classrooms as we guide students to live as internationally-minded individuals.” 

WIDA has had an ongoing role in the development of ISD’s disposition towards teaching and learning schoolwide. WIDA Can Do Descriptors have been immensely influential in all grade levels and content areas. As an institution we have invested heavily in a co-teaching model to equitably reach all our students. We have ongoing use and leveraging of the WIDA MODEL assessment to inform instruction. Most recently we have had a cohort go through the Global Community of Practice. 

WIDA Can Do Descriptors have reached farther than just describing students with an asset-based lens. It has allowed the school to continue developing beyond this signifier into all aspects of learning at ISD. 

: Teacher surrounded by young students at a table, pouring water onto a plate of dirt

WIDA has been providing copious professional development regarding co-teaching and the co-teaching cycle. Institutionally, we have invested in this model to equitably reach all students with two EL teaching positions allotted to our elementary school and three to our secondary school. Some of our staff have participated in WIDA’s co-teaching workshops in addition to school-wide professional learning on this topic. 

ISD proposes to use WIDA MODEL twice annually to track our student's growth in their English language proficiency. However, in recent years we were unable to do this consecutively due to COVID-19 logistics and protocols that have affected the daily running of scheduled activities. Insights from these assessments inform instructional conversations among faculty and are highly ranked in co-teaching partnerships to provide differentiation and scaffolding for all students. 

This past year we have had a cohort of teachers participate in the WIDA Global Community of Practice: a new opportunity for school-based teams. Through this experience, we critically reflected on the systems in place at our institution and how they serve our English learners. Through this discovery process we found that an area for growth for ISD is to a systemic process/tool to address issues of inclusive policies and practices. We look forward to seeing how ISD grows in this facet in the future and how it will further support the learning of all staff and students. 

WIDA has been critical to the foundation of our program at ISD. We have leveraged the resources made available by WIDA to build the capacity of our staff to better support English learners in their individual language journeys. We look forward to seeing where WIDA will take our school in the future. 

To learn more, please look for their presentation in the WIDA Global Community of Practice Capstone Celebration recordings. 

Teacher sitting between two young students at a table

two students in classroom reading

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