Focus School: International School Saigon Pearl

Submitted by: Tiffany Proctor and Katelyn Cook
Date: May 2021
Photo courtesy of International School Saigon Pearl

A group of students sitting in a circle and the teachers is holding and pointing to a piece of paper

ISSP (International School Saigon Pearl) is a beautiful, small international elementary school located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Our dedicated community of educators works with students from 18 months to grade 5. Approximately 85% of our student population is Vietnamese.

At ISSP, we understand that every teacher is a language teacher, which means every child is a language learner. Additionally, the strategies we implement in our classrooms to highlight what our learners can do support every child no matter what their first language is. We are a part of the WIDA global network because of the asset-based perspective toward multilingual learners, and the invaluable amount of rigorous professional development WIDA offers educators around the world. WIDA’s standards of teaching and learning for multilingual learners are an example for the rest of the international community to follow.

Our English as an additional language (EAL) teachers and teaching assistants have attended WIDA workshops including a WIDA Climbs workshop in HCMC, Vietnam and the workshop “Educator Collaboration to Support Multilingual Learners” in Taipei, Taiwan. Using this robust professional development, we have gained a great deal of value in our collective understanding and application of WIDA assessments, language proficiency standards, and Can Do Descriptors. Moreover, we have been able to share our learning and explore WIDA with other educators through the ELLSA (English Language Learners of Southeast Asia) community.

“Working with WIDA has not only allowed us as a school to have integrity and rigor to the assessment of English language learners, but has also enabled us to more accurately meet the needs of our students, parents and teachers as we continue to develop a shared understanding of what it means to be a second language learner.” Head of School Lester Stephens

In the 2019 academic school year, our language department administered WIDA Screener to every child in the school in order to establish a deeper understanding of our student population’s language needs. With this data, we were able to reassess our EAL structure and proficiency criteria to meet the needs of our community.

Since assessing whole-school, we have been able to create a clearer path to using the full co-teaching model within our elementary school. Our first step in this process has been to support understanding of Can Do Descriptors alongside WIDA proficiency scores to facilitate co-planning among grade-level teams.

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