Focus school: Lincoln Community School

Submitted by: Kerry Bishop, EAL Specialist at Lincoln Community School
September 2020

Lincoln Community School is an International Baccalaureate World school offering the Primary Years, Middle Years, and Diploma Programmes through the lens of U.S. curricular standards. LCS is recognized as a leading international school in Africa, with more than 600 students enrolled from over 50 countries.

LCS believes in the richness of diversity, and we work tirelessly to support our students with both their collective and individual social-emotional and academic needs. Our Support Services department consists of Learning Support Services, Counseling, English as an Additional Language (EAL), and Student Health Services.

Students looking at a computer screen together
Photo submitted by Lincoln Community School

Our English language support services provide support for students in Grades 1-12. All new learners of the English language participate as fully as possible in our school’s complete curriculum. This sheltered immersion approach to English language support allows students to actively participate in our school program with a level of differentiation that matches their stage of English acquisition.  

Upon entry to LCS, the WIDA Screener is administered to students who may need English language support; the WIDA MODEL Paper test is given to students in the first weeks of school and results are shared with teachers and interpreted by the grade level EAL specialist. Ongoing consultation and student support is provided to the team of teachers the EAL specialist is assigned to, with common planning times and collaborative co-teaching serving as key components of our instructional model.

EAL support levels are determined through WIDA assessments, previous teacher reports and the students’ language background. A home language survey is sent to parents at the beginning of the year and compiled in a database. Teachers are then provided with this background information to plan for instruction and communication with school families.

“An effective student support services team must work collaboratively to distinguish between English language learning needs and other conditions that impact learning,” said Bill Hanagan, Director of Student Support Services at LCS. “Each student comes to us with different language experiences, which influence their rate of acquisition. However, there are expected ranges for each skill; therefore, it is important for schools to carefully track progress using multiple data points. Scheduled administration of the WIDA MODEL and ongoing progress monitoring using Can Do descriptors provide those essential data points.”

LCS also embraces the richness and importance of translanguaging in making meaningful connections to the learning that takes place both in and outside the classroom. The continued development of a child’s mother tongue leads to enhanced learning, a sense of belonging, a celebration of identity, and intercultural understanding. Students at LCS are supported in the use of their home languages in order to make stronger connections to the content and vocabulary covered in their classes. A highlight of the school year is our school-wide celebration of Mother Tongue Week. Throughout the week, students and staff come together to celebrate our community’s diversity of languages with activities, a Mother Tongue book drive, a cross-division assembly, and a beautiful photo display highlighting our community and home languages.

In the elementary school, the WIDA Can Do descriptors offer valuable information and insight for both parents and teachers in order to develop appropriate learning targets for each ELL student. During the school year, teachers and families work in tandem to celebrate language growth and milestones in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Teachers and students collaborate to set individual language goals for classroom success.

Focusing on students’ strengths and potential has helped LCS implement the WIDA Can Do Philosophy into all aspects of teaching and learning. This year, we have found the Can Do descriptors to be especially valuable for teachers and parents as LCS begins the year online. We believe it is important for parents to recognize and celebrate what their children can already do as English language learners, no matter where they fall on the continuum at the start of the year. With the Can Do descriptors, parents and teachers can clearly see how students’ language abilities will develop in the coming weeks and months. The descriptors provide a concrete continuum for anticipated growth, and for teachers and students to build on what our multilingual learners can (already) do.

Our greatest joy as a school community stems from watching our students shine as learners and global citizens. Lincoln’s partnership with WIDA has helped us to grow in our practice while continuing to meet the needs of our vibrant and diverse learning community.

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Become a WIDA Focus School

Tell us about the ways WIDA has helped your school discover what your learners can do. Please contact Jenny Hill-Wild at hillwild@wisc.edu to nominate your school – or a colleague’s – to become a Focus School for an upcoming issue of the WIDA International Newsletter.