Submitted by: Aimee Fenneman
Date: August 2022
Photos courtesy of Aimee Fenneman
Our school, Marymount International Rome, began its WIDA journey in 2015 with the aim of implementing a whole school assessment that would provide a more in-depth picture of students’ academic language abilities across a spectrum of content areas. We were drawn to WIDA’s asset-based model, the Can Do Descriptors, and the inclusion of academic language in the various tasks. As a school, we strive to always start from what our students can do, and we feel that WIDA supports and guides this approach in theory and in practice.
Marymount’s mission is at the foundation of our school and we are part of a Global Network of Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM) schools – 19 schools in the following countries: Brazil, Colombia, France, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. We believe in the dignity and worth of every person. Therefore, all cultures and languages are valued. Our school community consists of more than 70 nationalities, 40 languages and 16 faiths. Our curriculum is based on the American Model with international standards and benchmarks. Students graduate with the IB High School Diploma.
Underpinned by both our inclusion and language policies, and in line with our school mission statement and the IB philosophy, “we seek to guide students towards the achievement of their full potential by empowering them to think creatively, reason critically, communicate effectively, and learn continuously.” In our school, diversity is a positive resource. We are aligned to the IB learning philosophy by which “Students are the center of international education in the IB with their own strengths and challenges.” We strive to meet the needs of all learners and treat each student as an individual. Marymount is a responsibly inclusive school and we promote and protect the interests of children who learn in different ways or at different rates. Aligning with the IB Learner Profile and our own Marymount Quality Teaching and Learning Statement, we challenge each student and teacher to embody all of the characteristics of a Marymount education.
We believe that language is involved in all learning and is essential to educational progress. “In addition to learning how to use language, students must also learn about language and through language. ”We encourage our students to understand and appreciate their own linguistic and cultural identities and to be open to the perspectives, values and traditions of others. We aspire to create a dynamic multilingual learning community in which the principal language of instruction is English, whilst at the same time promoting the development and maintenance of our students’ mother tongues. We also encourage the acquisition of other languages (Arabic, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, Mandarin, Spanish), and our students thrive within our linguistically and culturally rich environment.
We use WIDA in conjunction with various other formative and summative assessments to gauge students’ progress from the start to end of an academic year. Additionally, we use WIDA assessment tools to learn about incoming students. WIDA resources are useful tools that show us what students can do and guide us in the areas where they need to grow. Subsequently, our ELL department has developed criteria for exiting students, and we use the scores to facilitate discussion with colleagues. All students in the ELL program have a student profile that is accessible to their teachers. This profile includes students’ WIDA level, their linguistic strengths, and accommodations. Members of our ELL department and school faculty have had the opportunity to attend WIDA institutes and conferences over the last several years to remain up-to-date on best practices.
Our next steps are to have a more explicit approach to helping our colleagues use more effective approaches and strategies in supporting ELL students. This school year, we plan to use the WIDA language objectives and Can Do Descriptors more deliberately to generate discussion and to build scaffolded curriculum resources during grade level and department meetings. Our goal is to generate rich conversations and tangible resources that can be added to units. We were privileged to host the WIDA Symposium on December 2 and 3, 2017 and are honored to be invited again to host Stretching your Co-Teaching: Collaborating with WIDA on March 11 and 12, 2023. Learn more and register to join us!
Marymount International Rome is one of five WIDA international schools hosting in-person WIDA professional learning this year. Registration is now open for WIDA Institutes and Stretching your Co-Teaching: Collaborating with WIDA workshops.