Submitted by: Patrick Kane, Director of Teaching and Learning
Date: April 2020
The Nansha College Preparatory Academy (NCPA) is located in a beautiful, greenbelt subdistrict of Greater Guangzhou, China. NCPA opened its doors in 2012 as one of the first independent schools permitted to offer a standards-based American curriculum to its grade 7 through grade 12 students in the People’s Republic of China. The school also offers the Advanced Placement program and is fully accredited through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
English Language Immersion at NCPA
NCPA is a one-way partial English language immersion program.
NCPA's student body is comprised of Chinese nationals, the large majority of whom have some foundation of academic literacy in Chinese, having been schooled in the local system. The target language of the school is English. The level of linguistic and cultural homogeneity of the student population categorizes it as one-way immersion.
In their content classes, NCPA students target English language acquisition; however, classrooms experience a mixture of English and Chinese. Student's home language and culture are leveraged to promote content understanding and language transfer and acquisition. Furthermore, NCPA students' home language is supported through mandatory Chinese language classes.
Use of WIDA’s Measure of Developing English Language and WIDA Screener
WIDA’s Measure of Developing English Language (MODEL) is used extensively throughout grades 7 through 12; WIDA’s Screener is used during the initial entry points of grades 7 and grades 9 (these are the only two grades in which student enrollment may occur). The latter measure assists with initial admissions decisions. Students are permitted to enter the school with an average of 2.5 in grade seven and 3.0 in Grade 9.
Student results from WIDA MODEL and WIDA Screener are together used during lesson planning between EAL Specialists and content area teachers. For example, at the beginning of each school year, NCPA planning teams take this actionable data and use it to inform their differentiated instructional practices. Teams use this data in each skill strand as they consider what to differentiate—content, process and/or product—to ensure maximum language integration and development in tandem with concept/skill attainment that the rigor of NCPA’s standards require. The co-teaching teams (EAL Specialists and content-area teachers) then plan the instructional and assessment paths forward, deciding on the intended outcomes that will best meet the standards and how to put the necessary supports in place to help students meet the standards for their subject areas. For example, during faculty in-service in August of 2019, teachers learned how to use the data and then were given time to plan their first units. A team of English language arts teachers together with their EAL specialists for Grade 9 were able to target three different levels and the subsequent activities and resources to meet those levels for an upcoming novel study of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. In one instance, to build background, students were given differentiated reading selections about The Great Depression in the United States—thus avoiding the one-size-fits-all approach of a single handout that might potentially cause cognitive and linguistic overload for students.
See the following video about NCPA’s professional development focused on ;using WIDA data during the teacher inservice week.
Having actionable data at the beginning of the year through WIDA and Screener results, coupled with data from the Measures of Academic Progress, teacher teams were not only able to get a fuller picture of where their individual classes were linguistically, they were also able to engage in professional development and collaboration with their EAL specialists as both sought how to best integrate language development with the rigor of the curricular standards by subject areas. These were powerful discussions that helped foster understanding from both perspectives—linguistic development and mastery of content standard.
As NCPA moves forward on its journey, there is a palpable, positive can-do attitude among co-teaching teams and individual teachers. NCPA is looking forward to WIDA’s full iteration of the new WIDA English Language Development Standards to help with the important curriculum work ahead. NCPA uses Understanding by Design (UbD) for unit development and there are plans now to infuse language development and acquisition into future curriculum work. The new WIDA ELD Standards will help the school strategically address and unpack the standards of practice in each subject area in tandem with content-specific standards to ensure language development is not only included in the three stages of backward design but fully integrated and assessed.