Focus School: NOVA International Schools

Submitted by: Marija Buralieva
Date: July 2021
Photo courtesy of NOVA International Schools

Two educators sitting on separate desks across from each other, wearing masks

NOVA was founded in 1997 and is recognized as the leading international school in North Macedonia today; we are a diverse school primarily serving the international community in Skopje, as well as local families with a global outlook who represent the local diversity. We are known for our purpose-built award-winning facilities, student outcomes, and a supportive and inclusive community of parents, students and professionals. 

NOVA International Schools initially became a member of the WIDA International School Consortium in February 2018, shortly after becoming acquainted with WIDA resources. The first official WIDA training we participated in was the WIDA Institute held in Paris in January 2018: Implementing the WIDA Standards and Assessment System in International Contexts. At the time, we began to shift from a pull-out to a push-in language support program and we experienced quite a few challenges trying to formalize our EAL program, as well as educate our language support teachers as best we could.

The knowledge and understanding we gained at the WIDA Institute provided us with the necessary skills and information to begin the process of using WIDA not only as an assessment tool, but also as a tool for lesson planning and differentiation within the classroom. Since then, we have attended multiple WIDA trainings, such as the WIDA Symposium, the WIDA Virtual Collaboration Course: Stretching Your Co-Teaching, the WIDA Virtual Institute, and others.

The WIDA framework provided us with everything that we needed to instill a more stable EAL program and language policy at our school. We started off by studying the WIDA ELD Standards Statements and Can Do Descriptors, thinking of ways in which we could implement them in our everyday planning, teaching, and assessments of our multilingual students. In May 2018, we started using the WIDA MODEL assessment with the purpose of making EAL placement decisions for the following academic year. We also use WIDA Screener as a part of the admissions process. We consistently depend on various WIDA resources in every aspect of our daily planning, teaching, reflecting, placement of students, differentiation, as well as language assessment.

With the help of the WIDA resources, teachers in our school get a clearer picture of the students' progression over the year. In the same way, parents understand the annual language proficiency testing. Using the WIDA standards and rubrics, students grasp the importance of learning language acquisition that will enable them to become proficient English speakers.”– Bojana Kodjasinska, MYP language acquisition teacher

As a progress documenting tool, WIDA MODEL Online not only helps us with ensuring appropriate placement of our EAL students, but also provides us with the more precise information regarding the progress of individual students in each of the English language domains. Through MODEL, our EAL teachers have a clearer vision of each student’s areas of strength and challenges.      

The WIDA Can Do Descriptors have proven to be an excellent tool for not only identifying what our students can do, but also as a tool for helping our teachers shift their mindset when working with EAL students. With the help of the Can Do Descriptors, we focus on what our students can do in terms of language use, rather than on what they cannot do yet.

Our EAL coordinator’s participation in the WIDA Virtual Institute in March 2021 ;provided our community of EAL teachers with additional valuable information, such as the importance of co-planning, co-teaching and co-reflecting, as well as the ways in which we can implement the new edition of WIDA ELD Standards Framework into our practice. Throughout this WIDA journey, our school’s mission is to best support our multilingual learners in their academic journey and ensure their success.

Discovering WIDA and becoming trained to use its assessments as well as to implement its philosophy in NOVA International Schools has been an invaluable experience for our school’s EAL approach. Using the WIDA assessments, creating students’ profiles, planning and scaffolding with WIDA’s Can Do Descriptors, as well as using WIDA’s ELD Standards Framework for assessment of our multilingual students has provided us with not only a common language, but also with a common understanding and goals for our EAL students. In addition, becoming part of WIDA’s International School Consortium has opened many opportunities, such as quality teacher trainings, networking with teachers around the world, as well as an abundance of new ideas for planning, teaching, assessments, etc.” - Marija Buralieva, EAL teacher and coordinator

two students in classroom reading

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