Focus school: Osaka YMCA International School

Submitted by: Steven Duex and Maya Krishnan 
Date: March 2023 
Photos courtesy of Steven Duex and Maya Krishnan

Osaka YMCA International School (OYIS) is the only international school located in Osaka city that is an IB World School, offering all three programmes. We have been supporting the international and local Osaka communities for the last 21 years and have been a member of the WIDA global network for the last eight. With a large proportion of English language learners, we felt that WIDA would be the best tool to give our school a common language and framework to support and discuss our English language learners and their growth. 

The goal for the English as an Additional Language (EAL) programme at OYIS is to support our English language learners so that they are able to successfully access the content in their mainstream classes while developing a love of language and communication. OYIS also recognizes the importance of mother tongue development and has put translanguaging at the center of our language policy, encouraging teachers to create opportunities during inquiry and assessment that provide students the chance to use their multiple languages. 

a teacher and a group of young students in a classroom, one raising their hand

Our PYP EAL programme has evolved and grown as the school has continued to expand into a three-programme school. WIDA has become an important part of our admissions process, using WIDA Screener for incoming or new students. WIDA MODEL is a critical component of our year-end assessment, allowing us to reference our year-on-year data for each student and incorporate that, along with our other metrics (F&P, MAP, classroom work) into level placements for the following school year. We have also developed rigorous exit criteria incorporating the WIDA level system for the PYP Programme.

The MYP at OYIS offers differentiated English courses which aim to support learners at varied levels of English proficiency. This includes the MYP Language Acquisition courses Phases 1-5 and English Language & Literature course. These differentiated courses align with the language pathways that students can take in the Diploma Programme (DP). WIDA assessments are a crucial component of placement of new incoming students into the appropriate level for their English course. The language policy outlines a broad correlation between the WIDA scores and the English language acquisition phases (1-5). We are able to use the screener option in WIDA MODEL Online to identify the appropriate level for the new students. In addition, all students in the English language acquisition classes are assessed at the end of the academic year to monitor their progress. As the students’ English language proficiency increases, the WIDA scores along with other metrics (MAP and MYP criterion scores) aid in making decisions about the students moving up to the next language level. 

a teacher helps three young students do schoolwork at a table together

The school has incorporated the WIDA Can Do Descriptors into our placement and language support processes as well. For PYP, they are a part of the individual student reports that are generated after year-end assessment. This gives homeroom teachers an understanding of language expectations at each level and allows the EAL and homeroom teachers to discuss each student's language development using a common language. We are also currently exploring the incorporation of the Can Do Descriptors into language support plans, when applicable. In the MYP, the Can Do Descriptors are used when developing language support plans for EAL students. These descriptors help teachers to identify the specific skills that students are proficient in, and the areas that need scaffolding and differentiation.

WIDA assessments provide an excellent framework for the PYP and MYP teachers to understand the students’ EAL strengths and needs. The Can Do Descriptors help integrate and align our PYP and MYP EAL programmes by allowing teachers to use a common language and framework. We have also integrated WIDA MODEL Online to help the grade 6 students transition into the MYP English courses in grade 7.

two students in classroom reading

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