Submitted by: Jennifer Foss
Date: September 2022
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Foss
Singapore American School (SAS) is a non-profit, independent school serving over 4,200 students in preschool through high school. The SAS student body is made up of over 65 nationalities, with over half of the students being U.S. citizens. This diverse school community also brings great linguistic richness with over 50 different languages spoken. Beyond the statistics, SAS has made a commitment to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout our community to ensure that every student feels valued and included. When our leaders and teachers were exploring ways to make this commitment a reality for our multilingual learners, we turned to WIDA tools and resources to help guide our conversations and decision-making processes.
How WIDA resources have impacted student learning.
During the 2021-2022 school year, our team conducted a review of the English learning program using WIDA tools and resources as the foundation for the process. Through the review, we wanted to gain a deeper understanding of English language instruction at SAS — so we sought input from many of the people who work with our multilingual learners on a daily basis. The review team was made up of English as an additional language (EAL) teachers, classroom teachers, instructional assistants, coaches and school leaders, each bringing different experiences, knowledge and perspectives of language instruction. The WIDA Guiding Principles of Language Development led team members to clarify their own understanding of how children learn language and helped us to establish clear priorities for the things we wanted to change in our program. During the team meetings, classroom teachers and EAL teachers explored the WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition, and classroom teachers commented that the 2020 Edition helped them to elaborate upon the Common Core State Standards. They were also appreciative that we were using an external set of standards as a guide to develop our practices.
At the end of our review process, SAS decided to make some changes to the program — including using the WIDA screening and assessment tools to help educators get a better understanding of what multilingual learners can do. We have started using the WIDA Screener to help in admissions and placement decisions. Furthermore, the assessment tools gave us information about our students' language development to guide class placement so we can make sure our multilingual learners receive EAL support in the general classroom. This has led to a shift toward a co-teaching model. Today our teachers are engaging in on-going professional learning around sheltered instructional practices, co-teaching and the WIDA ELD Standards Framework. SAS will also host the Stretching your Co-Teaching: Collaborating with WIDA workshop in December to further develop our inclusive and collaborative practices.
Another way we are using WIDA resources is to communicate with parents. WIDA assessments, including the Kindergarten W-APT, have provided parents with specific information on their child’s English language development. It has served as a source for discussing how students learn and which settings and activities provide students with opportunities to practice language while also valuing culture.
As we continue to build partnerships with parents, we will be using WIDA resources on translanguaging, the purpose of assessment and ways parents can support language development at home. As we embark on a new model of supporting multilingual learners through inclusive instruction, our teams feel confident about our path because of the professional learning opportunities that are available through WIDA — as well as the information we can learn about students through the WIDA assessments.
Singapore American School is one of five WIDA International School Consortium members hosting in-person WIDA professional learning this year. Registration is now open for WIDA Institutes and Stretching Your Co-Teaching workshops.