Why did you start using WIDA?
TCIS started investigating WIDA back in 2012. Two of our ELL teachers had experience with WIDA via their work in US public schools and via their graduate programs of study in US universities. In 2012, we had a somewhat large influx of students with low levels of English proficiency in our Middle School years, and the teachers of the subjects in these grade levels were asking Administrators regularly for assistance with coping with these students in their mainstream classrooms. Most Middle School teachers had no training in meeting the needs of ELL students, nor had they experienced delivering content in classrooms with large numbers of ELL students. This "outcry" from teachers led to Administrators asking our experienced ELL teachers for ideas on how to meet the needs of this new type of TCIS student. Two teachers advocated for WIDA and drew up a proposal for our Board to adopt WIDA; it did so in mid 2013.
Since 2013, TCIS has invested greatly in WIDA training for its staff. The school hosted an in-house WIDA training for more than 50 teachers in November 2013. And, since that time, TCIS has committed to sending all of its ELL teachers to the four day WIDA Institute. One administrator and one I.B. coordinator have also attended a WIDA Institute Having such widespread and in-depth understanding of WIDA programs amongst faculty has benefited the school tremendously with not only the implementation of WIDA, but also with developing faculty understanding of how language acquisition works, particularly within the delivery of the subject areas.
How has WIDA supported learning and program growth?
WIDA had been an excellent tool for TCIS content area teachers to better address the needs of ELL students within their classes. Teachers are appreciative of the WIDA model test results in that these results give information about students' proficiency levels in the domains of English (reading, speaking, writing, listening). Teachers are better able to target instruction and student support through the use of the Can Do Descriptors that clarify how to work with students of varying proficiency levels in reading, speaking, listening and writing within their content classes. TCIS has seen ELL student progress continually increase over time. Most students progress at least one level per school year on WIDA MODEL, and some progress 2 or 3 levels per school year. The ELL program at TCIS has been very successful, and TCIS attributes much of our success to the implementation of WIDA.
Furthermore, TCIS has developed a strong in-class support model whereby ELL teachers are allocated as co-teachers in three Secondary subject areas - Humanities, Science, and Design - in order to assist the ELL students with English language acquisition, as well as concept and skill development. The ELL teachers and the subject teachers use the Can Do Descriptors to provide appropriate modifications to resources, curriculum and/or assessments in order to help ELLs achieve cognitively at the same level as their peers. As well, our ELL staff help other subject area teachers (PE and Health, Bible, Drama, Maths, etc.) with making modifications to resources, curriculum and/or assessments too even though the ELL staff do not provide regular in-class support in these subject areas. Again, student learning has benefited a great deal from this in-class support program at TCIS. We have seen great success with almost all of our ELLs progressing at least one level per year on WIDA MODEL.
"WIDA has revolutionized the way TCIS delivers services to its ELL population. WIDA MODEL and the Can Do Descriptors provide us great clarity on how we can target the specific language needs of our diverse clientele. And, the vocabulary of WIDA provides all faculty and staff with a common language to talk about English language acquisition and academic performance. Furthermore, one of the best by-products of our implementation of WIDA is that we are more successful with being able to diagnose special educational needs that are not related to language because WIDA does such a great job of diagnosing and isolating language needs. It's a win-win situation for students and faculty in international schools, in my opinion," – Barbara Wrightson, Director of Academic Affairs