New Jersey: Teachers train to help students with English

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Sep 21 13:09:27 UTC 2007

*Teachers train to help students with
    By KATHLEEN CARROLL / The Record
Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Jersey is preparing a corps of educators with a new specialty: helping
immigrant students master English during regular academic classes.
Non-native speakers have reached a critical mass. Districts focused on
boosting their test scores are including more students in mainstream
classes. So the state Education Department is aiming to prepare 200 regular
classroom teachers for the challenge, by expanding teacher training at three
state universities this fall.
"The students are in regular classes with regular kids," said Raquel Sinai,
coordinator of bilingual and English as a Second Language instruction at the
state Department of Education. "All teachers should have the training, the
knowledge and the skills to work effectively with them."

One in five New Jersey students does not speak English at home. These
students no longer are concentrated in large cities: non-native speakers
were enrolled at two-thirds of school districts during the 2006-07 school
year. Although the state has embraced bilingual education and offers plenty
of programs in Spanish and Korean, New Jersey students account for 167
languages, a significant barrier to offering bilingual classes in every
academic subject.

The state has turned to "sheltered instruction" to prepare teachers for
their evermore inclusive classrooms. New Jersey has trained 400 teachers so
far, in districts such as Glen Rock, Wallington, Passaic and Bergenfield,
during summer sessions at Rowan, Kean and New Jersey City universities. By
following a structured method called Sheltered Instruction Observation
Protocol, or SIOP, teachers learn to incorporate language-learning goals in
subjects such as math, science or social studies, often by writing them on
the blackboard. They measure whether students have achieved both the
academic and language objectives, and incorporate visual cues, hands-on
activities and group discussion to promote language development.

"It is a structured approach to help people who aren't really able to draw
on a deep understanding of second language acquisition," said Carolyn Adger,
director of the language education and academic development division at the
Center for Applied Linguistics, which helped develop the program a decade
ago. The techniques benefit mainstream students as well, because they
promote sophisticated language development and communication skills,
educators say.

A national focus on improving academics for traditionally low-performing
students has spotlighted English language learners' performance on annual
tests. Schools are forced to report their scores separately, and many have
responded to low scores by including more students in regular academic
classes led by teachers with subject expertise. "There is a strong push for
English language learners to perform at the level of native speakers,
because of No Child Left Behind," said Janina Kusielewicz, supervisor of
bilingual education and basic skills instruction in Clifton, among the
state's most linguistically diverse communities.

More than half of Clifton's 11,000 students are non-native speakers,
representing 68 primary languages. About 10 percent of Clifton teachers are
trained in SIOP, particularly those working with older students. In middle
and high school, students are more likely to have graduated from English as
a Second Language classes but are still working at language mastery, said

The program is also popular in Ridgefield Park, where 2,000 students account
for 36 different languages, such as Spanish, Korean, Mandarin Chinese,
Albanian, Turkish and Arabic. "Our population is distributed so unevenly,"
said Louise Chaker, supervisor of bilingual, ESL and basic-skills programs.
"We have so many ethnicities ... I felt there was a tremendous need for
having teachers be a little more sensitive to the needs of the English as a
Second Language student."

During an eighth-grade science class there last week, about two dozen
students were assigned a short project on identifying physical properties.
Students were required to discuss the properties they found in a bag of
everyday items in small-group discussion and a short writing assignment. In
the center of the room, four students -- three mainstream, one ESL -- rifled
through their bag, which was filled with standard office supplies. Teacher
Melody Go prompted them to use descriptive language to explain the contents
to someone who couldn't see them.

"And what do they all have in common?" she asked.

"Work," said Arianna Meza, a 13-year-old ESL student.

She caught herself, and repeated more robustly: "That they are all used for

Later, when the groups were sharing their findings with the class, Arianna
repeated her finding in the more complex phrase. A bright, motivated
student, she spoke only scattered English when she moved to New Jersey from
Ecuador last year. After the lesson, she ably described Go's class as fun
and a comfortable challenge. She had already mastered every English word she
wanted, except one.

"She explains so easily that I can understand what she says," she said. "She
gives me confianza that I can ask whatever I want. What does that mean? Oh
right. Confidence."

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