This paper will represent a framework for the future implementation of a transitional program specifically for English Language Learners (ELL's). The transitional program I am proposing is of great interest to me because it will address the difficulties and needs ELL students experience during the transition from ESL to main stream courses, and as the number of limited English proficient students continues to experience a steady increase, my school building which I will name XHS is not the exception and year after year we experience an increase in attendance by the ELL's.
My school building is one of five high schools I the district, and it currently houses the largest ELL population. The school is located in an affluent middle class area surrounded by residential homes on one side, and commercial property on the other and it is by no means, a neighborhood school. Students come from all areas of the city and from all social and ethnic backgrounds. XHS is also the only school in the district with an open registration policy, which means that at any time during the school year our registration continues to increase.
The school demographic profile is as follows, 53% of the population is Hispanic or Latino, 76% are eligible for free lunch, 4% are eligible for reduced-price lunch, and 16% are limited English proficient (New York State, 2009).
Currently under New York State ESL program, students are classified according to their scores on the New York State English as Second Language Test (NYSESLAT), where test scores will indicate each student's placement in either beginning, intermediate or advanced proficiency level. Under New York State and CR Part 154 regulations, ESL students are required to receive the required ESL units of instruction. A student that scored beginning, three units or 540 minutes per week are required, if a student scored intermediate, two units of instruction or 360 minutes per week are required, if a student scores advanced only one unit or 180 minutes of instruction per week are required. However, if the student scores proficient in the NYSESLAT examination, that student automatically stops receiving ESL services and is scheduled into main stream classes.
English language learners continue to significantly impact the communities in my district, but also my school. The English language learner population continues to grow faster than the native students (Thompson, 2000).
To the teachers and students at XHS, this presents an interesting challenge and it is why it became a topic of concern and an area where improvement can impact the education of the ELL students at XHS. The struggles these student face in a new country while trying to learn a new language, the "language shock" and "culture shock" students have to overcome to be accepted in a society that is not always that accepting and does not always embrace the diversification of its citizens is a heavy burden, especially for a teenager.
Political and social issues that surround immigration and the cultural diversification in the United States also hinder what seems to be a simples language acquisition task, where the role of our schools as required by law under CR Part 154 regulations requires that schools provide immigrant students programs that will help non English speakers acquire the language and become productive and contributing members of our society.
As we identify and label students on their inability and proficiency in communicating in English, there are many other obstacles that ELL students encounter while becoming English speakers. Too often ELL's realize that to be fully accepted in this county they sometimes surrender a little of their culture, often abandoning their native language and being pressured to speak only English. As an educator I am particularly aware of the circumstances and social obstacles that ELL students face at my school on a daily basis. Just as in my personal experience, I did not just learn English in the classroom; I was learning English throughout the day in a social climate while interacting with other student in the hallways, or with adults at the supermarket. Often ELL student are made fun of when they speak their native language, or when trying to speak English. Experiences like these often forces ELL's to withdraw and become silent, which further hinder their ability to learn English and other academic achievements.
Another important consideration for my transitional program is the fact that ELL students are taught academic English in self contained ESL classes, so they often don't interact with English speaking peers, socially or academically, making it very difficult to learn "slang" or social English, often feeling like outcasts.
Description of the proposed program:
The transitional program that I am proposing will support the ELL students in language and cultural integration, while enabling them with a smoother transition into main stream classes. Support will build on the student's language fluency and academic skills. Before presenting my proposal to the school principal for approval, I have provided a short description of the transitional program and in which areas of support will focus on with the ELL population. What follows is a description of the transitional program for the year 2010- 2011. ESL transitional program for the '10 - '11 academic school year.
Support will be offered in the following areas:
Students will meet with the teacher for 45 minutes (1 period) two times a week.
Reading, writing, listening, speaking, and grammar.
Building on integrated cross-curricular skills.
Program will focus on engaging and motivating students to achieve higher expectations.
Building study skills important for their academic success.
The implementation of this project will require the use of multi frames concept, from the use of the structural frame, where rules, policies, and procedures will have to be developed and implemented. In the human resource frame, the lead teacher will be selected from the current staff, and will have total autonomy of the project. The political frame will also be taken in consideration, where I am sure resources will be limited and negotiations with the administration regarding scheduling issues that will arise. Finally, the symbolic frame, where teachers and students will hopefully welcome and embrace the initiative, and any planning will be done cooperatively and with the student's best interests in mind.
During the implementation of this project, I will also be considering the generational gaps we have previously discussed. My building is mostly composed of "baby boomers", and with that in mind during the staff selection I will consider the personal and interpersonal group dynamics of the candidates as discussed by Bolman & Lee (2008). I will also consider the cultural norms and the how such norms will affect school improvement as described in Saphier & King (1985).
At this time in the 2009 - 2010 academic school year I have identified 37 students that fall in the Former Limited English Proficiency (FLEP) category, and meet the criteria for my proposed transitional program. These are the students that have scored proficient in the NYSLAT state examination in May of 2009, and no longer fall under the mandates required under CR Part 154 regulations to receive ESL services.
Planning for the project from a structural frame will require the coordination of resources and the setting of objectives. Scheduling for the proposed program will be addressed during the meeting with the administration. Because student will only be meeting two times a week, I don't foresee the scheduling being an issue. From a human relations frame, promoting participation will be done by the administrative staff, positive reinforcement and empowering those involved in the initiative will be essential to its success. The selection of the teacher will be made from the existing staff, in doing so will avoid any union concerns that may arise with the new position. Scheduling for the will be adjusted and will meet contract requirements and guidelines. From a symbolic frame, leadership will play their role in inspiring and will be active participants, supporting the initiative and acknowledging the importance of the work being done.
Communication and the sharing of information will be essential to the success of this initiative. Using Bolman & Deal's leadership frames, the structural frame will play a major role in this initiative. Information must be gathered and procedures must be put into place to effectively manage and measure the progress of ELL students enrolled in the program. Because this will be the first year of implementation, there is not previous data that may be used to appropriately compare or measure the success of the program. From a human relations frame, in dealing with communication, it will be extremely important to maintain constant communication and exchange information as it pertains to the program, so that needs and feelings of the participants are addressed immediately and the necessary adjustments are made to alleviate the pressures that accompany the implementation of any new program. This can only be accomplished with the active participation of the administrative team assigned to oversee the initiative.
In order to ease the gathering of information, and to facilitate communication amongst administration and staff, figure 1 is a sample form created to gather basic information about the students. This form will be easy to share between teachers that share the same students. The section labeled "Other Assessment date" will be gathered to show the progress the students have made.
Figure 1. : Form to gather student's information.
The form in figure 2 will be used to further collect data on the student, based on each of the initial three marking periods. Information will collected on the information listed on the form.
Figure 2. : Form to collect data for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd marking periods.
The last form I am listing is figure 3. This form will be used in conjunction with the other two forms provided. This form will gather data from the mainstream teacher servicing the students in the program in the areas of attendance, class work, homework and other areas of concern that may be added on by the teacher. This form will only have to be filled out twice a year, during the fall and spring marking periods.
Figure 3 : Form to collect information from mainstream teacher.
As I continue to explore the different variables that are part of this initiative, its complexity reminds me of Fullan theories in leading in complex situations (Fullan, 2001).
Because this initiative will be implemented for the first time, building successful relationships will ultimately lead to the successful implementation of the transitional program. Fullan, (1993) states that "moral purpose or making a difference, concerns bringing about improvements", in other words, if educators are to be engaged in a productive change process, they must be provided with the necessary tools to achieve it, and by doing so, moral purpose will keep teacher focused on the needs of students enabling them to develop methods and strategies to better accomplish their goals.
Fullan & Hargreaves (1991) discuss the importance of collaboration, and how important it is becoming in today's organizations. As it is applicable to my change project, the collaboration between teachers and administration will be a key factor in the implementation of the project. In being the project leader, I will do my best to ensure that it happens.
As I reflect on my leadership skills, and my involvement in this change project, I have come to realize that there are areas where I am very strong, there are other areas where I can improve on. I consider my strengths in the following areas; I have strong managerial and organizational skills, which I attribute to my business background. I am efficient when assessing a situation and making a quick decision, while others think and decide how to go about it, I will take the initiative and "get the ball rolling". At times I am very critical, but always look for ways to improve the process, and at times it has been a little intimidating to others. This is definitely an area that requires attention.
An ability that I will definitely have to improve on to demonstrate my leadership abilities in the role of project leader, and as a change agent will have to be my interaction with other faculty members. I will have to make myself much more approachable and available to all at XHS faculty and administration. As the project leader, administrators and teachers will undoubtedly have questions and concerns for me which may require immediate attention.
In reflecting about my change project, I remind myself of the vision I have for this initiative. A vision that I have wished to bring to fruition shortly after I began my teaching career, and as I became more familiar with the inner workings of the educational organization and the demands it places on administrators, faculty and students.
Although the change plan I propose is to initially be implemented as a pilot program in my school building, I expect it to be a welcome addition to the educational program a XHS. My personal vision for this program came from within; being an ELL student myself it gives it a special meaning. My personal connection makes it easier of me to articulate my vision. I hope that by the second year the transitional program will be introduced to other high schools in the district. I am also aware that it will not be an easy ride, as there are many areas of concern when implementing a transitional program for ELL students, however, I truly believe that it will positively impacting ELL students in their transition into main stream classes throughout the district.
On a personal note, working on the development of the project has made me think and more importantly it has given me valuable knowledge and experience that will make me a better leader, and that we as educators and leaders have the responsibility to our students to implement change, especially in areas where change is required.