WARREN, NJ - October is Bilingual Child Month and Angelo L. Tomaso staff and students have been exploring the variety of languages spoken within the Warren Township community. “Our students need a global perspective,” said Mary Sfiris, veteran teacher and chair of the Global Perspectives Committee. “Today’s students will, as adults, collaborate via technology with co-workers from across the globe. Their vision needs to extend beyond Warren and beyond the United States.” The Global Perspectives Committee, comprised of five educators, was created in 2013 by Sfiris as she saw the need to bring 21st century multicultural viewpoints to the classroom. The educators are focused on helping the students develop an understanding of how the content we learn is an integral part of the world in which we live.
Dr. Susan Kline, REACH teacher, is also a member of the Global Perspectives Committee. Students from her math compacting program, surveyed over 300 staff and students at ALT School this month. The students gained hands-on experience structuring a formal survey to answer a specific question, and administered the survey with consistency among the target population. The students then created a bar graph to visually represent the large quantity of data. This allowed for quick analysis of the information from which conclusions were drawn. The students discovered that more than one-third of the respondents are fluent in at least one of 26 different languages, other than English. “Not only did students enjoy surveying their classmates, but they were learning important 21st century skills involving the gathering and use of data,” stated Kline.
Mrs. Susan Jackson, the School Library Media Specialist and committee member, contributed to the project as well by inviting students who knew how to write their first name in another language to share. Students wrote their names in languages such as Chinese, Hebrew, Guarani, and Greek among others. “I was surprised how many children could do this,” said both Jackson and Principal Kathy Bond. The language survey data and colorful student names were combined to create a large display for all ALT visitors to see.
At the Board of Education meeting on October 6, Mrs. Lauren Valera presented on ELL (English Language Learners) and the many different aspects of the program within the school district. She began by introducing the “alphabet soup” of ELL, defining basic terminology and explaining acronyms, which are plentiful in education. She shared that the State of New Jersey is part of the WIDA Consortium, a group formed to meet the needs of No Child Left Behind and to be certain that ELL students get an equitable education. Additionally, WIDA had developed English language standards, created the ACCESS test, and continues to be a source of valuable instructional tools. Valera carefully outlined the process of how Warren Township Schools identifies students; a home language survey is used to see who has a native language other than English. Screening tools then assess a student’s proficiency in English to determine whether or not he or she is eligible for ELL services.
Sharing enrollment information with the Board and community attendees, Valera stated that there are currently 55 ELL students benefiting from the program and 18 languages represented. In addition to their classroom teachers, students are seen daily by one of three ELL teachers, who cover the five schools. In the spring, children will take assessments in the four language domains that follow: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
Another component of the presentation was the exit process; it involves multiple criteria including teacher input, standardized testing, and the students’ ACCESS scores. While the State cut-off score for the ACCESS test is a 4.5, Warren Township sets the bar at 4.6 and is committed to helping ELL students be successful. Research shows that it takes between 2-4 years for students to develop social language and 5-7 years for academic language.
With the support of Superintendent Dr. Tami Crader, all of the ELL teachers are currently working with Curriculum Supervisor Stacey Hann-Modugno to plan a parent outreach night. This event will invite families to get involved in the school community and community at large.
Many have already been involved! In the summer of 2014, ELL families and bilingual staff were eager to help with a project involving the Warren Township Schools’ brand, “Shining Brighter Every Day”, which was adopted as a result of the Strategic Planning process. Representing numerous countries, the district’s brand, was translated into a variety of languages by parents and staff, creating displays throughout the schools as well as in the Office of the Superintendent. “Shining Brighter” welcomes people to celebrate the diversity of languages and cultures while also celebrating the unity of the brand. Warren Township Schools… Shining Brighter Every Day.
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