LHS SEI Endorsement Group

Weekly support meeting at Freshman Academy Thursday after school starting 3/7/13. Room 906.

Archived Materials and Discussions for LHS/LPS use in the DESE SEI Endorsement Course, Spring 2013

#1: Information from Steve Gervais relevant to paper #1 and paper #2.

  • From: Gervais, Stephen
  • Sent: Sunday, March 03, 2013 11:08 AM
  • To: Gervais, Stephen
  • Subject: RETELL COURSE information

Hello - I do not seem to be able to get on the school view for X2 right now so I will have to adjust some of my responses to your guided questions a little later, or possibly tomorrow if I need some [[#|assistance]]. In answering these guided questions I do not mean to patronize anyone with responses that may seem too obvious. I will simply assume that I should answer as comprehensively as possible. I can also clarify or add to whatever you may need.** ELL numbers question was answered in the first response to Nancy Murphy last week.* I need to add five additional 01 [[#|codes]] to X2 based on the numbers who came in between 25 February and 1 March. I will likely have more students entering this coming week as well. Our ELL population is growing, but with different countries represented than had been the case even three or four years ago. And for many of the ELL students, the literacy needs are profound, while for others, they adjust rather quickly and can move into [[#|general education]] (sometimes referred to as mainstream) [[#|classes]].
    • What countries are people from? Iraq, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Nepal, Colombia, Kenya, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, India, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Philippines, Uganda, Liberia, Argentina, Honduras, Haiti, Cambodia,Portugal, Ecuador, Cape Verde, Germany, China, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Korea, Italy, Cameroun, El Salvador, Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam, Congo (both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Congo (Brazzaville), Guinea, Canada, Zambia, Guatemala, Somalia, Gabon, Saudia Arabia, Peru, Jamaica and Slovakia. These are the places that are listed on X2 for birthplaces of our ELL students. The one individual who is from Slovakia is an exchange student. There are a few other exchange students whose countries are represented here as well ( Germany and Thailand for example), but they are not the only ones from those two countries. There are also many Puerto Ricans in our population of ELLs, but Puerto Rico's status as an American commonwealth means that those students are listed as being born in the United States.
Another point to consider with this last question is that people may be originally from one place, but have had to live elsewhere for various reasons due to myriad circumstances. Our Burmese students ( who are from many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and do not all speak the same language) may have lived in refugee camps in Thailand or in challenging conditions in cities in Malaysia. Many of our Iraqi students may not even remember much about Iraq as their families may have been living for years in Jordan, Syria or Turkey. The students from the Democratic Republic of the Congo may have been living for years in surrounding countries in Africa. Some of our students who were born in Nepal are actually ethnically Bhutanese who may have been living in refugee camps for years. It is impossible to detail here each individual student's scenario, but I hope that this gives some information you can use.
    • What languages do people speak? This is the question that I need to get my [[#|access]] to X2 fixed to answer comprehensively, but I will give you some idea. Besides the obvious choices of Spanish, Khmer, Portuguese and Arabic, we have students who speak myriad other languages. The students from Burma may or may not speak Burmese, as they may only speak Karen, Karenni or Chin at home. Students from Nigeria may be comfortable in English, but might speak Ebo at home. Many Ghanians speak Twi in addition to English. A couple of our most recent arrivals from Iraq are not as comfortable in Arabic as they are in Kurdish. Swahili is commonly spoken by a number of our students from eastern Africa, but may not be the first language they speak at home. Chinese students may speak Mandarin, but Cantonese or one of the other dialects of the Chinese language may be the preferred language at home. And for our students from various countries of Africa, or even India, although English may have been used as a language of instruction in school, there are different forms, dialects and creoles that mean that we are not always mutually intelligible. For anyone who has ever heard certain accents in northern England (Yorkshire, Newcastle and Liverpool) or Scotland (particularly Glasgow and other areas in the west of that country) you know that it may take a lot of time to adjust to what you are listening to. This topic could be covered in a whole other course. Don't worry, the state will not require this!
    • Why did they leave? People leave their countries for all the reasons that they have always left. We have immigrants, refugees and those who seek asylum. A lot of our pupils are fleeing war, poverty and violence, though not all are. Some are here to be reunified with other family members who have already been living here. All of these reasons can have effects on student learning, although how this may manifest itself depends on the individual. We have students who arrive excited to be learning and who have the study skills necessary to be successful, but may not have the language. Others may have some ability in conversational English, but no exposure to academic English. Others have a little, broken or no formal schooling at all:SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education)or SLIFE (Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education). As you can surmise, all of these circumstances can affect the student and his or her ability to learn. Add to all of this a measure of culture shock which can be minor, disruptively major, or cyclical, and tends to occur in stages.
    • What is known about parents? With any of the recent arrivals at Lowell High School, I sit down with the parents and the students to get to know them. This may be done in English or another language, with the help of an interpreter if it is a language I cannot speak. We talk about school, American customs and culture and expectations - both theirs of us as an educational institution, and ours of them as students and parents of students in our schools. The parents' levels of educational attainment and occupations run the gamut, although we are rather less likely to see the children of highly paid professionals (from any continent) than are our colleagues in some suburban districts. This being said, we do have students whose families were middle or upper middle class with professional jobs in the countries that they were originally from. War, disaster, or other life circumstances can change everything for them in an instant, and many arrive with absolutely nothing. For those who want to know why people arrive in Lowell as opposed to another community, I can answer that in a different e-mail.
    • strengths - This is an interesting question, and perhaps the most controversial of all that you have been asked to write about. Although every parent wants what is best for his or her child, people bring with them different values. One of the points I make to every new family in my interviews with them is that they are not forced to give up all that was important to them in their own country, but that the burden of change is essentially on them to adjust to being here.Accomodations can be made, but we do have a culture here. They may not like every aspect of American culture, but that they will need to make adjustments as they now live in a new country and society.Using English as much as possible is one point I make. I do not denigrate anyone's language, and tell them that it is an essential part of who they are, but if they come to school and constantly use Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, French etc., they will not be helping themselves at all ( I can give specific example of this if anyone needs them.) Obviously, certain cultural values will benefit people - a respect for learning, education and teachers; good communication skills with their children; being on time; having an ability to adapt or become bicultural. Family support and literacy skills are also beneficial, but it is important to remember that our ELL students' parents are also subject to the same wrenching changes as their children, without the advantage of youth and the additional support that the school enviroment can provide.
    • Assessing levels - All of our recent arrivals and their families meet with me at least once, and usually twice during the intake process. This may be alone or with an interpreter. Students take a test designed by ELL staff for both English and math to aid in their placement. We have our new Literacy Center for those who have the most profound language needs, and four levels of ELL classes: Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced and Transtional. They also can take ELL classes in science and social studies as needed, although some students end up with hybrid schedules depending on their ability in different subject areas. Recently I had an arrival from Cambodia who needed to be in an Advanced ELL English class, but who had the acumen to be in Advanced Placement math. In deciding which students stay in the program, ELL teachers will frequently contact each other about various students to figure out what academic choices will best serve that individual. We also look at the same standardized tests that everyone else does - GRADE, MCAS, (formerly MEPA and MELA-O, but soon ACCESS), to see what will best help those before us. (I can give more detail about this as needed too.)
    • Preparation - This is an individualized question that each teacher will have to decided for him or herself.
I apologize if this is too wordy, or if there are any errors in my writing, but I would like to get this out to you so that you can do your work. I would be happy to give more information as needed, and there is a lot more I could say about every one of these guiding questions. Paula Barranco, Barbara Hodgson and I are working on a way that we could meet with people in a larger group if you need to ask us more questions.

  • Stephen

*From: Gervais, Stephen
Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 7:50 PM
To: Murphy, Nancy
Subject: RE: retell course info
Hello Nancy,
It is no bother at all. I have spoken to at least five people today who were looking for information. Chucky B gave me the questions that I believe you have all been asked to consider. I am working on getting some of those responses out to those who need it. I just queried X2 10 minutes ago and got the following numbers. I had 3,138 active students listed, of whom 575 are designated 01, or Limited English Proficient (LEP). An additional 503 are designated as 02, which is Formerly Limited English Proficient, or FLEP. The 01 students are the ones who had to take the ACCESS Test. I will continue trying to gather this material, or direct you where you can find it.

#2. Reply to #1 (Rob DeLossa)

Sunday, March 03, 2013 11:08 PM
Keefe, Kathleen; Gervais, Stephen

I'm late to this conversation and haven't seen the earlier iterations, so I apologize in advance if I cover ground already discussed.
It strikes me that in the "what are their strengths" and "why do they leave categories" there needs to be some sort of acknowledgment of the fundamental categories of kids who are through-migrants and repeat migrants, and those for whom Lowell is a more-or-less final destination. I have in mind, especially, Caribbean basin populations that move back and forth, and may even move extensively within the States due to economic opportunities (or lack thereof), domestic problems, relationships, etc., with the results that kids are SIFE not because of war or lack of indigenous opportunity, but because of parental migratory behavior. It's not just an ELL immigrant issue: my mother was a teacher in AZ and saw a lot of this with "non-immigrant" American families that engaged in extensive migratory behavior, with the result that kids in elementary school often had already been in six or eight different schools, had incomplete records and testing, and were functionally SIFE and ELL, even though they were L1 English speakers. There is a difference between what is being brought to the table there and with other populations, since the reality of "I'll be gone in two months" can greatly affect student outcomes. (I unsuccessfully wrestled with this with a student during the first semester. He kept telling me, "Why should I bother? I'll be gone before the end of the semester..." Interventions in the classroom and at the house level were ineffective against that, and, indeed, he was gone before the end of the semester. He was disruptive for several of the other ELLs in the class, but not to the extent that I could have recommended an alternative program. The effect of his migratory history and lack of permanence, though, affected the classroom negatively and made him resistant to the sorts of supports that other ELLs respond to. I've had only a handful of such cases over the years, but their effect on classrooms is always outsized and negative.)
I don't know if it's still true, but in a conversation I had with a specialist on the subject about eight years ago, he told me that Caribbean basin immigrants are unique in the U.S. for the amount of in- and out-migration that they do, and patterns of impermanence for a sizable proportion of them. (I doubt though that it's more than 20%, though.) Their experience of immigration, then, is different, in that out-migration is always an option. It also is the case that the established communities for immigrants from PR and DR are much larger and widespread than for other groups. (I don't think that Haitians fit this pattern, because there isn't significant emigration back to Haiti of immigrants here.)
By the way, glad to have received this, too. I'm sure others would love the resource. Maybe we could create a wikispaces RETELL resource for LHS teachers to use with precisely this sort of thing on it.
Katie, the paper's not due until a week from Monday/Tuesday, right? I thought only the two discussion pieces from session 1 are due now. Let me know if I'm wrong.