Big things for English learners in David Douglas | Chalkboard Project

Big things for English learners in David Douglas

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 Iris Chavez

If you’re a student at David Douglas you’re surrounded by some of the top educators and administrators in Oregon and getting access to innovative solutions in language access in the early grades. David Douglas’s effort to provide “Language For All” was recently highlighted in a project sharing district profiles from New America’s Dual Language Learners National Work Group.

In the David Douglas School District (DDSD), big things are happening for students who are English learners. The district was just recognized for having met language targets for English learners, two years running, by the state Department of Education and we’re here to discuss how they’re getting this work done.

In David Douglas nearly one in ten students are classified as dual language learners (which is twice the national average) and over 70 languages are spoken by these students, and their families. With particular elementary schools showing over 30% of students classified as dual language learners (DLL), DDSD reali [ChavezELLpllqte] zed that a pull-out model for language development was taking too many kids out of academic instruction each day. As the district explored how best to serve their DLL students they recognized that for any program change to be successful, long-term, it would need to be done in tandem with changes in policy, funding and how they utilize community resources. So, in recent years DDSD has done all that! They’ve flipped their English language development model on its head, with a push-in model, enhanced collaboration with community partners & parents, blended funding streams (and found new ones), and is closely monitoring implementation. They call it the Language for All model.

What does Language for All mean?

On instruction: instead of pulling all DLL students out of their academic classrooms for language development each day, schools are setting aside daily blocks of time for oral language development and ALL elementary school students participate. During this block of time students are placed in groups with others who have roughly similar levels of English language proficiency (so, some students do move to other classrooms to find their peers) and teachers are able to provide more targeted instruction that supports the group’s language development needs. This model has the added benefit of recognizing that, particularly in the early grades, all students are language learners and it removes the barriers between DLL-classified students and their peers.

On implementation: In 2012, after the district had begun the pilot for the DLL model state budget cuts threatened to hinder the effort. After careful thought, the district instead decided to speed up implementation and got creative about how to utilize their current staff to do so! David Douglas asked some English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers to take lead teacher roles and others to be language coaches to support teachers’ implementation of the new ELD instructional block. With this new structure, schools that had previously needed several ESL teachers now only needed one language coach. The district also began to think about how they can use federal Title I funds to support this work and they’re now hiring reading specialists who work in media classrooms to incorporate technology with literacy and language development programs. Schools are also leveraging funds from Head Start, Individuals with Disabilities Act, and Multnomah County Department of Human Services.

On community collaborations: Organizations such as the Children’s InstituteMetropolitan Family Services, and Padres Unidos are working with the district to provide early learning opportunities and wrap around service for students and their families at elementary school sites. Earl Boyles Elementary School is one where school where this has happened most quickly. Earl Boyles has tapped the expertise of their families, the community organizations and the local and federal funding sources to put in place a comprehensive pre-K program (that includes weekly home visits), family programs for parenting, literacy, financial training, all housed in a brand new wing of the school, the “community hub.”

All of this work has been designed to be implemented with current staff and just few additional resources. This is really an effort to capitalize on the expertise that all stakeholders can bring to the effort and put in place the kinds of practices and partnerships that will provide a top-notch learning environment for all students and their families.


Iris Chavez serves on the Chalkboard staff as temporary project manager working alongside work groups and partners involved with the implementation of HB3499—addressing implementation associated with the recently passed English language learners (ELL) funding.
She is also representing Chalkboard with the community partner, Oregon Alliance for Educational Equity. Previously, Iris served as government affairs director for Stand for Children, Oregon, and before that, was assistant field director at The Education Trust in Washington, D.C.

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