By Lindi Dreibelbis
Some may be surprised to learn that La Cañada Unified students represent 37 different home languages. Students with such varied backgrounds bring a wealth of linguistic and cultural diversity to our classrooms. Some students arrive already academically fluent in English while others do not. It is our responsibility to teach grade-level standards to all students, no matter their fluency in English.
If high school students arrive with limited English, we would not teach them elementary curriculum. It is our charge to teach the appropriate grade level content and expand English skills as quickly as possible. All teachers at LCUSD have had special training on the latest methods to make curriculum accessible to students with limited English proficiency. This may look like visual or written support for oral language, repetition, modeling, realia, hands-on activities, graphic organizers, high interest/low vocabulary materials about the content being explored and/or frequent checks for understanding—just to name a few.
To support the differentiated instruction in general education classrooms, English learners also benefit from a designated ELD teacher and paraprofessional at each school site. These part-time positions provide English learners supplementary instruction to increase the speed of their English acquisition. Students learn English faster when they have targeted instruction rather than simply “swimming in the mainstream” with fluent English speakers. At the elementary schools, the ELD teachers and adult aides assist English learners in their classrooms or provide individualized or small group lessons focused on the particular needs of the students. Students may need help in listening, speaking, reading or writing English and the ELD teachers and paraprofessionals are valuable in bridging any gaps.
At the high school, lead ELD teachers (7/8 and 9-12), a paraprofessional and the counselors provide additional support for English learners beyond the differentiation provided in their general ed classrooms. The ELD lead teachers meet with English learners each week in the STEP or homeroom periods. They provide targeted ELD lessons and help English learners with their core subjects too. These teachers are also advocates for English learners helping them navigate the demands of the American education system. The paraprofessional also assists students academically in the ELD class or with other subjects. The counselors provide extra assistance through close monitoring of English learner progress and additional meetings with the students and their parents.
While the English learner population is small in LCUSD (less than 5% of the total student population), these students receive individualized attention to meet their needs so that they become academically fluent as quickly as possible. We are proud to offer a top-notch ELD Program of quality instruction that demonstrates results. English learners in La Cañada become fluent and exit the ELD Program at a much higher rate than the county or the state.