Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

NPS Highlights – April 11, 2013 – School Committee Meeting

Posted on: April 17, 2013

Bridge Street School:
Bridge Street School has hired a new special education teacher with behavioral intervention experience to help support students at-risk.  These students have significant emotional and behavioral challenges.  Our goal is to help these students overcome their challenges by providing them with constant teacher support, positive reinforcements, a tailored curriculum, and a setting that makes them feel safe and free to express their feelings.

Ryan Road:

Outreach to all of our families has had particular attention at RK Finn Ryan Road School over many years through our Civil Rights Committee, our School Council, and approaches by staff and our families.   This outreach has led us to create events like Hispanic Heritage Fiesta in October and Cambodian New Year, which we are celebrating today, April 11.  Our families have helped us plan these events that help everyone feel connected to our school.  The events have regularly been attended by 150-200 people each time, and they are particularly welcoming to ELL families since we celebrate their traditions, language, and culture.

Leeds:

Leeds’ Community Meetings continue to address the social concerns affecting many at-risk students, highlighting each of the Responsive Classroom values of C.A.R.E.S.:  Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Control.  With school-wide social support considered “norm,” or “cool” at these gatherings, students and teachers can turn more effectively to academic successes.   Also, with all-school involvement, students who shine in the performative arts rather than in linguistic abilities, are being offered a way to showcase their talents, and are seen as part of a larger community of successful students.

JFK:

Grade eight ELL students were given an opportunity to practice their Science presentations about molecules and the carbon cycle in their content support class.   Students were given feedback by adults and peers about pronunciation and clarity before their actual presentation.

Sixth grade English Language Learners have been practicing asking for, and giving directions, while working on reading small maps.  This activity is in preparation for their team field trip to the Bronx Zoo.

NHS:

This has been a challenging year for the ELL students at Northampton High School.   We had to prepare for the new ACCESS for ELL assessment exam at the beginning of 2013.   Much more comprehensive and rigorous than the former MEPA exam, ACCESS for ELLs involves “tiered” levels of testing in all four areas of English Language Arts:  Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing.   With 16 ELL students (ranging from high beginners to low advanced levels of proficiency) enrolled in one period of English language instruction, it was logistically challenging to administer the four different tests.   With Tiers A, B, and C (representing beginner, intermediate, and advanced), ELL students were grouped according to their proficiency levels.   Only three students took Tier C, and they reported that it was very difficult in terms of vocabulary, structures, and content of reading material.  Most ELL students reported feeling confident about their performances on Tiers A and B.  Most challenging for the students was the listening comprehension section of the test in which they had to respond to questions they heard only once.   ELL students reported finding the writing of a long composition fairly easy, as there were visuals and a prompt provided.

To help students perform well not only on the ACCESS for ELL test, but also in their three other content area classes, we practice daily conversational skills by discussing local and world news events, for example.  We read a variety of informational texts that explore areas such as medicine and health, the arts, science, ancient civilizations, explorers and geography.  Everyone is asked to read orally in front of class, which helps develop students’ abilities to make presentations in their other classes and improves their diction and pronunciation.  Finally, students sharpen their listening skills by writing a daily dictation (for which they hear the sentence only one time).  Students write their dictation sentences in both English and their native language. This is important for maintaining their first language skills, as they acquire competence in English.

This year we have students enrolled whose first languages include Spanish, French, Urdu, and Hindi.  And, it is very exciting news that four ELL students will be graduating this June from Northampton High School and going on to higher education at the community college level.  They are:  Oscar Ayala Cornejo from El Salvador, Caroline Patchin from Puerto Rico, John Mayancela from Ecuador, and Yves Antione from Haiti.  The ELL students have been able to achieve success in school with the help of a number of mainstream teachers who have learned to make accommodations for second language learners.

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