Interview with Rosalinda Galvez, Director of Language & Literacy
By Frédéric M. Martin, Editor-in-Chief
Up to 6,000 students receive English Learner (EL) instruction at Madera Unified. English Learner instruction is required by the State of California and is paid for from the school district’s General Fund. The EL program is being revamped to keep up with new technologies, assessment methodologies, and teaching strategies. The new visionary plan features a detailed implementation roadmap. Because there are many levels of English learners, there is no one-size-fits-all in practice. To better address the students’ needs, the Madera Unified School District has established real-world classifications to tailor corresponding educational programs, including feasibility, benchmarks, and updated assessment parameters. MUSD encourages English Learner language development and cultural literacy, so students are not merely learning a language, but also aim to capture and understand the fundamental cultural components that make up and transform the living language they are studying. As Rosalinda Galvez, Director of Language & Literacy, stated during our interview, “We also encourage integrated instruction with strategies that benefit all the students, for students to speak up, and foster conversations.” The new assessments are no longer multiple choice, but rather require the students to write, in full sentences, and develop paragraph answers, to more fully engage them in deeper practice and use of the language they aim to master. MUSD started the process of revamping the program, last September, when it hired Francisca Sanchez, a well-known presenter and expert in English Language Development, a consultant at Provocative Practice, with a proven track record in various Bay Area school districts, including San Francisco, San Jose, Hayward, and Oakland. Francisca is a frequent speaker at the National Association of Bilingual Educators (NABE) and the California Association of Bilingual Educators (CABE) conferences, where MUSD Trustees attended her session last year. In her practice, she insisted on meeting with local stakeholders, including School Board members, students, educators, community leaders, retired teachers, and business members, who participated in a series of evening meetings going over the status quo and improvement objectives. The EL program upgrade process started in September of 2017 and the MUSD Board approval for the new program is imminent.
Student data is showing that English Learners represent about 25 percent of the district’s student body. Teaching EL takes many forms: depending on the site, the student profiles, ages and concentration of need, some students receive instruction within their normal class setting and, in some cases, in a pull-out class. Regardless of the format, the students do receive forty-five minutes of English Learning instruction, integrated into their grade’s curriculum.
In Madera, the following languages are frequently encountered: Spanish, Mixteco, as well as an increasing presence of Punjabi. EL students who start at MUSD in kindergarten have usually caught up with their English-speaking classmates by the time they get to third grade and are typically eligible to be re-designated as no longer in need of EL coursework.
Besides the English immersion programs, of which the main goal is to transition all the EL students into fully able English speakers, MUSD has also recently launched a very well received Dual Language Instruction (DLI) program, now in its second year at Madison Elementary. The DLI program aims at full biliteracy for all its students, currently offered in the English and Spanish languages. Another, yet to be determined, elementary school will launch its own DLI program, eventually leading to a fully integrated K-12 DLI program, potentially also featuring an additional language, in the future.
Some of the key improvements in the EL program include coherence in instruction throughout K-12 at MUSD, articulating a clear program that is focused on addressing the needs specific to the student body profiles as they come into contact with MUSD educators. Teaching methodologies are designed to be flexible and more apt at properly evaluating the best strategies to positively impact EL student achievement. The instruction program’s performance is being assessed more often to provide the correct feedback to help prioritize and shape the teaching methods, steer educational goals and student progress, while also enforcing standards-based performance targets, via the use of shared generally accepted best practice. The Parent Resource Centers that have successfully expanded throughout the school district, are also leveraged to complement EL instruction, by providing hands-on tools for English Learners’ parents to help guide and support their children in learning in either or both languages. EL students and their parents both learn to use chrome books and how to communicate with the teachers. The partnership with parents via Parent Resource Centers yields obvious and quantifiable results that substantially contribute to their children’s academic achievements.
Madera Unified School District’s EL program is also partnering with California State University, Fresno: Dr. Cristina Herrera, Chair of the Chicano and Latin American Studies had recently started a course for DLI instructors to enhance their teaching skills and strategies.
The course will span the first semester of this school year to prepare teacher-students for their Bilingual, Cross-Cultural, Language and Academic Development (BLCAD) teaching certification, also known as the Bilingual Authorization. This authorization is helpful for both EL and DLI instructors.