Alameda Unified Supports English Learners’ Success Through Inquiry
Suki Mositer and Joanna Katz look intently at an iPhone that sits between them on the table, their headphones allowing them to listen to the video data without disrupting their colleagues. They smile as they hear Suki’s s student describe what it’s like to learn English at home and at school, gaining insight into what is happening for this first grade English Language Learner whose progress has been slower than expected.
At monthly Mills Teacher Scholars inquiry sessions, K-12 ELD and Title 1 teachers from each of Alameda’s schools meet to collaboratively study their focal students’ learning and to make sense of the new Common Core-aligned California English Language Development Standards.
These leaders are charged with supporting their English learner students as well as with leading their colleagues to integrate the new ELD standards into the mainstream classroom. The Mills Teacher Scholars inquiry sessions are an opportunity for the Alameda teachers to become clearer about the Common Core standards, to understand where their students are in relation to those standards, and to identify the instructional shifts necessary to move students forward.
Understanding student learning and putting the students’ experience at the heart of teacher collaboration are the primary goals of the Mills Teacher Scholars work. Suki’s interview with her student is Mills Teacher Scholars’ first phase of orienting the teacher towards the students’ experience. In subsequent sessions the Alameda ELD and Title 1 coaches bring real time data—audio recordings, video recordings, student work — to each inquiry session to illuminate student thinking and learning.
Through their Mills Teacher Scholars inquiry work, these Alameda teachers are exploring questions about language acquisition and content learning that resonate with many teachers in California and across the country. As they gain clarity on how to support their students’ learning in the age of Common Core, they are better able to serve their students. As they build their skills to support their colleagues’ inquiries, they are poised to become instructional leaders within their district and beyond.