The Cheney School Board approved an annual I-grant application for the State Transitional Bilingual Instructional program at their Sept. 11 meeting. This will ensure language services are provided to students who do not speak English as their primary language.
The school district will continue to use a Sheltered Instruction content-based program model in which students are taught academic subjects using English as the language of instruction with support of a para-educator.
“We use the content that the students are receiving in a regular classroom and then use vocabulary development and support around conversational skills with those students either right in the classroom or, depending on their need, pulled out and supported with staff members to help guide them through,” Shannon Lawson, assistant director of student support services said.
Although Cheney’s numbers are relatively small compared to other districts around the state, the state-funded program served 86 pre-school through high school students last spring, a figure that is expected to be similar for the upcoming school year.
Last year Spanish speaking students received the most support in the district followed by Russian speaking students and an influx of Arabic speaking students due in large part to an educational program being offered to Saudi Arabian college students at Eastern Washington University.
To qualify for the Bilingual Instructional program, students must register and fill out a home-language survey to determine what primary languages are spoken at home, Lawson explained. After the initial survey, language specialist Mary Sullivan visits the home of the students and assesses them to determine their fluency in English. Based on the results of the assessment and survey, Sullivan will determine if the students qualify for the program and what amount of service will be needed.
The students that qualify for the program receive vocabulary support and conversational skills and content-based instruction in math, science, social studies and other instructional pieces from trained staff and educators.
“We have several staff members who have an endorsement as English as a second language,” Lawson said. “So they have a foundation of the strategies that are effective with students learning another language.”
And these strategies are not only reserved to students learning another language.
“What’s great is those strategies are great for all children,” Lawson said. “So the staff members can benefit the students who are learning English as a second language and also all the children in their classroom.”
To ensure the program is effective, the district performs assessments both in the fall and spring to monitor the students and make sure they are making measurable gains, Lawson explained.
“It’s great to be able to meet the needs of these children and their families and to welcome them,” Lawson said. “It also provides us a great opportunity to learn about another culture, another language, and its wonderful to see the students really embraced by their peers in a school building and they learn from each other and end up having a really rich, diverse experience.”