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International High School in Langley Park Creates a Learner-Driven System for English Language Learners in Maryland

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Natalie Truong

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Rethink Instruction, Learn Lessons from the Field

The field of K–12 education is in early stages of designing new, next generation learning models that hold promise for better meeting the needs of all students. This early research is focused on how schools are beginning to innovate, how their approaches are aligned to the research on how students learn best, and specifically, how English language learner (ELL) students learn best. While these next generation models are nascent and most are fewer than ten years in implementation, our goal is to provide examples of case studies of how the field is beginning to take hold and suggest lessons learned for the evolution forward.

The previous blogs in this series provided promising practices in teaching and learning for ELL students, and an analysis into the potential of next generation learning models for these students. These next few posts will highlight case studies of education programs designing personalized, competency-based learning environments for ELL students.

Each case study is considered promising in that they incorporate many of the core principles for next generation learning to support ELL student success. All case studies in this series are examples of programs taking a longer view and a more holistic approach to student outcomes over time — defining the goal as helping students to achieve at high levels over the course of their schooling — in addition to becoming English-proficient.

Each case study will address the core principles for next generation learning for ELL students that were discussed in the previous blog:

  • Redefining success for ELL students
  • Assessments of and for learning
  • Personalized learning approaches
  • Building educator role and capacity

Case Study: International High School at Langley Park

International Network for Public Schools
Location: Bladensburg, MD
Grades Served: 9-10

The International High School in Langley Park (IHSLP) is a part of the Internationals Network for Public Schools that supports primarily ELL students through learning models focused on collaboration, communication and continuous feedback. IHSLP opened in 2015 to bring personalized, competency-based education to roughly 400 ELL students in the Prince George’s County School District. Over 200 students, all classified as ELL, currently attend IHSLP, and many are considered newcomer students. The school plans to continue enrolling 100 more students per year over the next two years, adding an additional grade as the school grows.

The Internationals Schools’ approach to teaching and learning serves ELL students by explicitly teaching the skills and knowledge ELL students need to master language acquisition, literacy and academic content.

The Internationals Network for Public Schools supports 22 campuses across the U.S. to serve the learning needs of ELL students. Each campus collaborates with district and community members to design a school that will meet the specific needs of students within the community. For example, in designing IHSLP, school leaders used family surveys to assess the ELL student population within the district and partnered with community organizations to provide specialized services for students and parents. While each Internationals School campus could differ in the specific courses and services it provides, there are common elements implemented throughout the network of schools. This includes standard-based mastery learning and grading, culturally-responsive teaching, social-emotional learning, competency objectives and personalized learning approaches.

IHSLP follows the Internationals Network pedagogical approach to educating ELLs’ five core principles: heterogeneity and collaboration, experiential learning, language and content integration, localized autonomy and responsibility, and one learning model for all. This educational process takes place in a heterogeneous, learner-centered, collaborative and activity-based environment. Students are organized in diverse clusters mixed according to age, grade, academic ability, prior schooling, native language and language development levels.

Redefining success of ELL students: IHSLP takes a holistic approach to student learning, providing students with learning goals beyond English language proficiency to include academic content, literacy and social-emotional learning. IHSLP created its own curriculum based on language development standards and state content standards to arrive at the skills and competencies ELL students should know and be able to do. IHSLP’s curriculum embeds academic vocabulary, providing students with the strategic vocabulary they need to access English instruction and content. Additionally, social-emotional learning objectives are also taught explicitly, helping nurture dispositions that support lifelong learning and student success.

Assessment of and for learning: IHSLP has a system of ongoing assessments that inform student learning progress toward their language development and content learning goals. Daily assessments based on learning objectives that incorporate language acquisition, literacy, content skills and knowledge, and social-emotional objectives provide a quick snapshot of student learning in each one of these areas. Additionally, weekly performance assessments include larger tasks and provide a more in-depth picture of each student’s learning progress. These formative assessments allow educators to provide individual students with the acceleration or intervention they need based on their areas of strengths and weaknesses.

Personalized learning approaches: IHSLP provides some flexible pacing, extended learning time and continuous engagement with peers and educators to support student learning. IHSLP developed what it calls “Acceleration, Collaboration, and Engagement” model to provide flexibility in pacing for ELL students.

  • Acceleration: Students have choice in which learning objectives and courses they want to focus on at least one day per week. This flexible learning day allows students to work independently or in small groups with educators, spend more time in areas they need more practice in, or accelerate their learning by advancing to their next learning goal and objective.
  • Collaboration: Students work in cooperative learning groups and teams to allow for peer practice and support in content and language.
  • Engagement: Interventions and supports are provided at a small group or individual level to students who need additional time and engagement to master the material.

Educator role and capacity: Every teacher at IHSLP is responsible for teaching language as well as content. Educators at IHSLP improve their practice to better serve their ELL student population through weekly professional development sessions, one-on-one practice with an instructional coach, and monthly cross-campus visits to observe other educators in practice at other Internationals School campuses. Educators receive personalized learning plans with an instructional coach and work on individual goals based on educators’ strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, educators receive targeted supports from their instructional coaches that model what learning strategies should look like for students. The Internationals’ approach, “One Learning Model for All” acknowledges “put another way, the model for adult learning and student learning mirror each other.”

This is the sixth blog post in a series that explores how personalized, competency-based education can advance learning for English Language Learners from iNACOL’s report, Next Generation Learning Model for English Language Learners: Promising Practices and Considerations for Teaching and Learning. The next post will explore Distinctive Schools’ personalized learning model for ELL students.

Follow this blog series for key insights on promising practices for ELL students: