ELL Programs

ELL Programs and Services

The SPPS Office of Multilingual Learning offers English language development to qualifying students in a multi-tiered manner. Instruction of ELs in St. Paul Public Schools is the shared responsibility of many, including EL teachers, classroom or content teachers and specialists, and bilingual educational assistants. The current instructional model has shifted from focusing primarily on reading instruction to an explicit focus on academic language development within content areas. SPPS ELL programs are shaped by the language as action perspective and engage students in well supported, significant, and authentic activity that develop academic autonomy over time. Language as action complements the rigorous expectations laid out in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (Alvarez et al., 2014, p. 8).

As of July 2013, Saint Paul Public Schools adopted Racial Equity Policy 101.00 based on the work of Pacific Educational Group. The purpose of this policy is to address institutional racism that results in predictably-lower academic achievement for students of color. This policy is the broad umbrella that ensures access to rigorous academic coursework for all students. The SPPS English Learner (EL) programs strive to ensure equity and equal access to grade-level curriculum and standards in order to ensure English learners are able to reach their highest potential.

In SPPS, the work of Dr. Ofelia Garcia, Graduate Center of the City University of New York, frames the mindset shift from limited English-proficient or English language learner to that of emergent bilingual. In the words of Garcia (2008), the label of English learner “devalues other languages and puts the English language in a sole position of legitimacy” (p. 7). SPPS emergent bilingual students bring a wealth of knowledge of languages, cultures, views of the world and ways of learning to our schools. SPPS strives to capitalize on the potential the students and their families bring to the communities rather than their limitations.

In July 2011, Minnesota joined the WIDA Consortium and adopted the WIDA standards, assessments, and guiding principles. WIDA’s Can Do Philosophy is based on the belief that all students bring to their learning cultural and linguistic practices, skills, and ways of knowing from their homes and communities.

Content-Based ELD for English Learners in K-12

Content-based English language development instructional programs in SPPS strive to simultaneously promote students’ English-language proficiency and mastery of grade-level academic content in an English setting.  English learners acquire academic English through participation in age-appropriate, content-based instruction that is aligned to WIDA English Language Development Standards, as well as the Minnesota K-12 Academic Content Standards. 

For all students, learning academic content is inseparable from learning the academic language of the content area, but this is especially true for ELL students (Heritage, Silva, & Pierce, 2007; National Research Council, 2001; Schleppegrell, 2001, 2005; Walqui & Heritage, 2012) as cited in Alvarez, Ananda, Walqui, Sato & Rabinowitz (2014)

Elementary EL Programs

EL teachers provide supplemental English language development through direct instruction for students at English proficiency levels 1-5. At the elementary level, most ELs receive the greater part of their instruction in the general education classroom. Classroom and EL teachers collaborate to teach language, create accommodations, and differentiate based on the needs of the students in their classrooms. EL service is provided through a co-teaching model and/or small-group instruction designed for EL students. These services are often provided in Reader’s, Writer’s, and/or Math Workshop.  Collaboration allows for planning, teaching, and assessment of content and language objectives for ELs in the mainstream classroom (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2009).

Secondary EL Programs

At the middle and high school sites, level 1 and 2 Language students receive sheltered classes in English language arts, science, math, and social studies. Similar to Level 1 Language students at elementary sites, Level 1 students at the secondary level also receive intensive oral-language development. 

The students at level 3 or higher may be served through a co-teaching model in the content areas.  Collaboration allows for planning, teaching and assessment of content and language objectives for ELs in the mainstream classroom. These EL students may have one or more English language development (ELD) classes associated with the co-taught content class. The ELD classes are tightly aligned to both the state standards and the WIDA English Language Development Standards.


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