Archived Story

English language teachers did well

Published 2:53pm Saturday, April 20, 2013

As our weather gets warmer and you venture out a little more, you may have witnessed some very happy teachers skipping around the community. Well, perhaps not actually skipping, but cheerful and happy, nonetheless. Those happy teachers are the English language, or EL, teachers in Albert Lea Area Schools. EL teachers work with students learning English as a second (or additional) language. After five years of not making the state’s Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives, or AMAO, the district happily reached the EL AMAO goal for the 2011-2012 school year.

AMAO objectives are the goals set in Minnesota to comply with the Title III section of the No Child Left Behind Act. That may seem like a mouthful, but it isn’t as complicated as it sounds. In all, the Minnesota Department of Education gives some specific funding to districts where there are students who qualify for extra support in learning the English language. In turn, the state requires districts to prove, through testing, that students are making growth each school year at acquiring and mastering the English language. In the past few years, the EL department in Albert Lea has not been able to make the growth targets set by the state. When the school district did not meet its goals, district officials had to make plans to improve the program and inform parents of this missed target. Missing the target was very disappointing for our hard-working students, teachers and district administration. Despite not making this goal for several years, the teachers and administrators are able to really celebrate this recent success.

There are several possible reasons that may contribute to the district making AMAO in EL this year. A new test for EL students was adopted and implemented in Minnesota in 2012. The new test is called the ACCESS for ELLs, or Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners. The ACCESS test assesses the English abilities of students in listening, speaking, reading and writing. This new test gives a much better picture of student growth and achievement, and it is more comprehensive and rigorous than previously designed state assessments. The new test provides teachers with a more complete picture of what specific areas where students may need improvement.

Another contributing factor to this success is that the EL teachers in Albert Lea have worked very hard to improve their instruction and the EL program in general. The teachers were trained more intensively in reading and in working as co-teachers. They looked at the data from all of the testing and made some changes accordingly.

There are approximately 20 different native languages spoken in the Albert Lea area. The EL teachers help students to succeed in various school subjects and for a successful future. Students who do not speak English as their primary home language have many challenges, but they also offer our community a great deal. We can all take part in the success of our local students and teachers.

 

Michelle Niska

English language teacher

Albert Lea