Madison School District Dual Language Immersion Program Evaluation

Daniel A. Nerad, Superintendent:

In Winter 2011, the Center for Applied Linguistics conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the dual language immersion (DLI) programs in the Madison Metropolitan School District, including a charter school with DLI implemented K-5, three elementary schools just beginning implementation, and one middle school site with DLI in sixth grade. The goal of the evaluation was to gather sufficient information for strategic planning to adjust any program components that are in need of improvement, and to strengthen those areas of the programs that are already in alignment with best practices. This report provides feedback on student outcomes, things that are going well, and recommendations for the short-, mid-, and long-term.

2 thoughts on “Madison School District Dual Language Immersion Program Evaluation”

  1. the report is here:
    http://www.schoolinfosystem.org/pdf/2011/06/mmsd622011dual_languageimmersionreportb.pdf
    A few notes:
    Document Page 32: “Students who were grouped heterogeneously by academic strengths and language proficiency seemed to interact and support each other more often in the target language than those students grouped homogeneously by language. For example, one grouping included an NES who performed well in mathematics and other students who were not as high-performing academically but who were Spanish dominant. This grouping encouraged the NES to use the target language to help support her peers. There are occasions when grouping homogenously by language dominance is appropriate; however, more attention needs to be paid to student language use in those instances. In general, modeling the language students should use among themselves during whole-group instruction would encourage more confidence and interaction during independent practice.”
    Document Page 28: Part I: Things That Are Going Well
    There are a number of areas of great strength in the five MMSD dual language campuses and in the infrastructure created by the district to support the dual language program. This chapter highlights these strengths and makes some recommendations for continuing or refining these best practices (see also Appendix E for a list of areas that interviewed staff feel are strengths of the DLI program as it is implemented in MMSD).
    Program Model
    The 90110 model of dual language instruction has been shown to produce the strongest possible outcomes in Spanish language and literacy development for all students compared to other models, with English outcomes after 5-7 years in the program equal to or greater than programs that use more English for instruction (Howard & Sugarman, 2007; Lindholm-Leary, 2001; Lindholm-Leary & Howard, 2008). The model implemented at Nuestro Mundo and being expanded into the district provides a strong foundation for all DLI students to succeed. It was apparent during the site visit that teachers and administrators support this model, which is key to ensuring that it is implemented with fidelity. We observed in classrooms that teachers were very consistent language models, using one language at a time without codeswitching. However, some interviewed staff suggested that although teachers have good intentions to follow their established schedules and language allocation percentages, there are situations that arise that throw off the balance. This is quite normal in a program as complicated as dual language, but staff should be mindful of the amount of Spanish and English instruction that students receive over the course of the program. Some teachers might use a log to track the number of minutes in English and Spanish each day. This could be done, for example, one week every two months.
    Within the dual language community in the U.S. there is some disagreement as to whether a program model designation includes specials and students’ free time or not. In other words, if in a 300-minute day a student has 190 minutes of Spanish instruction, 20 minutes of English instruction, 45 minutes of specials in English and 45 minutes of lunch/recess (which in many places is predominately English time), only 63% of that student’s entire school day is in Spanish, so it could not rightfully be called 90/10. CAL’s practice has been to include specials but not lunch/recess in calculating minutes. The important thing in terms of describing a program is to be clear: We recommend MMSD say that its programs are “90/10 for instructional time”, since Kindergarten students only receive about 75% of their instruction in Spanish according to the sample Kindergarten DLI schedule produced by the district (counting specials but not lunch/recess & rest time). As the program grows, it would be good to think about whether some specials should be taught in Spanish so that students have the greatest possible variety of linguistic exposure to both languages.
    Document Page 34: Findings, Part II: Recommendations for Changes Over the Short-Term
    Tiris chapter consists of recommendations that are of relatively high urgency and that can be implemented with minimal planning or coordination. This is not to say that they are easy to implement, but, particularly in the case of school/district communication and coordination, we believe these changes will have a very strong, positive impact right away.
    School and District Communication and Coordination
    One of the most persistent themes that emerged from our evaluation was the level of disconnect between district and staff expectations around the standardization of the DLI program and curriculum. Because the overall district plan for DLI is so strong, it is particularly important to have clear communication and shared understandings and expectations so that staff members at every level of the organization are on the same page.
    Recommendation #1: Clarify program non-negotiables
    One of the most pervasive findings from the evaluation interviews was that teachers and principals lack a clear understanding as to the parameters of the district’s expectations for adherence to program/curricular guidelines. Various district administrators told us-and we believe they communicated this to schools as well-that they intended to standardize the program model and the curriculum beyond what teachers and staff in MMSD are used to. But it seems that school-level staff were expecting different kinds of structures and would actually welcome clearer directives about what DLI looks like (see Recommendation #2 in this chapter for more on clarity in communications).
    For example, we heard from a number of interviewees that they were expecting that they would be told what to teach, but then they were simply handed outlines of thematic units and were told to create their own materials, and they were confused and sometimes frustrated by this. Also, despite the fact that qnite a bit of time has been spent developing the English curriculum, a large proportion of the interviewees felt they did not know what the district intended English time to look like in a 90/10 program. In other cases, interviewees felt that there was an expectation for what they should be doing, but this was not communicated or supported with clear instructions on how to achieve the expectations.
    MMSD has a long history of valning teacher autonomy and site-based leadership. The authors of this report also highly value these principles, particularly because we have visited many low- performing dual language programs that are made to conform to district policies based on monolingual norms without any thought to best practices for language learners. On the other hand, we have seen that consistency and fidelity to the model are hallmarks of successful dual language programs (Howard & Sugarman, 2007). Exemplary programs, as described in the Guiding Principles for Dual Language Education, have a coherent vision that is the basis for pedagogical decision-making by teachers and have processes in place for implementing and reflecting on needed changes to the curriculum or program model (Howard, et al., 2007).
    Document Page 44: Presently, changes seem to be made out of frustration or because of a lack of guidance, which may result in ineffective practice. Three teachers (at two schools) explicitly stated that they didn’t know what they were supposed to do during English time and that they were not given any guidance on the matter.2 (n order to protect teachers’ anonymity in the description of their interview responses in this section, individual schools will not be named. However, the problems described here were reported at all of the schools that we visited, including Nuestro Mundo, and should be addressed district-wide.)

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