Denver Public Schools, ELLs, and the Southwest Region Part 3: Charter School Teachers & ELLs

Ok, I know the history of ELL legislation and the neighborhood population…where does that leave me as a charter school teacher in DPS? Part three of this series looks at how individual teachers engage DPS ELA programs.

Photo Credit: DPS

Photo Credit: DPS

The 2012 Consent Decree established the ELA program requirements for all schools. Charters have certain amount of autonomy within the district, but are still held to the same requirements. All teachers (even those in the content areas) must demonstrate ELA qualification. Charter school teachers in DPS have three routes to qualification:

-          State endorsement

-          Advanced degree

-          Approved district ELA training Channel

Most teachers will take the third route as advanced degrees in ESL are not the norm. DPS designed a “training channel” for charter teachers, which allows individual networks or schools to own most of lion’s share of the process.  DPS provides consultants for those schools who prefer that resource. The majority (29) of the charters chose to have an authorized staff trainer on site. Each charter nominates staff who DPS equips with the materials and training to deliver the ELA PD modules for their school(s).

What do these modules cover? A LOT. In no particular order:

-          Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

-          Sheltering

-          Literacy for ELLs

-          English Language Development

-          Foundations

-          Academic Language

I am one of several teachers at STRIVE who will wear the trainer hat this year. Early June I attended a day-long “train-the-trainer” session at Manuel high school with the district director. My colleagues and I will present the years 1 and 2 PD modules during our summer training and possibly throughout the year. I enjoyed learning about the history of ELL services in DPS since I’m a new comer to Denver. The actual ELA material was like a graduate school refresher.  I did receive one update with dismay: researchers have concluded that the original estimate of how long it takes to gain academic language proficiency was off. Instead of taking five to seven years as initially thought, it can actually take 7-10 years!  Yikes –all the more impetus for every teacher to implement ELA strategies.

Individual teachers must pass a test on the PD modules, demonstrate instruction that meets the standards of the observation rubric, and compile of portfolio illustrating culturally responsive pedagogy. Administrators are responsible for observing teachers utilizing the ELA rubrics. DPS provides oversight of the entire process and grants qualification to all teachers who have met the requirements. The ideal time-line is two years, but there was mention of a possible grace period of an additional year.