English-Language Learners Opinion

Summer Learning for Immigrant Youth: A Model from San Francisco

By Urban Education Contributor — January 18, 2018 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

This post is by Amy Gottesfeld (@agottes), Supervisor of Secondary Programs at San Francisco Unified School District‘s (SFUSD, @SFUnified) Multilingual Pathways Department (@sfusdmpd), and Dr. Jennifer Fong, Director of Extended Learning at SFUSD’s Department of College and Career Readiness.

Today’s post is the practitioner perspective on Monday’s post: Can Summer School Help English Learner Students Succeed?

Recently arrived immigrant youth often experience great challenges when enrolling in U.S. high schools. Arguably, in San Francisco the challenges are even greater since teenagers arriving from over 55 countries must pass the University of California’s “A-G” course requirements for high school graduation. They must do this while learning English and adjusting to a new culture and life in the U.S. all at the same time.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, newcomer English Learner students in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) continue to be off-track towards graduation at much higher rates than their peers. For 2016-17, only 48% of English Learners were on-track to graduate. The odds are stacked against recently arrived immigrant youth with many experiencing a two-year delay in earning English credits that count towards graduation, and still others arriving with a year or two of high school and foreign school transcripts that do not meet the rigorous A-G standard.

To support newcomers in graduating high school, SFUSD’s Multilingual Pathways Department and Department of College and Career Readiness launched a summer program for integrated language learning, called EL Village, in 2013. Five weeks of intensive summer learning provide English language development in a supported, interdisciplinary context that allows students to recover English credits and become on-track toward graduation with peers. Before EL Village, the graduation rate for English Learners in SFUSD was 69.1%. Three years later, the rate climbed to 74.1%.

To better understand if and how the EL Village summer courses were impacting English learner graduation rates, we turned to our researcher partners within the Stanford-SFUSD Partnership to see if we could examine our administrative data to isolate the impact of EL Village. The study’s findings, as detailed in Monday’s blog post, were quite exciting, indicating that EL village had significant positive effects on the number of academic courses ELs take in high school and on newcomers’ listening, speaking, writing, and overall proficiency skills. Given these promising findings, we have solidified and strengthened the components of EL Village which we describe here.

Teacher Professional Development Component

Since its inception in 2013, EL Village, which has recently been renamed as the Summer Academy for Integrated Language Learning (SAILL), has evolved to include a robust professional development component that develops educators new to teaching emergent bilingual students. Following the Internationals Network for Public Schools (INPS) model for teacher collaboration, interdisciplinary teams of four teachers work collectively to plan for students’ success and develop curricular supports and scaffolds for various levels of language proficiency. The strengths and assets of each member of a four-teacher team are critical to the success of the team. As a result, the teachers experience reciprocal learning, and new educators of emergent bilinguals learn from more experienced teachers on the team. Our hunch was that this teacher collaboration model of interdisciplinary teaching and planning would also carry over to the regular school year, which could lead to improved outcomes for English Learners more globally.

Instructional Model

The instructional model of SAILL is grounded in California’s 2012 ELD Standards which views language development as driven by meaning-making activities that require students to collaborate and communicate. SAILL organizes students into collaborative, heterogeneous groups by home language, grade level, gender and language proficiency to engage in authentic, real-life projects that require critical thinking and content knowledge. The curriculum is organized to support this deeper learning and to maintain the rigorous, cognitive demand of high school A-G approved course work. Thus, the collaboration among teachers is mirrored in collaboration among students as well.

Wellness and Counseling Support

In addition to student collaboration, SAILL has also integrated wellness and counseling support for students and facilitated continued relationships with and space for counselors from community providers. Summer is often a time when students are without the supports and familiarity of their home schools. Additionally, many immigrant youth left their home countries due to violence or poverty and have had traumatic experiences on their journey to the U.S., so providing not only academic but also emotional counseling services is an important component of SAILL.

SAILL’s counseling services, instruction model, and teacher professional development component make for a unique summer school model. We are encouraged by initial results confirming SAILL’s positive effect on English Learners’ graduation rates and look forward to subsequent studies by the Stanford-SFUSD Partnership.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.