Missouri District Brings Struggling Learners Up to Snuff
When Bosnian war refugees looked for a safe haven in the United States after fleeing their homeland in the 1990s, many of them settled in St. Louis, Mo. Some of them eventually ended up in nearby Bayless, where they joined refugees and immigrants from other countries.
Among the 1,700 students in the Bayless School District today, 19 different languages are spoken, including Bosnian, Vietnamese and Spanish. Two years ago, Bayless Junior High’s English Language Learner (ELL) students, which comprise about 41 percent of the student population, and students in poverty, which comprise about half of the population, were struggling with reading, writing and math. Just 2 percent of ELLs were proficient in reading and writing, and just 25 percent of ELLs were proficient in math.
In 2006, Bayless Junior High was one of four Missouri schools selected to participate in Missouri’s Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) initiative from Pearson Education. SIOP, which is in districts nationwide, is a professional development program that helps educators teach academic content to ELLs—and all students—while promoting their English language development. Sheltered instruction (or SI) extends the time students receive English language support while they learn content subjects. SI classrooms may include a mix of native English speakers and ELLs, or only ELLs.
Since then, the Missouri Migrant Education and English Language Learning (MELL) program has brought the SIOP model to schools across the state.
How SIOP Works
Shawn Cockrum, MELL director, says SIOP strategies and components such as lesson preparation, assessments and reviews “have been around forever.” But SIOP organizes all of that into the observation protocol, he says. “I particularly like the emphasis on language objectives and content objectives. We don’t see that in most other programs.”
Through the SIOP initiative, Bayless Junior High staff worked with Pearson and a MELL program coach in the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years. The SI model has teachers make connections with students’ prior learning, emphasizes vocabulary development and higher-order thinking skills, groups students appropriately for language and content development, and provides hands-on materials.
“Before teachers went through the SIOP training, their lessons weren’t as structured and they didn’t have as many strategies to choose from,” says Steve Brotherton, assistant superintendent of the Bayless district.
Today, teachers use SIOP to prepare lesson plans as well as to review and assess lessons across content areas. “I see teachers assessing the previous day’s content objectives and language objectives, so they can understand what students mastered,” Tucker says.
After only one year of SIOP training, participating students achieved measurable gains on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP), a yearly test. In 2006, a mere 2 percent of ELL students and about 23 percent of students in poverty were proficient in communication arts. In 2007, about 10 percent of ELLs and almost 35 percent of students in poverty were proficient.
In 2006 in math, 25 percent of ELL students and 36 percent of students in poverty were proficient. In 2007, about 33 percent of ELLs and almost 40 percent of students in poverty were proficient in math.
Bayless School District is expanding the SIOP model to all teachers at the junior high and high schools through a competitive federal Math and Science Partnership grant. As part of the grant, Bayless is partnering with the University of Missouri at St. Louis to provide summer institutes and other training to build content knowledge of math and science teachers in grades six through 12.
Angela Pascopella is senior editor.