Voices Vol 41 No 4

SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS: ESL K - 5

WIDA Certification for Trainers

By Noreen M. Drucker

This past August I attended the Professional Certification for Trainers Program offered by WIDA at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The course was everything it promised to be. Eighteen of us spent five days together, sharing what we already knew, learning about the latest initiatives, and planning our future endeavors.  My experiences there, both at the workshop and in Madison, Wisconsin, were exceptional.

Let’s start with Madison, the quintessential Midwestern college town. The university was HUGE: it went on for blocks and blocks and blocks, quite different from the universities in New Jersey where some  are literally squeezed on all sides by urban sprawl. 

We met daily in the educational building, located close to the center of town. On that end of campus there was a fitness center with an 8 lane fifty-meter indoor pool. Yes, and on the other end of campus there was another 8 lane fifty-meter indoor pool.  And there were a number of lakes, too; swimming, sailing, paddle boarding, sculling and kayaking were just some of the activities one could partake in.  I found myself on the lake or in the pool whenever I got the chance.

People from all over the United States participated in the certification program, but the majority of them were from the Midwest. However, not to be outdone, 33% of us were from the greater northeast, including representatives from Maine, Rhode Island, and Delaware. There were classroom teachers, consultants, representatives from the departments of education and college professors in the group.

Speaking about geography,  it is hard to believe that there are currently twenty-nine states in the WIDA consortium. (Massachusetts just joined a few months ago). Check out the currents stakeholders at: http://www.wida.us/membership/states/index.aspx
And now to an overview of the institute:

On the first day, we learned about WIDA’s mission “to advance academic language development and academic achievement for linguistically diverse students through high quality standards, assessments, research and professional development for educators”. A rather broad statement, it encompasses our total commitment to ELLs.

During the week, we took a look at the 2012 Amplification for K-12. Some of the differences between this and the 2007 Edition are listed below.

1. Terminology is different. English Language Development Standards have replaced the Proficiency Standards. The standards are the same. The change in nomenclature is indicative of how the language develops before proficiency is reached.

2. The 2012 edition has the model performance indicators by grade level rather than clusters.

3. Complementary strands, such as Technology, Engineering, Music, and Performing Arts have been added.

We analyzed the ACCESS test scores from a variety of viewpoints. We considered the way the ESL teacher looks at the scores and how differently administrators and child study teams may look at them.

We discussed the Can Do descriptors and different ways to use them. For example, they can be shared with other educators.  They can be coupled with different types of support: sensory, graphics or interactive, to enhance learning for ELLs.

The last day however, was the most interesting. Each participant prepared a thirty minute mini-presentation which we all critiqued. It gave us the opportunity to learn about many different topics from our colleagues. There were presentations on how to interpret the ACCESS scores and how to prepare a lesson in the four domains-listening, reading, writing and speaking. Others in the group showed us how to involve the community in the educational process and how to use the Can Do descriptors.

The facilitators were talented and experienced. They guided us through each day with patience and understanding. The truth is that there was a lot to learn in a short period of time. The idea is that we will use that time in Wisconsin as a basis to further our own professional development so that we can bring our knowledge to everyone who touches the lives of  English language learners.

For more information or to learn how to become a WIDA Certified Trainer, visit their website: http://certification.wceruw.org/
Noreen M. Drucker is the SIG K-5 ESL Representative.

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