Voices Vol 42 No 3

Special Interest Groups

Adult Education

Adult Education Resources

By Regina M. Postogna

There are various organizations that provide ESL instruction for adults, the most popular being high schools that offer evening adult classes. The evening courses are generally grant- funded and have limited capacity to serve everyone who wants to take classes. Spaces are filled on a first-come first-served basis. Community colleges and public libraries offer ESL classes, too.

The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) publishes a resources guide on the website below:

http://www.state.nj.us/education/bilingual/esl/ resource_guide_adult_english.pdf

When organizing ELL Parent Outreach meetings in your school district it is important to let the parents and guardians of the ELL students know of the many opportunities available to them in the community. It is recommended that an overview or summary of the services be translated when possible into the languages of the community served.

Regina M. Postogna, Ed.D., Adult Education SIG

Bilingual/ESL Middle School

Stuck in the Middle and Loving it... The Wonder Years

By Noreen Drucker

Gregory Romero

As a new school year begins, I think back to the years I spent teaching middle school in a bilingual program in Dover, New Jersey.  I am happily retired now but I can clearly remember the faces of the students who passed all too quickly through my life and the masterful middle school teachers who chose to help them along the way.

Mostly I remember the 6th graders, coming in  on their first day of school. Always the ones with the smiles plastered on their faces and the fear carefully hidden away.  The ones who start out with a sense of wonder (hence the TV show of the same name — “The Wonder Years.”) The shy ones, the loud ones, the scared ones, the proud ones…. the ones who can’t get their lockers open and can barely hold back their tears of frustration as everyone else opens their lockers with ease. Yes, they are all there on the first day willing to take the plunge into middle school.

Then the real world sets in. In middle school there is a lot of homework. They have many teachers with different teaching styles and different sets of rules. There is peer pressure, negative and positive, and it is up to them to learn the difference. They might not speak the language well enough to understand what people are saying and their cultural differences might not be respected. They lack the academic vocabulary to explain how they got an answer and are sometimes ridiculed by their classmates.  They might not wear the "right" clothes or use the "right" words. And that is just what is going on around them. Inside, their hormones are raging and their mood swings resemble an out of control pendulum. One day they want you to be their friend and the next day, or better yet, the next minute, they would love to push you under a bus.

Yet we persevere with these students. Empathy is our greatest resource. We are strict but fair and render decisions that demonstrate our empathy and understanding of our students. On many occasions during the three years they are with us, we might not like them, but we still love them.  And somehow we get that across to them.

To all you middle school teachers out there, have a great new school year with much success! For those of you that are just beginning, remember that these kids will push you, try your patience and see how far they can get. It is part of the growing up process. But you will survive and they will thrive in your classroom.

Noreen Drucker, Middle School ESL and Bilingual Rep.

Bilingual Elementary 1 - 8

The Importance of Standards for English Language Learners

By Gregory Romero

Gregory Romero

Children entering school have many experiences that make them the individuals that they are on the day they enter school. Some have been exposed to many experiences while others have had fewer exposures and enter school lacking necessary skills to succeed. This may be evident in some of our new ELL students. These students come from many countries from across the globe. Some have had the opportunity to attend school and some have not. However, some ELL students may not be prepared to meet the demands of the new Common Core Standards and the rigor of their new schools. Yvonne and David Freeman in their 2007 book entitled English Language Learners: The Essential Guide state that “English language learners vary a great deal, and in order to teach them well, it is critically important to know who they are, where they have come from, and what strengths they bring with them to the classroom” (Freeman & Freeman, 2007,p.12.) And teachers must know the standards their students must master in order to be successful.

Students entering kindergarten without the necessary vocabulary to meet the demands of kindergarten will quickly fall behind in their quest to learn and by third grade may be unable to read on grade level and in the long run not meet the requirements for graduation. Schools must be able to accommodate both the student who enters school prepared to meet the requirements of his or her grade level and accommodate the student who has not met the standards of the previous grade; differentiating and scaffolding instruction based on both the WIDA and Common Core Standards is essential.

Despite the naysayers, standards are a part of the educational picture. They are the goals, road map, followed in getting students prepared for their life outside of school. Standards are meant to guide districts to the creation of curriculum that prepare students for the future by choosing those items that are deemed vital. They are goals and expectations that guide instruction; districts create curricula and assessments that will both guide instruction and measure success in learning.

The question is not whether there should be standards, but rather that the standards reflect what students need to learn and how they learn. It means not that schools should be teaching towards the test, but rather that the standards guide instruction and be used to create curriculum that continues to inspire students to learn and be creative. Our schools need to be places of learning for all students. The learning must be measurable and identifiable. There needs to be uniformity as to what is learned, so that each child receives an equitable education including our own ELL students. For this reason, teachers need to use the standards to guide their teaching practices.


Freeman, D. & Freeman, Y. (2007). English Language Learners- The Essential Guide. New York: Scholastic.

Schlechty, P.C. (2009). Leading for Learning: How to Transform Schools into Learning
Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint.

Gregory Romero, Bilingual Elementary 1-8 Representative

Early Childhood

Getting Ready

By Monica Schnee

September, in the world of ESL practitioner, is a very busy month spent taking care of “housekeeping."  We look at the ACCESS scores and share them with the general classroom teachers; we look at Home Language Surveys; we contact districts for new students’ test scores and ESL teachers’ observations; we send parents their children’s test reports, letters of entry, continuation or exit; we make our schedules; we hold an ELL Parent Evening, and finally, we get to teach!

A few observations that I take away from this madness:

Keep in mind that the language demands our students are faced with continue to get harder. The Common Core Standards and the new teacher evaluations, including the Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) make our challenges greater. We have our tools, our standards and descriptors that inform our instruction and help to guide the general classroom teachers’ instruction. Collaboration and sharing of information will benefit all of us and our students. Have a great school year!

Early English Language Development Standards

WIDA has just released the Early Language Development Standards. These standards are a valuable resource for pre-K and even Kindergarten teachers.  The framework is a mini-course on early childhood education and second language acquisition. I have read through them — all the PDF files — and will share the information with my district and administrators. Please visit the WIDA website to take a look at these new standards.

Monica Schnee, River Edge School District, Bilingual/ESL Early Childhood/Pre-K -K Special Interest Group Representative

ESL Elementary

Professional Development for Teachers Working with ELLs: What should it look like?

By Eva Rogozinski

We know that the changing face of the U.S. student population is well known. Over the few decades, the population of English language learners has increased by about a million students. English language learners now consist of about 5% of the total school-age population, with a disproportionate number of these students in certain states. If these demographic trends continue, the numbers of English language learners will continue to grow as we know that what happens globally often affects our waves of immigration. We also cannot generalize since these students are not a homogenous group. As ELL specialists, we know that they may enter U.S. schools at different ages and at different times during the school year. Consider the students you have currently tested for placement and where their educational backgrounds placed them on the continuum of learning and keeping up pace with the general population when it comes to test scores. These students come to our schools representing a range of languages, cultures, experiences with school, and economic and social power.

Yet, school reform efforts mandate that schools become places of educational transformation for all students, not at all considering the pace of which that occurs, nor ensuring that all teachers involved are trained properly. It’s not simply a question if all educators are committed to these reforms that address their ELLs. The question is, does their district or school provide sufficient professional development in order to hold those teachers accountable.  As an ESL Resource teacher and Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) coach in a very economically, culturally, and linguistically diverse school district, I have faced some challenges trying to reach out to teachers in regard to making appropriate modifications or establishing cultural sensitivity. It seemed like the harder I tried to be an advocate for my students the more resistant the teachers were.  I actually was happy to incorporate the notion that in the Common Core standards language tasks are infused in all curricular areas and here was my invitation to show the utter importance of language objectives with all subject area teachers. Truly an aha moment for me. I am also fortunate to act as a SIOP trainer in the summer and throughout the school year in our school district. This give us an opportunity to reach out to many teachers with our district and create dynamic sessions addressing our ELLs.  We also have an opportunity to bring together previous cohorts and conduct a refresher training. We always infuse any new initiatives; the Common Core’s focus on language domains was a perfect partner in our session.

As I return to the NJTESOL/NJBE, Inc. Executive Board as the Elementary Education Special Interest Group representative, I would like to open some dialogue about professional development that can be integrated in the general education classroom by ELL and bilingual education specialists.  We have been well-versed in incorporating language and content objectives for so long that our expertise is in demand. How will you share your skills in your district?  How is your district handling professional development around the teacher evaluation system and how does this pertain to ELLs?  A sharing and professional development session is in the works for our annual spring conference.  We’d love to here from you, join a panel, or apply to conduct your own workshop sessions to display your success. 

Eva Rogozinski, Elementary SIG, ESL Resource Teacher, Clifton Public Schools

ESL Secondary

Are Your Students Ready for the New Computerized ACCESS for ELLs 2.0?
By Marcella Garavaglia

WIDA is working closely with the assessment system ASSETS  (Assessment Services Supporting ELs through Technology Systems) to develop a computerized version of the ACCESS for ELLs® currently known as ACCESS for ELLs® 2.0. The computerized exam has been designed with WIDA’s English Language Development (ELD) Standards that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. It will continue to measure Social and Instructional Language, Language of Language Arts, Language of Mathematics, Language of Science, Language of Social Studies, and separately assess the four language domains of Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing.

According to the ASSETs website the computer-based assessment is scheduled to be implemented for the 2015-16 school year. The field test will begin in March 2014. At this moment the plan for implementation of technology requirements and professional development have not been posted but be sure to visit the website often for updates. ASSETs lists some advantages to the new technology-based exam: increased student engagement, standardization of the test-taking experience, built-in accommodations appropriate for individual student needs, simultaneous administration of multiple grades and tiers, and the elimination of individual administrations of the Speaking test.

How can we prepare our students for this change? Most importantly, ELLs need to be exposed to technology on a regular basis during the school day. Have a conversation at your school about its technology plan. The 2015-16 academic school year will arrive in a blink of an eye!

ELLs will be successful on the ACCESS for ELLs® 2.0 if the use of technology is student-centered. ELLs need to have a knowledge and practice of how to use and interact with computerized speaking, reading, writing, and listening prompts. Some schools offer computer-based reading and/or writing programs which may include listening features. The Internet offers tons of free websites with practice for all four language domains. Let’s share great websites that have helped ELLs with any of these language domains.

The NJTESOL/NJBE Hotlist is one way of sharing ELL resources and joining Twitter is another. Twitter is a great way to search for hashtags (#) which are topics or keywords about what you are interested in reading about. As a Twitter user you can just simply follow other educators and search for information (links to relevant articles and websites).

Here are a few websites that may help prepare our ELLs for this new computerized English language assessment:

  1. English Listening Lesson Library Online
  2. ESL-Lab [Listening]
  3. Piece of Cake English [Pronunciation]
  4. ESLAmerica.US [Reading]

Marcella Garavaglia is the NJTESOL/NJBE ESL Secondary Representative.
She teaches ESL at Colt Neck High School for the Freehold Regional High School District.
Twitter: @MsGaravaglia

Higher Education

Ladders of Completion

By Howard Pomann

As we begin a new semester, ESL Higher Education programs continue to revise their curricula to better assist students to gain the Academic English and cognitive skills to meet their academic, career, and personal goals, and at the same time increase completion rates. Many ESL students complete ESL programs and begin to pursue traditional degrees, but get detoured to new jobs or transfer to other colleges on the way to  A.A, A.S, and A.A.S degrees. In order to reflect the students’ accomplishments, colleges are moving toward establishing ladders of completion, through certificates of achievement and certificates which allow students to display proof of skills to employers, and progress further towards degrees.

Currently at community colleges, students can earn certificates of achievement (15-29 credits with no general education courses required), certificates (30-59 credits), and A.A., A.S, and A.A.S degree programs (60-64 credits).  Community colleges throughout the country have developed additional pathways for students to gain completion through certificates on the way to earning the traditional Associate degrees.  An example of a ladder of completion might be a student who is going for an A.S degree in Business/Accounting and would earn a certificate of achievement (CA) as an Accounting Specialist on the way to earning her or his A.S degree.  These pathways provide the opportunity for an ESL student at the beginning through advanced level to begin taking content area courses appropriate to their level, and complete a credential while in ESL or with one additional semester. CAs assist students in finding employment, and motivate students to pursue degrees.  For students who were professionals in their countries, having a CA can be a significant factor in getting entry level jobs in their profession.

This past year, to address the need to increase completion rates at the community colleges, the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges (NJCCC) developed and approved an ESL Concept Paper: Transforming ESL at NJ Community Colleges. http://www.njccc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/NJCCC-ESL-White-Paper.pdf The development of this comprehensive paper was a collaborative effort of an NJCCC sub-committee of community college administrators and faculty.  The paper focuses on:

The NJCC concept paper makes specific recommendations for alternative pathways to completion and acceleration.

Additionally, the NJCCC ESL Concept Paper includes specific recommendations for curricula, assessment, and counseling, which are all factors in increasing the number of students who complete ESL programs and go on to traditional and non-traditional forms of completion.

As colleges move forward with an increased focus on completion/graduation rates, it is essential for them to maintain broad student access, with recognition that it takes time for EAP students to gain the academic English to succeed in degree programs.  With the establishment of multiple, accessible “ladders of completion, this balance between access and completion can be maintained.”

Howard Pomann is the Director of the Institute for Intensive English, Union County College (pomann@ucc.edu, 908-965-6030)

Parent/Community Action

Share Your Ideas About Parent and Community Action

By Karen Nemeth

Welcome back to a new school year — a new opportunity to involve parents and the community to promote successful programs for ELLs of all ages.  Your big ideas are needed by other educators and other programs.  Now is the time to work on your presentation proposal for next year’s NJTESOL/NJBE conference.  We shared some wonderful ideas from districts that participated in our SIG meetings at the May conference.  In order to reach as many conference participants as possible, I urge you to put your parent and community engagement ideas into a proposal and do a workshop on what has worked for you.

Isn’t our ability to build parent engagement important to our students’ academic success?  A presentation on parent engagement strategies and examples will be just as valuable to our conference program as the workshops on teaching strategies.  Proposing and presenting can be even easier if you work with one or two other colleagues for a team presentation.  This is a great way for you to take an active role in NJTESOL/NJBE, YOUR professional organization, and make a difference in the field.  Feel free to contact me if you have questions about the proposal process. 

Karen Nemeth, Coordinator, Parent and Community Action SIG

Special Education

Not Another Article on Bullying

By Sharon A. Hollander

Bullying is an ongoing and disturbing phenomenon in schools across the country. It is a topic that has justifiably received a great deal of attention from those both in and outside of public education. With special assemblies and lesson plans to detailed media coverage of legal proceedings, and everything in between, why am I writing more about bullying? Because this problem is no abstraction; students with disabilities are usually the ones affected by bullying behavior.

It is not surprising that special education students and ELLs, and certainly those who are both, are easy targets for bullies, largely because they are different. Recent research indicates that roughly half of students with disabilities have been bullied at school. That’s significantly higher than the rate of bullying faced by typical peers.

The vulnerability associated with being different is at the heart of the problem, but response to bullying can also be very challenging. Students’ coping skills are already being taxed by navigating (at least) two different cultures. Language differences and disorders may negatively affect their understanding of what is being said or insinuated, not to mention devising an appropriate verbal response. In the end, many children and their family members neither trust authority figures enough to complain nor have an extensive social network to turn to for support.

Fortunately, there is nationwide concern about the bullying of special education students. Over the summer, Federal education officials sent guidance on this topic to all schools. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools have unique obligations to ensure that these students do not become victims. Bullying can lead to denial of a student’s right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Accordingly, schools may be liable if bullying of students with disabilities is not properly addressed.

In this document, schools are rightfully reminded that bullying problems are not to be solved by moving a student to a more segregated setting. Students must be placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE). If bullying or other social problems are relevant to changes in a student’s program, a meeting of the Child Study Team (CST) and an update of the student’s IEP are required.

From my perspective, information is the critical first step to address this harmful behavior. Students and families need be informed about rules and consequences relevant to bullying. Many educators need to know more about the signs of bullying, as well as the procedures to report it. Everyone in the public school system could benefit from increased awareness of the additional risks faced by ELLs and students with disabilities.

Our next best ally is meaningful social skills instruction. Students, particularly teens, with the weakest social skills have the greatest possibility of being bullied. In contrast, students who have a strong support network of friends and teachers are less likely to be victimized. For these and other reasons, social skills instruction will be the topic of my next column. I welcome members’ ideas about bullying and meeting the need for accurate information on this important topic, as well as any other email.

Sharon A. Hollander, NJTESOL-NJBE Special Education SIG Representative,
is a Psychologist at Children’s Specialized Hospital, 94 Stevens Road, Toms River 08755.


On Embracing Change and Moving Forward

By JoAnne Negrín

Outside of my office door are four name plates, two of which are empty. A fellow supervisor joked that those name plates will soon be filled with our extended titles as we shoulder more and more responsibility. SGOs, SGPs, curriculum revision, new evaluation systems and the new information systems that manage them. Is this ever going to be an interesting year!  All of us, no matter our role in the district, have more hats to wear, more work to do, and more change to weather than ever before. I’ve chosen to embrace these changes with faith that they are needed to move our profession forward and advocate more effectively for our kids. I think that the Common Core and the new evaluation systems will help to put ELL achievement front and center in the discussion about how to help all students.

I think I stopped breathing for several seconds when I realized that I will need to complete sixty-three (63) evaluations by November 1st. That’s a lot of mileage. Many of those evaluations will be of teachers I’ve never seen before. I think this will be a tremendous opportunity to get outside of my area and see what teaching looks like in all areas and at all levels. This is important to me because, as I always say, our kids are everywhere. My travels will inform my advocacy, from how the subject areas are reflected in the ESL curriculum to the professional development I will provide for non-ESL teachers. Future endeavors will include encouraging non-ESL teachers to consider creating an SGO that specifically relates to the achievement of ELLs in their classrooms.

Everybody is already humming along at full speed. In addition to me running around with my laptop, my team is busy tackling ESL curriculum revisions. Not that I am at all biased, but I think I’ve got some of the best teachers in the state on my VinelandL2 team. I’ve presented them with the problems: How do we support the aspects of the ELA curriculum that our students will have the most difficulty with, and how do we do that at each level of proficiency? How does that look at the K-8 level, where ESL supplements the Language Arts curriculum, and at the 9-12 level, where ESL replaces Language Arts? Other than some strategic coaching, the results and the credit belong entirely to the VinelandL2 team. Tying the ESL curriculum to the CCSS is essential for our students’ success, and we are well on our way to having a curriculum that I think will be a model.

I will be discussing our curriculum journey at the Fall Conference on Saturday, October 26. I look forward to sharing our journey with you, and to hearing about your journey as well.

JoAnne Negrín, Supervisor of ESL, Bilingual Education, World Languages & Performing Arts, NCLB Coordinator, Vineland Public Schools