Special Interest Groups

Bilingual/ESL Middle School

Language Difference or Learning Need – A Closer Look

By Michelle Land

W hen you have a student who is not progressing as expected, it can be difficult to find the cause.  Many teachers look at themselves first, wondering if there is something more that they can do.  Often, they will begin to implement strategies before examining every option available.  When they see little improvement and the clock is ticking away, teachers must look elsewhere for help. 

One option available in every school district is the I&RS team.  As a first line of investigation, they will often request a list of strategies which have already been implemented and suggest new ones.  Some professionals may question whether the language learner is having a learning issue related to a processing problem or language proficiency deficiency.  In some situations, we are even told that an English Learner (EL) may not be considered for referral to the CST [Child Study Team] due to the fact that they are in ESL.  At this point, it is no wonder why the ESL/bilingual teacher feels helpless.  We may even feel that others just don’t get it.  Lucky for us, Barbara Marler has come to our rescue.

Barbara Marler is the co-founder and president of Paridad Education Consulting.  She has also been the Director of ESL/Bilingual department and an expert in English Learner matters at the US Department of Justice.  She presented a workshop this past fall entitled "Language Difference or Learning Need.”  The workshop addressed specific factors, strategies, and solutions to dilemmas similar to the one above.    

Whenever an EL is experiencing difficulty in school, she suggests we look at the following factors that may influence an ELs academic achievement.  These factors were also adapted by WIDA in their “Culturally and Linguistically Responsive RtI2” booklet. One must become a detective in order to find some of this information, but it will be valuable in your pursuit to aid a struggling student.

    1. Program design
    2. Personal and family history
    3. Physical and psychological history
    4. Previous schooling
    5. Linguistic and literacy development
    6. Academic achievement
    7. Acculturation

http://www.cedu.niu.edu/oep/_pdf/Barb%20Marler.pdf )

Barbara also shared some commonly asked questions that beg reiteration.  They are addressed on the NJ Department of Education website in a Q&A document.  Here are a few of the answers that are especially relevant to the ESL/bilingual teacher. 

    1.  Yes, EL students can be referred and/or evaluated for special education while receiving bilingual/ESL services.
    2. Yes, EL students can receive BOTH special education services and ESL/bilingual services at the same time.
    3. Yes, EL students can receive speech-language services.
    4. Special education eligibility needs to be determined in the dominant language of the child.  The dominant language can be determined through a variety of assessments.
    5. IEP teams for ELs with disabilities should include persons with expertise in second language acquisition.  This is often the ESL or Bilingual teacher.

(http://www.state.nj.us/education/bilingual/news/FAQse.htm )

We at NJTESOL/NJBE understand the frustration and concern teachers feel when students are not progressing adequately.  That is why at our Spring Conference, these topics, and more, will be addressed at SIG meetings and workshops.  What a wonderful opportunity to share the wealth of our experience and knowledge.

Michelle Land is the NJTESOL/NJBE Bilingual/ESL Middle School 6-8 SIG Representative.  She teaches ESL at Randolph Township Schools.  michelleland88@hotmail.com  


Early Childhood

Springing Forward to Conference

By Carole Maurer

Spring is in the air, which means the 2016 NJTESOL/NJBE Spring Conference is just around the corner.  I am very excited about the number of quality workshops specifically geared toward early childhood educators. Here are a few titles you won’t want to miss: Literacy, Social, and Emotional Achievement of Preschool ELLs presented by Hope Blecher, Ed. D and Diana Sefchik, Ed. D; Including Young Children of All Languages/Abilities presented by Pam Brillante; Developing and Implementing Kindergarten Curriculum presented by Alyssa May and Lucy Oubina; and K-1 Author Study within the WIDA Framework presented by Monica Schnee and Sandy Nahmias.

In recent months, there have been several questions regarding preschool posted on the NJTESOL/NJBE Hotlist. Many of the responses have involved the importance of collaboration between ESL specialists and preschool teachers. Perhaps Helping to Improve Teacher Collaboration Using Co-Teaching Models presented by Lisa Rose Johnson and Linda Meranus will be helpful to us in that endeavor. The Early Childhood SIG Meeting will offer an open forum for discussion; so please bring your questions, ideas, and teaching strategies to share with your colleagues.

The New Jersey Department of Education will be offering several trainings including The Bilingual Code and Hot Topics. These workshops will be excellent opportunities to increase your knowledge and understanding of the Code and to get first-hand information from the experts. If you are interested in advocacy, the conference will provide opportunities to learn and get involved in advocating for ELLs, preschool expansion, and immigration reform.

Angeline Sturgis is the Special Interest Group Representative for Parental Involvement and Community Outreach. I had the opportunity to meet with her and to hear about some of the wonderful family involvement activities she has done in her district. She will be presenting on her immigration story project in her workshop entitled Telling the Family Story. I recommend this workshop to anyone interested in increasing family engagement and strengthening relationships with families, and incorporating students’ cultures in their learning activities.

These recommended workshops are just a few of the many that will be packing the three-day Spring Conference. If you haven’t registered yet, hop to it! You won’t want to miss this wonderful opportunity to learn and network with colleagues in the field of ESL and bilingual education. See you there!  http://www.njtesol-njbe.org/spconfreg/default.htm

Carole Maurer, Early Childhood SIG, cmaurer@njtesol-njbe.org
ESL Teacher, Ocean City School District           


ESL Secondary

Hot Topics: ESL Secondary Special Interest Group Meeting at the Conference

By Marcella Garavaglia

T here have been significant changes this year in education that affect English language learners (ELLs). This year, the presentations and workshops on Friday, June 3rd, will be specifically for High School, Higher Education, Teacher Education, Adult Education, and K-12 Administrators. Presentations and workshops for general interest, Bilingual Education, English as a Second Language, and Advocacy will be held all three days of the Spring Conference. If you have not yet registered for the conference, registrations will be accepted until May 6, 2016 unless capacity is reached before this date. Register now!

Don’t forget, scholarship winners will be honored at the Spring Conference Awards Reception on Thursday, June 2, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. Scholarship opportunities for High School ELLs include the Raquel Sinai Newcomer Scholarship and the Pedro J. Rodriguez High School Scholarship. The Raquel Sinai Newcomer Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship for a student who is enrolled in ESL and/or bilingual classes in Grades 6-12; is currently receiving bilingual and/or ESL instruction in New Jersey and who has lived in the United States less than 2 years as of March, 2016. The Pedro J. Rodriguez High School Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship for a high school student pursuing a post-secondary education in a New Jersey institution. All applications, recommendations, and other required information must have been received before April 1, 2016. 

I invite you to join my friend and former Freehold Regional High School District colleague, Caia Schlessinger, and me at the Hot Topics: ESL Secondary Special Interest Group Meeting on Friday, June 3, 2016 to discuss the most current information. Caia and I will present updated information about the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0, Alternate ACCESS for ELLs, graduation requirements, the portfolio appeal process for Seniors, and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exam. We will also review the importance of the Bilingual Education Administration Code for New Jersey, schools' civil rights policy for parents of ELLs and Limited English Proficient (LEP) students, ELLs with special and diverse needs, and more important topics.

Please take advantage of the full day of presentations, workshops, and exhibitors from 7:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Continue to check the preliminary schedule for Friday, June 3rd, as times are subject to change.

Marcella Garavaglia is the NJTESOL/NJBE ESL Secondary Representative. She teaches ESL at Colt Neck High School for the Freehold Regional High School District. mgaravaglia@frhsd.com; marcellagaravaglia@gmail.com


Higher Education

Conference Collaboration

By Howard Pomann

At this year’s Spring Conference, Higher Education, Adult Education, Secondary Education, and ESL Administration presentations will be highlighted on Friday, June 3.  The integration of these areas onto one day of the conference will provide Higher Education, Adult Education and Secondary Education faculty and administrators the opportunity to share our common methodologies and to develop a greater understanding of the issues surrounding the transition of ELL students from high school to college.

Higher Education strand workshops will focus on academic writing and reading, integration of grammar, vocabulary development, interactive technologies, corpus informed instruction, second language acquisition, and college success strategies.  

Additionally, there will be a Higher Education Special Interest Group (SIG) meeting in which we will discuss program, course, classroom, and assessment strategies for serving Generation 1.5 students. Generation 1.5 students are ELL students who completed a significant amount of their schooling here before entering college. Traditional college ESL and Developmental programs often do not fully serve the needs of some of these students, who are able to communicate fluently in spoken English, but may still demonstrate limited academic proficiency in their writing and reading. These students often are frustrated with formal grammar instruction provided in ESL classes and are better served by a reading/writing approach which expands their academic literacy and which provides grammar instruction designed for their needs.

Statewide and national research and data will be presented.  We hope the session provides the opportunity for higher education and secondary education faculty to share their experiences serving Generation 1.5 students. 

We look forward to seeing you at this year’s conference.

Howard Pomann is the Higher Education SIG Representative, pomann@ucc.edu,

Parent and Community Action

Creating Community

Creating Community

By Angeline Sturgis

Being an ESL teacher can be a bit of a lonely life. Let's face it, we work all day with people who don't speak our language [and we may not speak theirs.] Sometimes we find ourselves "a department of one" with a supervisor in another building who also oversees several other disciplines. But I've decided to see it another way: it is all just a daily reminder that an important part of our job is to join in, to connect with compassion, and trust that we'll do the best we can. It is in this “togetherness” that we create an atmosphere of community, embracing our English language learners and their families. In doing so, we help these brave children fit in, open up, and thrive.

Natasha is an ESL teacher in an urban New Jersey elementary school. She wasn't born in the United States, and she knows what it is like to be oceans away from the family you love. When her district experienced an influx of newcomers from Burma, Natasha's heart opened up and she energetically embraced not just the new students, but their families. With compassionate energy, Natasha gently eased the culture shock that was overwhelming this group of refugees. She organized tutoring, looked for interpreters, recruited friends to help outfit the poorly furnished apartments, and in one case, helped a mother establish a very successful artisanal business. Think about it: without compassion, there is no community.

Elise came into her career as an ESL teacher later in life. She adores the Latino population she works with, though in ethnicity and culture she couldn't be more different. She also loves to read. Every Sunday, she spends hours at her public library finding picture books and informational texts that will help her ELLs in the coming week as they participate in lessons in their general education classes. She delivers the books as gifts each Monday and they are received with genuine gratitude. During Hispanic Heritage month, the teachers in Elise's school decided to represent famous Hispanic-Americans and give talks to the children dressed in character. Elise had  had a career in community theater in her younger years, and jumped at the chance to participate whole-heartedly in the project. No Sonja Sotomayor for Elise. She came to school in sparkling evening clothes and wig and presented the best Jennifer Lopez performance ever lip-synced in a third grade classroom. The audience was spellbound. I know. I saw the video. Those children "get" Elise, and from the bottom of her genuinely glittering heart, Elise "gets" her students. Think about it: without connection, there is no community.

Megan works in a wealthy, sprawling suburban school district where real estate agents speak about SAT scores before they mention square footage. Before she came seven years ago, there was only one ESL teacher in the whole district. This school year in her building alone, she has over 25 students, K-2. It is no exaggeration to say many members of staff are shocked at the population shift, and lack an understanding of the correlation between language acquisition and academic achievement. But Megan is a fighter, and quickly became an advocate for her students, not just in designing summer programs and tutoring services, but especially in maintaining again and again that there was no need to begin the process of classifying her students as potential Special Education candidates just because their language arts skills weren't at the same level as their monolingual peers. The success of her students has surprised everyone except Megan and the parents.  The grateful families trust Megan to keep them informed, maintain their integrity, and give their children the gift of time to learn. Think about it: without trust, there is no community.

These three teachers have an intuitively caring approach to building community in their schools. Through their genuine benevolence and support of both students and families, they are reaching the heart of the child. And through this compassionate outreach, bit by bit, the circle of the trusting community is extended and strengthened.

Angeline Sturgis is the Parent/Community Action Special Interest Group Representative. She works in the Lawrence Township Public Schools and may be reached at asturgis@njtesol-njbe.org . 


Parent and Community Action

Parent and Community Action Special Interest Group (SIG) at Spring Conference

By Angeline Sturgis

At the 2016 NJ TESOL conference June 1-3, please come to the Parent and Community Action Special Interest Group (SIG) session so we can support each other. Find out about successful parent programs around the state. We will share experiences like these that allow us to strengthen our resolve in continuing to do what we know needs to be done: develop communities of ELLs and their families through compassion, connection and trust.

I also invite you to my session on Telling the Family Story, where you will get all the information you need to bring immigration stories to life. True stories.  Your students' families' stories.  Stories that need to be told, and in the listening, stories that create communities of compassion.

Angeline Sturgis is the Parent/Community Action Special Interest Group Representative. She works in the Lawrence Township Public Schools and may be reached at asturgis@njtesol-njbe.org . 



Special Education

Notes from the National Association of Bilingual Education National Conference

By Sonya Bertini

On Thursday, March 3rd, I left for Chicago to represent NJTESOL/NJBE at the 2016 National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE) National Conference. This year’s conference was called “Advancing Biliteracy through Global Leadership and Partnership” and it was held in the beautiful Chicago Hilton on Michigan Avenue, otherwise known as the Magnificent Mile. According to the organizers, 2,500 people attended the three and a half day conference.

I was able to attend on Friday and Saturday. At 8:30 in the morning on Friday, I went to the Affiliates’ Meeting where I met people from Texas, California, New Mexico, New York, Kansas, and Wisconsin. I was impressed by the passion shown by the affiliates from New York. They expressed their great concern regarding the testing of ELLs and asked that NABE come up with a national position statement on testing. Our neighbors to the north asked that we embark on a “peaceful revolution” to put an end to the way ELLs are being forced to take high stakes standardized tests in English. The affiliates from California reported that the California Education for a Global Economy Initiative (California Ed. G.E.) will be placed on the November, 2016, ballot. This initiative is aimed at amending Proposition (Prop) 227, the 1998 initiative that replaced bilingual education with English immersion classes in the state of California. The president of NABE, Dr. Yee Wan, promised that the association will publish national standards for bilingual educators in the next two years. It was the general consensus that such standards will ensure the existence of quality bilingual educators.

After the Affiliates’ Meeting, I went to the keynote address given by Dr. Kathy Escamilla from the University of Boulder, Colorado. Dr. Escamilla was a wonderful speaker – engaging, humorous, and militant. During her address, she stated that “bilingual education has to be about social justice,” urging us to ask the question, “Why are we spending less money on bilingual programs in 2016 when there are more students than ever eligible for services?” Throughout her speech, Dr. Escamilla stressed the need for advocacy, outlining the following: a need to work on dual language programs, a need for well- prepared teachers and administrators, a need for revamping assessment, a need to work on quality instruction and, finally, a need to work for social justice.

I was envious of all the districts that implement the Dual Language Model to service their ELL population and was left wondering what is up in New Jersey. It seems that we are really behind the times. I attended a session given by the Ysleta Independent School District of Texas. Their ELL population,  approximately 13,000 students, is served with a dual language program from pre-K through 12th grade. According to the presenters, their students are thriving as documented by test scores and graduation rates. Recently, they have adjusted their program to support biliteracy endorsements and the development of a third language. The new, improved program model aims to increase multicultural understanding and biliteracy. Kudos to the state of Texas for supporting the dual language model.

Finally, I was able to meet with the members of the Special Education Special Interest Group and had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Patricia Peterson of Northern Arizona University and Dr. Alba Ortiz of the University of Texas. Both women are experts in the field of ELLs with disabilities so this was a highlight. I expressed to them my deep concern with the way we test ELLs with disabilities and how we measure their progress. They share my concern, but what I unfortunately discovered is that there are no good assessments out there. I left the conference knowing that this particular group of students is being underserviced nationally. There is much that has to be done in this field.

In conclusion, I was thrilled to be able to attend the conference and I thank NJTESOL/NJBE for sending me. It is inspiring to be among a group of bilingual scholars and professionals who value bilingualism, biliteracy, and multilingualism.  In her address, Dr. Escamilla quoted Dr. Joshua Fishman, linguist at Yeshiva University. I found it powerful and share it with you: “We bring up children to be bilingual, not for the sake of the language but for the sake of the children.”

Sonya Bertini, SPED SIG, Vineland High School South stb582000@yahoo.com



Scaffolding Instruction for ELLs

By Yasmin Hernandez-Manno

As we enter into a new season, English Language Learners (ELLs) are involved with the continuation of ACCESS 2.0 testing along with the commencement of the PARCC assessment.  Once again, ELLs are faced with mastering these online assessments with multiple challenges due to language barriers and various types of schooling experiences.  It is my hope that assessment requirements for ELLs will vary from that of general education students in order to truly assess skills and knowledge base that is appropriate at the respective English language skills of the students.

It is important to provide supports and scaffolds that will differentiate instruction for ELLs in order to ensure their success to properly master grade level content while simultaneously learning the English language.  I have been providing professional development to teachers (Bilingual, ESL, General and Special Education,) administrators, and support staff in how to scaffold instruction for ELLs using the NJDOE Model Curriculum ELL Scaffolds on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE.)  By providing this tool to school districts, educators are able to better comprehend how to properly address ELLs at their various levels of English Language Proficiency (ELP) using the CCSS and WIDA standards when trying to master a specific Student Learning Objective (SLO) and other language objectives.  These scaffolds were created a couple of years ago by a team of experienced ESL teachers across the state of New Jersey.   The effectiveness of these scaffolds is the alignment to WIDA’s features of academic language and model performance indicators in grade level English Language Arts (ELA) and Math content and the specific target objectives that are to be met at each of the five levels of English language proficiency. 

If you would like further information on the New Jersey Model Curriculum ELL Scaffolds please go onto the NJDOE websites at:
http://www.state.nj.us/education/modelcurriculum/math/ for MATH and
http://www.state.nj.us/education/modelcurriculum/ela/ for ELA

We are soon gearing up for our NJTESOL/NJBE Spring Conference to be held on June 1-3rd at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick.  Please consider attending this informative conference for K-12 educators and administrators.  Please join us for our 2016 Spring Conference, Leadership & Partnership for Language Acquisition.  There is a new schedule for this year: we’ve added an additional day to include specific topics for our high school, higher education, teacher education, adult education and K-12 administrators/supervisors.

I will be presenting two sessions: one on how to Properly Address Students with Interrupted and Limited Formal  Education (SLIFE) and the other for NJTESOL/NJBE Supervisors that is partnered with the NJPSA ELL Committee.  Both sessions will be presented on Friday, June 3rd.  I look forward to seeing you at the spring conference. 

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Yasmin E. Hernández-Manno, yhernandez@njtesol-njbe.org, Supervisors’ SIG Representative, ELL Specialist, for RAC 2 (Regional Achievement Center) at the NJDOE.