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Phoenix Elementary School District lays out plan for 'language acquisition programs' to increase students' academic performance

The pass rate on reading tests for eighth-grade students is a main concern at Phoenix Elementary District.

At the district office on Sept. 26, a governing board meeting was held to discuss Phoenix students' academic performance and strategies to increase proficiency. 

As the 2024 school year approaches, the governing board of the Phoenix Elementary School District #1 discussed a plan to dedicate more time teaching ‘exceptional students’ and ‘English learners’ in language acquisition programs. These students' test scores fall below the 2024 academic goal, which set the goal of 34% of eighth-grade students testing proficient and highly-proficient in reading. 

Dr. Ibi Dávila Haghighat, the Phoenix Elementary School District #1 superintendent, provided the board with a graph that showed eighth-grade students' reading scores from 2019 versus the goal where teachers would like their students to be by August 2024.

“We know that our students are capable of reaching these scores and we can do better, as their administrators, to help them accelerate their learning,” said Haghighat. 

The first strategy presented was sheltered English immersion training for teachers, which entailed ‘targeted minutes’ and ‘integrated minutes' for students with lower test scores. Targeted minutes is where students are pulled out of their classrooms and given one-on-one instruction in English language acquisition. Integrated minutes is where students are taught in a way that they would focus on language development.

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Deborah Gonzalez explained immersion training using visual cues and pointing to objects when teachers are giving a lecture so they can make sense of the curriculum. 

“Regardless if I am a Spanish speaker, native speaker, or I’m an English-speaking student who is not familiar with a word it is now comprehensible to me,” Gonzalez said. 

The second strategy proposed to the board was co-teaching. As their students are brought into classrooms, they are given the instruction that best helps them obtain knowledge. General education teachers would be present in the classroom with language teachers so they are planning and teaching together. They said that by having two teachers who both focus on teaching the curriculum, students will be better equipped to accelerate their learning. 

This strategy for teachers was focused on because it has been implemented across other districts within Phoenix and has gained positive results from different grades, according to Gonzalez. Gonzalez explained that last year, a ‘Structured English Immersion’ canvas program was designed online to give teachers a trial experience. In this professional development class, they learned how to design lesson plans and deliver them to their students. After expanding the program, the district will have two sessions for teachers to learn ‘Structured English Immersion’ starting this year. 

Discussing the strategies given to the board, they are hopeful of receiving positive academic results from the students in the future. Erika de La Rosa, one of the governing board members, said she “believes that the plan is sufficient to cause growth toward our overall vision.”


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