Progress monitoring is also essential for all students, and all students who need extra help receive it, either in small groups in the classroom or outside the classroom.
Each student has a weekly goal in math and English Language Arts. The goals are based on state standards, and teachers make sure each student knows the standard or goal students are working to master. Students are tested weekly on their mastery of their weekly goal. Parents receive weekly reports on the student’s progress.
Teachers then analyze the data at least weekly in tandem with other grade-level teachers and a dean to determine if skills need to be re-taught to particular students. Extra assistance takes different forms, depending on the assessment. It could be small group instruction, one-on-one assistance from an English Language teacher in the classroom or one-on-one virtual tutoring with a high school student.
Any student who desires it can also take advantage of after-school tutoring offered by one of the school’s community partners, The Center for Success, an organization that offers various services to help children and families thrive. Future teachers from nearby Oakland University also provide one-on-one tutoring.
Focus On English Learners
In addition to monitoring in math and English Language Arts, English Learners are regularly tested on their proficiency with English. Depending on their proficiency, they are pulled out on a regular basis to work in small groups with other English Learners — or an English Language specialist comes into the classroom to help make sure those students are comprehending what is being taught.
The entire instructional staff went through a program aimed at helping them become better teachers of English Learners. The program, called SIOP, stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol. Teachers learn to incorporate a lot of visuals, discussion and explanation and teaching of vocabulary in their instructional methodology, Boersma said. Most importantly, while it was designed to assist English Learners, it’s beneficial for all students, she said. “(They’re) just really good instructional practices for every student,” she said.
It no doubt helps that the school is led by someone well-versed in teaching English Learners. Boersma went back to school to become certified in teaching English Learners and served for five years as EL coordinator at Walton.
Staffed For Success
Walton’s strong academic support team also buttresses its success.
In each K-2 classroom, there’s a teacher and a paraprofessional which makes small-group instruction easier. There’s also a paraprofessional in two of the three classrooms of third, fourth and fifth graders. Paraprofessionals work in classrooms with the greatest need to fill in gaps in achievement.
In addition, the school has a writing coach, reading coach and a math coach who work directly with teachers helping them hone their instruction and, sometimes working with students in small groups.
As importantly, the school has three EL teachers who work wherever needed throughout the school, in the classroom or pulling small groups or individual students to instruction.
Two staff people serve as student-family liaisons to help ensure parents feel comfortable, competent and confident in dealings with the school.
Bilingual staff members not only help English-learning parents and students communicate, but they also serve as role models for success.
“[Just being] Hispanic myself, I knew the struggles that a lot of them are facing right now when it came to knowing two languages and trying to read, and I feel like I could connect with the struggles that they had, and help them learn that way, how to read,” Figueroa said.
Boersma says she’s especially proud of the fact that she’s seeing many former students bringing their own children to Walton. “We are a school of choice and I’m always amazed and always impressed and thankful and grateful to parents for choosing us,” she said. “And they don’t just get academics, right? They get cared for.”