Carmen Fernandez is the principal of Southwest Community Campus, a K-8 school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Ms. Fernandez is a strong advocate for her 871 students—of whom 94% are children of color and 62% are English learners. She works hard to ensure that her school’s dual-immersion program helps students become bilingual/biliterate in English and Spanish.
With support from Partners, Principal Fernandez and her staff implement strategies that research has shown to be effective for low-income children of color. These strategies are captured on Partners’ School Transformation Rubric. For example, the rubric calls on teachers to set language objectives that address English language development needs. At Southwest, every Southwest classroom has such language objectives and academic content objectives posted on the wall, which teachers refer to regularly.
As another example, the rubric includes an item on making academic content accessible to English learners using a repertoire of strategies, and Southwest teachers now do just that. Teachers routinely front-load lessons with key terms so that students can stay engaged as the lesson progresses. Teachers also post “sentence frames,” which provide students with a template or starting point for expressing themselves in a second language.
As a final example, teachers at Southwest provide opportunities for students to practice their oral language skills, just as our rubric suggests. When students talk to each other in the classroom in pairs or small groups, they are asked to engage in “accountable talk,” which emphasizes students’ use of evidence from text to support their points of view.
The core instructional program and professional learning systems at Southwest align with our rubric in other ways. Consistent with the rubric’s emphasis on evidence-based programming, the school’s instruction “has been guided by data since the school began,” says Fernandez. In addition, Southwest uses grade-level professional learning communities to help teachers refine their skills and learn from each other. Fernandez notes that her School Innovation Partner “helped with structuring our grade-level professional learning communities so that all of them were successful.”
To learn more about how Partners can support the transformation work in your school or district contact Tovi Scruggs for the West Coast, William Hill for the Midwest or Jaime Kidd for all other national areas.