By Katie Delis, CEI Intern
In an engaging and informative interview, Principal Daniela Anello demonstrated how participating in a data-driven, innovative dual language immersion program at DC Bilingual provides students and parents alike with resources for life-long learning.
DC Bilingual is a dual language immersion charter school in the nation’s capitol that educates children in both Spanish and English starting in the pre-K ages through the fifth grade. A regular classroom at DC Bilingual has two co-teachers: one who is a native English-speaker who teaches the content for math, social studies and English literacy; and one who is a native Spanish-speaker who teaches the content for science, nutrition, character studies and Spanish literacy in Spanish. With 87% of the student body qualifying for free or reduced lunch, students illuminate the classroom with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, but each share in the educational environment that fosters safety and the promise for growth.
Student Centered Data-Driven. DC Bilingual operationalizes the values it lauds through its day-to-day practices. The school claims that every child has a right to a quality education, particularly one that values language and culture. When asked about how a successful bilingual education is ensured for each student, Principal Anello explained first and foremost that DC Bilingual has made a culture out of being a “student-centered data-driven school.”
- Every sixty days, teachers assess students with grade-appropriate tests and review student scores and strategies for improvement.
- Teachers meet to look at data from these and other assessments on a biweekly basis.
- Team teachers come together nearly daily to improve morning lessons for the afternoon. Through anecdotal explanations of individual student success, Principal Anello emphasized the student-centered nature of each meeting.
- A stunningly successful Response-to-Intervention program has flowed from their culture of monitored student progression. It has proven effective because students, teachers, tutors, parents and administration are all involved in using data to create and accomplish clear goals to help the child make sufficient gains in all content areas and across languages.
When we consider what progressing towards “sufficient gains” looks like for students at DC Bilingual, nothing demonstrates their success better than the recent data from Washington, D.C.’s standardized tests.
- Five years ago, 30% of third graders at DC Bilingual were reaching advanced proficiency in English reading. This past year, 65% are at advanced proficiency.
- Additionally, in 2008, only 3% of third graders were reaching advanced proficiency in math, and this past year 65% are at advanced proficiency.
- Finally and most interestingly, the fifth graders take a standardized science exam in English despite having learned the content in Spanish. In the previous two years, 75% and 80% of students have reached the advanced proficiency in this exam, and they have out-performed the majority of schools in the District.
A Community Effort. The numerical success that Principal Anello delightfully illustrated is the result of a composite effort of many people, particularly the union between the educators, administrators and parents of the student body. Administration at DC Bilingual stresses the importance of home visits before the start of the school year, and they host parent-teacher conferences that integrate student experience and data throughout the school year. Principal Anello explained, “we are intentional about giving parents the resources they need to help their student succeed,” and this mentality is exemplified by the following recent endeavor of two teachers at DC Bilingual:
- Next year, parents will be invited to a parent-teacher conference where they will learn of an area where their child could use extra support and build goals to foster growth.
- After meeting with the teachers, the parents will be issued a ticket to a specific booth at an exposition in the multipurpose room where they will learn an activity or game to implement at home to help their child practice skills within the area of improvement.
This program, among others, invites families of DC Bilingual to learn together and manifests their value of partnering with families to see student progress.
Parents demonstrate their outstanding support by participating and by remaining loyal to the bilingual program throughout their child’s elementary years. Even though various dual language immersion schools suffer from high attrition rates, 95% of the families currently enrolled will be staying with DC Bilingual even as they are in the process of relocating this summer.
As DC Bilingual will begin this new school year at a new location and with the opportunity to confront Washington, D.C.’s new standardized tests, we at CEI applaud their recent student success and look forward to their sustained improvements. As we each move forward in our own opportunities to foster student growth, let us consider how components of DC Bilingual’s program can inspire our own student-centered achievement.