A documented reality across our nation is the achievement gap between English language learners (ELLs) and non-ELL students. Research has repeatedly shown that language barriers are a significant obstacle to academic achievement in mathematics and reading scores. With one of every four students expected to be an ELL by 2025, addressing this achievement gap will continue to be a critical issue for educators.
ELLs are an extremely important population in the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District (SBCISD), which is located in southern Texas, right on the border of Mexico. Each day in our 20 schools, we serve approximately 2,700 ELLs, accounting for roughly 26 percent of our student population.
As the Executive Director of Leadership and Performance at San Benito CISD, I work cooperatively with our administrative team to develop action plans for our at-risk student populations, including ELL students.
SBCISD targets and supports ELLs through several programs, with our newest effort focusing on our at-risk ELLs in early grades. Our goal in targeting students earlier is to reduce the need for alternative education measures later in their schooling.
Part of our strategy is using personalized literacy to encourage students to read as much as possible. Research shows that improving access to books increases reading performance, results in reading more often and for longer lengths of time, and produces positive attitudes about reading and learning. SBCISD partners with myON to provide 24/7 access to reading material for our bilingual students to help them acquire English proficiency at an accelerated rate, allowing them to transition into English instruction earlier than before. Our students are now connected to reading in an unprecedented way.
Using a personalized literacy program has engaged our students in ways we did not expect. Last summer, students more than doubled our district reading goal, which helped minimize the effects of the summer slide. High-interest English and Spanish content also promotes our goals for our bilingual students.
Not only does our strategy help close the ELL achievement gap, it makes strides towards preparing our students for the 22nd century. We are now equipping students as young as pre-kindergartners with essential technology skills and guidance that will follow them into their future. We are supporting our students to be leaders in the technologically advanced world.
Learn more about how San Benito CISD supports our ELL students through transitioning to English instruction, encouraging strong professional development for teachers, and using digital books in my recent eSchool News article How ‘early exit’ prepares students for the 22nd Century.
Raul Trevino is the Executive Director of Leadership and Performance at the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District.