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July 30, 2013 > Newark Unified addresses language development

Newark Unified addresses language development

Article and photos by Miriam G. Mazliach

At Schilling Elementary in Newark, a group of enthusiastic young students were celebrating the completion of their Summer English Language Academy. This intensive five-week program for 180 Kindergarten - third graders (English learners) was designed to accelerate language, grammar and vocabulary skills, in order to jumpstart their success in the upcoming school year.

Understanding that English learners lag behind classmates on standardized assessments, school district administrators recruited Clark Consulting and Training, Inc. to implement an intensive English language program during the summer. Title III Funds (Federal Govt.) were used to pay for this inaugural program held Monday through Thursday, four hours per day for five weeks.

"Kindergarten through 3rd grade are the best ages, otherwise students will become part of the achievement gap," stated Newark Superintendent of Schools, Dave Marken, who came to support the students and teachers. "The 180 English Language Development (ELD) students, who needed the assistance most, were selected and given this intensive jump start. They're working with a great group of teachers," stated Marken.

Schilling's principal, Nicole Paredes, acknowledged the teachers who taught in the Summer English Language Academy: Helena Sousa-Rodriguez, Laurie Trickel, Aurea Quintong, Ashley Leibrecht, Jessica Tomassini and Anita Yalla-Kodi.

The teachers began with training and professional development from the Clark team in May and received ongoing daily assistance from coaches, daily lesson plans, weekly quizzes, and pre- and post-assessments.

With this program, English is taught as a second language and not just incidental, but grammar based. Paredes emphasizes that the students were actively and verbally engaged in their own learning. "They will continue to use these strategies when they go back to school in the fall," said Paredes.

Student activities and lessons were taped; parents were able to view them to better understand what their child was learning. Additionally, each school day, students were provided with lunch and a snack, also available to the broader community.

To mark the last day of the program on July 23, Olympics-style activities were featured with students rotating through six classrooms to "compete" for gold, silver, and bronze medals in events such as Syntax Sprint, Morph Relay, Verb Tense Formula Toss, Phonology Football and Antonym Acrobatics. These activities gave students an opportunity to demonstrate what they had learned during the summer session.

Visitors who accompanied Superintendent Marken and Principal Paredes included: Christine Herrera, Administrative Assistant, Educational Services; Liz Warren, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent; Ray Rodriguez, School Board member; Domenic Longarini, college student; Cathreene Ingham Watters, Principal at Musick Elementary and Soleste Hilberg, Ph.D., Sr. Director of Educational Services.

This is the first year of the program at Newark Unified School District (NUSD). After this test run at Schilling Elementary, it is hoped that teachers will be encouraged to incorporate some of these grammar-based lessons/techniques into English Language Development during the school year. The District is optimistic that the summer academy will improve English language proficiency, ultimately gaining a greater understanding in all subject areas.

"As we say in Newark, we're big enough to matter and small enough to care," stated Superintendent Marken. "We believe we can see really great advancement and learning and we're glad to have had this opportunity for our kids."

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