Oregon Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
What is HB 3499?
According to Representative Joe Gallegos, “In Oregon, 34 school districts have a student body population composed of at least 15% English Language Learners (ELL). In many of these school districts, there is a significant achievement gap between English-speaking students and ELL students. Under current Oregon law, school districts receive a 0.5 additional weight per ELL student. However, other than the additional funding weight, little consistency in accountability, curriculum, benchmarks and programmatic standards exist among ELL programs. HB 3499 (-2) addresses three main capacities of ELL policy: Uniform coding & budget transparency, a system of supports & interventions, and long-term strategic development.”
House Bill: https://www.oregon.gov/ode/studentwills-and-family/equity/EngLearners/Documents/ELHouseBill3499.pdf
The benchmarks that will be set can dramatically impact districts, schools, classrooms, teachers and students. It is important to be informed, to speak into best practices for English language learners and advocate for appropriate steps to improve education in Oregon.
Who was involved in the new EL Advisory Group?
The Oregon Department of Education’s website states that, “Having a diverse group of community and district stakeholders is an important part of the Oregon Department of Education’s (ODE) decision-making process and effective implementation of the EL Strategic State Plan. This new group is comprised of district and school administration, teachers, students, parents, and community members.” (2017)
To represent Oregon teachers, ORTESOL Refugee SIG Chair, Susan Kaller was a representative in this important group.
Since joining the ORTESOL board in 2016 she began to attend some state meetings and was asked to continue her work with ODE (Oregon Department of Education) on the EL Strategic Plan. The EL Advisory Group prepared a presentation for the COSA (Confederation of Oregon School Administrators) EL Alliance conference on February 8th, 2018. Susan attended the conference March 7th-9th in Eugene and presented on March 8th.
Kaller reflected, “The EL Alliance conference was extremely well attended with many sessions, so much so it will likely require a different venue next year. For K-12 ESL teachers and administrators, it has become the big “go to” conference in Oregon. The focus of the conference was on SPED/ESL coordination and newcomers in the classroom. There were 13 sessions per breakout covering everything from instructional strategies, program set up, licensure, professional development, recent legislation and regulation, trauma, understanding and accessing information ODE makes available, and research. Jeff Zwiers of Stanford gave the keynote on ‘authentic communication.’”
Participating in and advocating for English language learners has been a significant part of my role on the board explained Kaller. Throughout the process, the group has made an effort gather feedback from as many as possible in state board of education for approval.
What can you do to advocate for English language learners and teachers?
1) Educate yourself and clarify the issue.
2) Attend a public meeting.
3) Continue to understand rights and policies for ELLs.
4) Identify who your allies are.
5) Organize and educate others.
6) Identify your outlets for change. Consider asking the following questions:
a) What can I do in my classroom?
b) What can I do in my school?
c) What can I do in my district?
d) What can I do in my community?
e) How can I collaborate with other non-school-based communities?
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