The Seattle Public Schools system is using an international schools model in an effort to focus on helping English language learners and students learning other languages.
The system’s international schools are taking a dual-language approach that allows students to study in their core subject areas in their primary and secondary language. A recent report by the group Alliance for Excellent Education credits the school system with creating a network of programs that is assisting ELLs with their language development.
“Networks of schools that have embraced cultural and linguistic diversity are producing far better outcomes than traditional schools, which have historically underserved students from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds,” the report says. “Districts are beginning to recognize the need to scale effective designs to support English learners.”
According to the report, district officials want the international schools to equip students with dual-language skills, to focus on preparing students for a global economy, and offer greater support to ELLs. They have targeted opening the international schools in neighborhoods where there are many ELLs and low-income students.
The study looked at two international schools in particular, Denny International Middle School and Chief Sealth International High School, which are located next to each other. They serve a student body that is about 60 percent low-income, and where one-third of students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken.
The high school program also offers the academically rigorous International Baccalaureate program and classes in Spanish, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese.
The report’s authors noted that in classes students discussed issues such as language, culture and social justice as they related to their own identities.
The report concludes with a number of policy recommendations for helping secondary schools to create positive academic outcomes for diverse students.
They include focusing schools around language development, developing teachers who value diversity, ensuring that teachers are trained on ELL strategies, and providing ELLs the opportunity to learn alongside non-ELLs.