“Language for All” Program in Oregon Schools

Oregon’s “Language For All” Program Helps English Language Learners using a “Push-in” model for language instruction.

A recent article in Education Post started out by saying that Oregon isn’t usually the first state you think about when talking about progress with English-language learners (ELLs). We usually think of California or Texas but there is a school district in Oregon that is making a difference.

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As Iris Maria Chavez reports, “The Oregon Department of Education has recognized David Douglas School District (DDSD) as one of eight Oregon districts to help English-language learners achieve. This is no small feat. DDSD is an urban district abutting Portland, where many Latino and Black families have moved to as housing prices in Portland have risen. DDSD has a student population that is 80 percent low-income and 42 percent ELL with over 40 languages spoken. As DDSD explored how best to serve ELLs, they realized that in many classrooms a majority of students were being pulled out for language instruction, which caused havoc in the class and resulted in missed academic time.”

Their solution? Language for All: a “push-in” model for English language instruction. Instead of pulling children out of classrooms for academic instruction, the new model includes all children in the instruction in daily set-aside blocks of time. Hence, the name, Language for All.

According to Chavez, “During this block of time students are placed in groups with others who have similar levels of English-language proficiency (some students do move to other classrooms to find their peers) and teachers are able to provide targeted instruction that supports the group’s language development needs. This model has the added benefit of recognizing that, particularly in the early grades, all students are language learners and it removes barriers between ELL-classified students and their peers.”

Another report on the district in Oregon Live quotes Kelly Devlin, the district’s ESL and Equity: “We’re always looking at data,” she says. If students aren’t progressing, it’s addressed promptly, Devlin says. “Our awareness of what our English learners need has gotten better and our instruction has gotten better,” Devlin says. “When you look at our data, it shows that we are making progress.”

Another way to address the English learner kids at school is to work with the parents and include them in the school-going culture by providing them with classes to learn to read with their children, develop English skills, and be part of the home-school community. The Latino Family Literacy Project is designed to work with parents of ELL kids and support them as a family.