Education Week - March 5, 2014 - Leaders to Learn From - S19
the district's foray into the new standards.
For Ms. Santos, 61, a former mathematics,
science, and bilingual-resource teacher whose
first language is Spanish, it's a continuation of
her career-long commitment to students who
are learning English, according to those who
have worked closely with her.
"English-language learners are not an afterthought
for her, nor, by extension, the district,"
said Tina Cheuk, the project manager of the
Understanding Language project at Stanford
University, which Ms. Santos co-directs.
Said Kenji Hakuta, a Stanford University
education professor who is Ms. Santos' Understanding
Language co-director: "I do think
what has always set her apart as a leader for
ELLs is her focus on balancing the content and
the language expertise and putting the content
upfront, rather than in the background.
That has helped to position Oakland's transition
to the common core very well."
Now that public schools in nearly every
state are beginning to teach the Common
Core State Standards in English/language
arts and literacy and mathematics, and, in
states like California, the new Next Generation
Science Standards as well, demands on
students to use more sophisticated language
and practices such as analysis, persuasion,
and comparison have ratcheted up.
Ms. Santos, who directed New York City's
English-language-learner services for six
years before coming to Oakland, said the
California district's first step to make the
major shift was to pair content-area teachers
with ESL teachers to create new units of
study for English/language arts and math.
Those collaborations, Ms. Santos said, led to
lesson plans that build in tasks and prompts
to get students engaging in discourse, along
with supports, or "scaffolds," that teachers
can use to help English-learners at various
levels of proficiency.
To ensure that teachers could follow
through on the units of study and create
the right conditions for classroom conversation,
Ms. Santos and her team turned to
the idea of "instructional rounds," inspired
by the earlier work of Harvard University
researchers. Akin to patient rounds conducted
by medical professionals in hospi-
tal settings, small teams of educators have
been going into schools and select classrooms
to closely examine a problem or area
of instruction they've singled out as in need
of improvement. To delve into the complexities
of academic discussion, the Oakland
teams-made up usually of the principal, a
teacher, and a content specialist-look specifically
at how students are behaving and
what they are saying.
"We have been able to really concentrate
on what students are saying and listening
to make sure they aren't just regurgitating
facts," said Monica Guzman, the principal of
the International Community School, a K-5
campus where 70 percent of students are
ELLs. "It's helped us figure out which are the
right supports and strategies that work especially
well for English-learners."
The teams also look for basics like how
classrooms are set up to foster discussions
and whether teachers are using the contentspecific
vocabulary and academic language
that students will need to master. They document
everything they see and then break
down each finding, point by point, in later
discussions with teachers.
When it comes to English-learners specifically,
the team looks at whether those
students are discussing ideas and making
connections to the content, even if their language
"That's the ultimate goal of all of this,"
said Ms. Santos. "We have to support ELLs
to develop their language through the content."
Roma Groves, the principal of Martin Lu-
ther King Jr. Elementary School in West
Oakland, where 20 percent of students are
English-learners, said the instructional
rounds are having a positive impact on her
teachers, some of whom were initially skeptical.
"It was something new for them and
perhaps a little invasive," said Ms. Groves.
"But when they got useful feedback from the
team that came to see them, they took what
they heard to heart."
The rounds began in the 2012-13 school
year in a half-dozen schools and have expanded
districtwide this year. They are done
twice-once in the fall and once in the spring.
"When we do these rounds, it's really about
all of us learning together," Ms. Santos said.
"Nobody here has all the answers."n
LEADERS TO LEARN FROM > leaders.edweek.org
EDUCATION WEEK * March 5, 2014
Preston Gannaway for Education Week
Education Week - March 5, 2014 - Leaders to Learn From
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