Brunswick Community Support Group is Working Hard to Welcome Refugee Families

This article was written by Maine DOE Intern Simon Handelman in collaboration with community members from the Emergency Action Network (TEAN) in Brunswick.

When Sarah Singer, Teresa Gillis, and other community leaders founded The Emergency Action Network (TEAN), they were responding to the rising poverty and homelessness afflicting students at Brunswick Schools. TEAN worked with teachers and administrators in Brunswick schools to identify the needs of struggling students and families. Once a specific need was clear to TEAN, they utilized the Yard Sale feature on Facebook to collect donations or, members of TEAN purchased the necessary item outright and delivered it to the Superintendent’s office.

Each fall TEAN members visit faculty in all four Brunswick schools. They connect with educators and identify needs the taskforce is equipped to address. When a child needed running shoes to participate in gym class, TEAN got those shoes to the student. Singer expressed how happy the recipient was once he was able to participate in activities with the rest of his class. When mobile home park Bay Bridge Estates experienced well failures, TEAN delivered a U-Hall filled with Poland Springs bottled water to the residents. These examples of TEAN’s excellent work explain Singer’s classification of the organization as a “catch-all safety net” and a “crisis response group.”

In recent weeks, the organization has committed itself to assisting families of asylum seekers in Brunswick. Erin Mangalam and Singer, both on the board of directors for TEAN, use their own multi-lingual skills to connect families to the resources they need. Maggy Jansson, another director, is using her background as a home visiting pediatric nurse to help families access healthcare services. However, TEAN understands they do not have the necessary background to provide optimal assistance, for this reason the taskforce pushed the town of Brunswick to hire a Cultural Broker. Nsiona Nguizani has been working in the Maine immigrant community for several years. His job is to break down linguistic and cultural barriers so support groups like TEAN or Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP) can more efficiently meet the needs of these new Brunswick community members.

Support groups in Brunswick learned from Musalo Chitam at the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition that newcomer families often travel thousands of miles over the course of several months. These families know how to be independent–they just need to become oriented in their new home. In response to this message, Mangalam and Dana Bateman (another TEAN volunteer) collected bikes for the families. TEAN does not have the resources to buy every family a car, but they can mobilize the community to get a significant number of bikes for families. Once the bikes were collected, Bruno Inacio translated Kris Haralson’s bike safety training from English to Portuguese so as many people as possible could understand the information.

TEAN is working on many projects, and more information can be found on their website and Facebook page. Moreover, TEAN is just one of many support groups working hard to help their neighbors, new and old. Similar efforts are being undertaken in Topsham by Mt. Ararat TEAN, and in Freeport by Freeport Friends. Singer says the goal was to build a “totally replicable model.” She says that it is necessary to understand that needs are different in each community. In some towns like Brunswick, the role of support groups is changing rapidly. However, dedicated people with open minds can alleviate some of the burdens for families, students, and teachers by building networks like TEAN in their own communities.

Guidance on Determining English Learner Status

Students who are English learners (ELs) are considered former ELs when they reach an overall composite proficiency score of 4.5 on ACCESS for ELLs or level P2 on Alternate ACCESS. Former ELs are fully mainstreamed, no longer receive English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services, and are no longer administered ACCESS for ELLs/Alternate ACCESS each year.  

In the past, districts were required to closely monitor the performance of former ELs for a minimum of two years, per federal guidance, in order to ensure that they were able to succeed academically without ESOL services. If a former EL demonstrated a continued need for ESOL services, districts were required under civil rights law to provide such services, but students did not officially reenter EL status in the state student data system.  

Starting in school year 2019-2020, students who were formerly ELs may be eligible to officially re-enter EL status if they demonstrate a need for continued English language learning support. To determine if a former EL needs to be reentered into EL status, districts must have a clear protocol for monitoring during the two-year intensive monitoring period and beyond. To effectively monitor, all general education teachers must have an awareness of how language learning needs may manifest in the classroom, as well as an understanding of how non-linguistic factors may affect student performance. To assist districts in developing a strong monitoring protocol, the US Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition has produced Chapter 8 of the EL Tool Kit: Tools and Resources for Monitoring and Exiting English Learners from EL Programs and Services. It includes sample monitoring forms, information about digital monitoring systems, and a self-assessment. 

When a continued need for ESOL services is suspected, teachers should refer the student to the ESOL teacher/coordinator for rescreening. The student should be administered the WIDA Screener Online. When a former EL scores below an overall proficiency level of 4.5, the district must submit an online request to officially reenter the student into EL status in the state student data system. Note that students who were screened for EL status upon enrollment, but did not qualify at that time, may be rescreened at any time if a potential need for ESOL services becomes apparent. 

Essential Provisions and Services (EPS) funding for the next school year is based on the previous school year’s October 1 enrollment counts. Students who are reentered into EL status are eligible for an additional weighted EPS funding amount, like all other students who are ELs. 

If you have any questions about this notice or would like any assistance, please contact April Perkins at april.perkins@maine.gov or (207)624-6627. 

Maine DOE Director of ESOL Selected as Finalist for US Department of State Award

April Perkins is the current Director of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages)/Bilingual Programs & Title III at the Maine Department of Education (DOE). She is also one of four finalists for a prestigious national award. The English Language Fellow Alumni Impact Award “is designed to recognize and celebrate a former Fellow who has continued to use his or her fellowship experiences to positively impact his or her local teaching communities or career in TESOL in the United States post fellowship” (elprograms.org). “The winner with the most reach (likes, shares, comments) across platforms by August 12, 2019, at 5:00 PM EDT, will be selected as the award recipient.” Readers are encouraged to participate by liking, sharing, and commenting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the hashtag #fellowimpact2019.

But who is April and why is she one of four finalists nationally for this award?

Prior to 2010 April taught an intensive English program at Florida Institute of Technology. A dedicated group of students from Libya inspired April to want to travel to Libya to learn more about its rich linguistic and cultural history. She applied to the English Language Fellows Program and requested Libya as her top choice. Once selected, April was stationed in Tripoli, Libya in 2010. At the Academy of Graduate Studies in Janzour, April worked as a professor of linguistics training future teachers, interpreters, translators, and linguists. At the Academy she formed close professional relationships with her students and colleagues; however, her time in Libya was cut short. Popular uprisings in the neighboring countries of Tunisia and Egypt spread into Libya by February of 2011. Along with hundreds of other Americans, April was forced to evacuate the country. Dictator Muammar Gaddafi was eventually overthrown, but the security situation in Libya continues to be unstable.

“I was heartbroken to leave the place I had fallen in love with, and the many friends and colleagues I came to know during my all-too-brief stay,” April said. Over a year later the Fellows Program reopened the post in Libya and April eagerly anticipated her return. However, only two days before she was scheduled to fly back to Libya, the Benghazi attack resulted in the deaths of several American members of the foreign service.

Though April could not return to Libya, the Fellows Program was able to place her temporarily in Tangier, Morocco, where she taught conversational English to high school students and adults. After leaving Morocco, April spent the next four years in Egypt, where she received a grant through the US Department of State and AMIDEAST. Through this grant, April taught English and trained ESOL teachers for two years at Al-Azhar University. Now a finalist, April looks back at her time abroad.

“Throughout my time in North Africa, about five years in total, I learned invaluable skills that have served me well in my current role at the Maine DOE. Not only did I hone my teaching skills, but I also learned important lessons in cultural humility, intercultural communication, diplomacy, flexibility, and leadership,” April reflected.

“April is the epitome of a leader who has demonstrated the ability to effect change through her collaborative leadership style, her solutions-oriented approach to challenges, and her passion to make a difference in the lives of students learning English in Maine,” said Chelsey Fortin-Trimble, Maine DOE ESEA Federal Programs Director.

During her three years with the Maine Department of Education she has adeptly applied her cultural and leadership skills to co-develop the Maine Seal of Biliteracy, organize and facilitate the first Title III Districts Meeting, and bring together ESOL educators from across the state to share innovative practices and unify along common goals for English learners.

Emily Darby, ESOL and International Student Programs coordinator at the Brunswick School Department had the following to say about April:

April has been an invaluable resource for me as a professional in the ESOL/TESL field. She made huge advancements for Maine’s Department of Education by having current, timely, and relevant statutes, policies, guidelines, and best practices readily available to educators throughout the state. She promptly responds to issues and concerns by having vast knowledge at her fingertips and by diligently researching the tough questions. But what I appreciate the most about April is her thoughtful and sincere approach and passion for English learners, their families, and their futures. She is a true advocate for learners and educators alike. She makes my job much easier, more enjoyable, and more respected. Most importantly, she makes the lives of English learners and their families much easier, more promising, and more personal.

April is a tremendous asset to the ESEA Federal Programs Team. She leads by example, motivates others, and is equally motivated by others, which makes her an ultimate team member.  While she flawlessly manages many responsibilities in her current role, she continues to want to refine the ESEA Team’s processes and procedures to ensure that we are providing the best possible support to districts, schools, educators, students, and families.

Traveling abroad into extraordinary circumstances prepared April to expertly support ESOL education in Maine. Her hard work is transforming a fundamental educational experience for thousands of students in our state, to say nothing of the countless students April influenced abroad. As Carlos Gómez, Director of Language Development at Portland Public Schools puts it, “In short, April is a professional, an all-star, and an incredibly dedicated public servant!” These are only a few of the reasons April is among the four finalists for The English Language Fellow Alumni Impact Award. Regardless of whether April wins the award, she has awarded the state of Maine with trailblazing projects and the DOE eagerly anticipates her next move.

Maine Officially Adopts English Language Development Standards

Each of the eight content areas taught in Maine schools has its own set of standards, collectively known as the Maine Learning Results. Since 1997, the Maine Learning Results have provided a framework from which educators can build their curriculum, instruction, and assessments. Alongside these content standards, students learning English have been supported with a cohesive set of English language development (ELD) standards, aligned to the academic content they are learning.

This year Maine participated in the US Department of Education’s assessment peer review process for the English language proficiency assessment, through which the need for officially adopted ELD standards was emphasized. Therefore, the Maine Department of Education is officially adopting the WIDA ELD Standards as the foundation for language instruction for students who are English learners (ELs).

In use in Maine since 2007, the WIDA ELD Standards are an essential tool for student learning. WIDA is a non-profit educational consortium with 40 members, including the Maine Department of Education. In addition to the WIDA ELD Standards, WIDA provides Maine educators with a suite of high-quality instructional and assessment tools for students who are ELs, as well as professional learning for educators.

The five ELD standards support all Maine educators to engage students who are ELs in the academic language needed to access the Maine Learning Results. Both the Maine Learning Results and the WIDA ELD Standards were developed through extensive educator collaboration and have been regularly reviewed and updated to reflect the changing demands of college and career readiness.

  • Standard 1: Social and Instructional Language- communicate for social and instructional purposes within a school setting
  • Standard 2: Language of Language Arts- communicate information, ideas, and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of language arts
  • Standard 3: Language of Mathematics- communicate information, ideas, and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of mathematics
  • Standard 4: Language of Science- communicate information, ideas, and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of science
  • Standard 5: Language of Social Studies- communicate information, ideas, and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of social studies

For more information about the WIDA ELD Standards, or for support in implementing them effectively in your district, please contact April Perkins, Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III, at april.perkins@maine.gov or (207)624-6627. For information about English language proficiency assessments please contact Sue Nay, ACCESS Assessment Coordinator at Sue.Nay@maine.gov or (207) 624-6774.

Preparing to Educate Students who Are English Learners- Reviewing Lau Plans

As schools prepare for the 2019-2020 academic year, the Maine Department of Education would like to offer its support to help educators proactively plan effective programs for students who are English learners (ELs). Each year many new families arrive to Maine over the summer, or transfer from one Maine district to another. When school enrollment begins in the fall, districts may enroll a student who is an EL for the first time or may experience an increase in the number of students who are ELs as compared to last school year. The following suggestions and resources can help educators prepare to identify and serve students who are ELs and engage their families and communities.

The first step in preparing to serve students who are ELs is to have an up-to-date, board-approved Lau Plan, which is essentially the district’s road map, detailing how it meets federal and state policies for English learners. “Lau” refers to a 1974 US Supreme Court decision, Lau v. Nichols, that confirmed the rights of English learners to meaningfully access their education. In other words, Lau v. Nichols established that students who are English learners must be provided with English language acquisition support to enable them to meet the same challenging academic standards that other students are expected to meet. All districts are required to have a Lau Plan as part of the school approval process. To help districts create a thorough, well-crafted Lau Plan, the Maine Department of Education provides the Lau Plan Template and Guidance.

Staffing an effective program for students who are ELs is another key step. However, it is often difficult for districts to predict the coming school year’s count and the intensity of each student’s needs in order to plan staffing accordingly. Staffing must be responsive to student needs; the level of services that students are provided should not be determined by current staffing. Because of this, districts may find themselves in need of more teachers than anticipated. In such cases, the Maine Department of Education offers to share job postings with English for Speakers of Other Languages(ESOL) educators and to connect districts with qualified consultants in the region, whom districts may then screen and hire through their standard processes.

It is recommended to designate a staff member to manage the process for identifying students who are ELs, including administration of English language proficiency screening assessments. Also, having an existing staff member become (660) ESOL-endorsed is a proactive way to ensure readiness, should any students who are ELs enroll unexpectedly.

For information regarding Maine’s requirements for providing services to students who are ELs, please see the resource and policy guide, Serving Maine’s English Learners. For further assistance, please contact April Perkins, Director of ESOL/Bilingual Programs & Title III, at april.perkins@maine.gov.