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.

Title III Immigrant Children & Youth Subgrant

Each year, one Maine LEA is awarded the Title III Immigrant Children & Youth Subgrant. The purpose of the subgrant is to provide supplemental programs to enhance the education of immigrant students. The subgrant is awarded to the LEA that has experienced the greatest increase in the enrollment of immigrant students, based on the average immigrant enrollment of the two prior years as compared to the current year. For school year 2019-20, the Department will notify the subgrant recipient of its award once October 1 student enrollment counts are finalized. The LEA will then have the remainder of the grant period to expend these funds. The anticipated amount of the FY20 Immigrant Children & Youth Subgrant is $5949. If you have any questions related to Title III, please contact April Perkins at april.perkins@maine.gov.

 

Maine DOE Announces 4th Annual Read to Ride Summer Reading Challenge

Summer vacation is a welcome break from the daily school routine for children and parents alike, but the summer months can be detrimental to students’ learning if young minds do not remain active. Summer learning loss is a well-documented phenomenon, particularly with respect to reading achievement.  Students can lose up to three months of reading progress during the summer if they don’t keep reading.  When combined across a child’s PK-8 school career, this can result in 1-2 years of lost reading progress.

Fortunately, the summer slide can be prevented or greatly reduced when students continue to read on a regular basis. By encouraging children to read for enjoyment from a variety of resources and to explore topics of interest, they continue to practice applying the skills they have learned, build their vocabulary, and widen their knowledge of the world.  For students who are not yet reading independently, or just beginning to read, reading to and with parents is equally beneficial.

Once again this year, the Maine Department of Education is collaborating with the Freemasons of Maine to sponsor the Read to Ride Summer Reading Challenge for students in grades PK-8.  The Maine Freemasons have generously donated 48 bikes with helmets as prizes for the Read to Ride Summer Reading Challenge.  During the first three years of this initiative, thousands of Maine children completed the challenge of reading 500 minutes during the summer vacation.  Maine DOE hopes to see this number grow even higher during the summer of 2019.

Any school with students in the PK-8 grade span may register to participate. Participating schools will collect documentation from students who have completed the challenge. They will hold school level drawings to select two students (one boy and one girl) whose names will be entered into the state level drawing to be held on September 25, 2019.   Schools are encouraged to participate in this challenge, to coordinate it with any other summer reading challenges/programs they offer, and to consider soliciting their own local level prizes for students who complete the challenge.  Find details and the link to register your school at the Read to Ride Challenge website.

Questions may be directed to Maine DOE’s Elementary Literacy Specialist, Danielle Saucier at danielle.m.saucier@maine.gov.

 

 

 

Tips for Supporting Muslim Students During Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr

Maine is home to many Muslim families, and the Maine Department of Education would like to provide some general information about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr to schools, so they can support their schools’ Muslim community members as they enjoy this very special time of year.

Ramadan is a month-long fast observed by Muslims around the world. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. To wish someone a happy Ramadan, you can say “Ramadan Kareem” or “Ramadan Mubarak.”

This year, in the United States Ramadan will start around May 5th and end around June 4th. The official beginning and end of the month of Ramadan will not be announced until the sighting of the new moon. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan happens about 11 days earlier each year.

During Ramadan, most Muslims fast (i.e., consume no food or water) from dawn to dusk. Many Muslims also pray more frequently and make special efforts to be kind, generous, and compassionate. This is a joyous time of year, and each Iftar (post-sunset meal to break the fast) is a celebrated opportunity to gather with friends and family. Muslims may also wake before dawn to eat Suhoor (a pre-dawn meal), which helps give them energy to endure the day’s fast. (Iftar and Suhoor timings can be found here.) For some Muslims, the typical patterns of sleep are shifted so that more waking hours occur during the night, which can make it difficult to wake up early and stay alert during the day.

Typically, very young children do not fast or may fast only part of the day. Some Muslims may not fast when they are travelling, ill, pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating. In these cases, fasting days can be made up for at a later time. Elderly and chronically ill people who are not well enough to fast may give charitably instead.

After Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr (the festival of breaking the fast) is a three-day celebration with feasts and gatherings of families. This is an extremely important and cheerful time of year for Muslims, and students will likely be absent for all or part of the three days. Children often receive a new outfit or a small amount of money as a gift from their family for the holiday. To wish someone a happy Eid, you can say, “Eid Saeed” or “Eid Mubarak.”

Here are a few tips for supporting students during Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr.

  1. Learn about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr.

There are many resources available online that can help you understand how and why Ramadan is observed. Keep in mind that practices may vary depending on culture, so your students and their families are the best sources of information about their Ramadan traditions. Here are a couple of articles that give a general overview.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/religion/what-ramadan-six-things-know-about-muslim-holy-month-n586426

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/ramadan

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Eid-al-Fitr

  1. Encourage cultural sensitivity for all school community members.

Fasting can have many physical and mental effects, such as fatigue, lack of concentration, and irritability. For your students, your understanding and support can help ensure that they continue to learn and make the most out of their time at school while fasting. Teachers, school nurses, sports coaches, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, and all other staff who interact with students will need to know how fasting can affect students.

Talking with staff and students about Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr helps encourage an atmosphere of cultural awareness and sensitivity for the whole school community. Sensitivity towards fasting students includes avoiding consuming food and beverages in front of them whenever possible. Consider holding any celebrations that include food, such as awards banquets, after Iftar (sunset).

  1. Ask students and their families how you can best support them.

Some schools may choose to offer a place for students to go during lunchtime, alternative options for physical education, or dedicated prayer spaces. Schools may also avoid scheduling assessments or other required activities during Eid-al-Fitr, when students are likely to be absent. The best way to ensure that your school is a supportive, culturally-aware learning environment is to involve students, families, and other community members in planning and policy creation. Check out these two articles for some practical ideas that may benefit fasting students.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/column-teachers-can-support-students-ramadan

http://www.isre.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Schools-Guide-to-Ramadan-2.pdf

  1. Have a clear, well-communicated policy on tardies and absences.

Maine’s statute on excused absences is Title 20-A, Section §3272. It states that an absence is excused when it is for “observance of a recognized religious holiday when the observance is required during the regular school day and the absence has prior approval.” Fasting during Ramadan is a required religious observance, and the physical and mental demands of fasting may cause students’ tardies and absences to increase. Eid-al-Fitr celebrations are also religious observances. Districts will need to share clear expectations for attendance with students and families. It is highly recommended to develop these expectations in collaboration with your community members, recognizing that interpretation and translation may be necessary to ensure meaningful communication.