More than 1,000 English Learners in Utah Using Supplemental Online and Blended Learning Solution

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Students in grades 6-10 can access the online content anytime, anywhere, allowing them to learn the fundamentals of academic English, complete projects, and help accelerate their English language learning

As part of its 5 Million Voices reporting project, NPR analyzed U.S. Department of Education data to determine the achievement of English Learners (ELs) across the country. In Utah, the average high school graduation rate for ELs is 62 percent, while the average for their native English-speaking peers is 83.9 percent.

In an effort to close this achievement gap for its EL students, the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) implemented the online English Learners solution from Middlebury Interactive Languages, now part of Fuel Educationâ (FuelEdâ). Starting this spring, approximately 1,000 secondary students spanning 12 high schools, eight middle schools, five charters schools and the USBE’s Refugee Educational Training Center will use the online solution as part of a blended learning model.

“We wanted to use an EL solution that allowed for blended learning in order to highlight our excellent teachers,” said Dr. Christelle Estrada, Education Specialist for Title III and Refugee & Immigrant Programs at the USBE. “Additionally, we wanted a solution that focused on academic content vocabulary and inquiry based learning in core content areas, and aligned to assessment standards.”

In addition to helping students learn academic English and hone their literacy development, the supplemental curriculum connects to students’ cultural backgrounds to build a context for the content. Students work on a combination of individual activities in English language arts, math, science and social studies to reinforce their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. The activities can be modified for students of all proficiency levels. The curriculum also includes project-based learning activities during which students work in small groups. Allowing the groups to develop their projects’ topics and forms of delivery empowers them to take ownership of their learning while also reinforcing collaboration and English proficiency.

The curriculum aligns to the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA21) standards and the Common Core State Standards, and is correlated to the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WiDA) standards. 

“The curriculum’s best feature is its alignment to the four WiDA standards for speaking, reading, writing, and listening,” said Matthew Emerson, Secondary Specialist for Title III at USBE. “The curriculum gives students an excellent base of language skills while simultaneously allowing teachers, the true pedagogy experts, to deepen instruction based on students’ needs when necessary. It's an ideal marriage of complete curriculum and teacher input, and I believe it’s going to bridge the gap between engagement and focused language development.”

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