The Bridges to Academic Success team has been working in tandem with the Bilingual Education Department at Brentwood High School to implement the Bridges curriculum. This partnership involves professional development around implementation of the curriculum, as well as ongoing coaching and professional learning to help the teachers feel at ease with using the resources and feel supported in their pedagogical practice.
One of the unique and culminating aspects of this year’s Bridges training was an intervisitation at Brentwood with visitors from other schools who also serve a SIFE population. In March of 2017, Brentwood High School hosted teachers and administrators from all over Long Island, who came to observe the Brentwood Bridges teachers implementing the curriculum. The visitors observed teaching from both Integrated ENL/ELA and Stand-alone ENL classes, as well as classrooms that featured Native Language Arts instruction. The Brentwood staff spoke with the visitors about different aspects of the training and curriculum that they could use to improve the quality of SIFE instruction in their schools.
The process of learning and implementing a new curriculum is no easy feat, but the teachers at Brentwood High School worked diligently, and there were a host of positive results in both student and teacher outcomes. For example, among the ninety SIFE with Developing Literacy students who were testing on their English reading levels, growth averaged approximately two reading levels over the course of the school year, using a normed progress monitoring tool. Many students also developed a sense of being readers who had ownership over their own learning, and who could learn and grow with support. One student said, “When they [the teachers] read it with us, it helps us to get better…” The students also learned to grow together as a community and worked hard with support from each other: “When I am helping others, I help the other classmates. I say it’s very nice because, when my partner doesn’t know how to say a word or how to write a word, I help.” Students worked to improve their reading and writing through center work that supported them in everything from foundational literacy skills to fostering a love for reading about topics of interest.
The teachers also made a lot of growth in both their pedagogical style and their beliefs around how to teach SIFE with Developing Literacy. The community often works against a common misconception that SIFE cannot learn and that this population cannot think critically. Brentwood teachers are striving to counter this mindset by continuously improving their pedagogy and creating more a rigorous yet accessible classroom environment. For example, one teacher stated, “Working with the students, you get to understand them even more; you make connections; you see their capabilities, academically; how much you can push them and how you can challenge them.” When the teachers engaged with the curriculum, they were able to see that “SIFE can think critically and can rise to the challenges with which they are presented.”