When I was an administrator, my favorite day of the year was always the first day of kindergarten. It typically fell two days before the start of the other students' school year. In preparation for the first day of kindergarten, teachers would send home surveys to each kinder parent requesting important information about their children. Thus, armed with pages of information about each child and a recent photo, our kinder teachers were ready to woo their tiny new students and ease the fears of their anxious parents. When walking the halls of the kinder wing on that first day, it was commonplace to hear things like:
- You must be Marisol!
- Eve’s desk is the one with the picture of the bunny on it because she likes bunnies.
- Mr. Williams, here’s a list of the gluten-free snacks we’ll be serving in our classroom this year to accommodate Max’s gluten intolerance.
With big smiles, big backpacks and big sighs of relief, our kinder students and their parents embarked upon their unforgettable journey through school.
Now that this year's first day of school is just behind us or fast approaching, I think we can agree that arming teachers with information about their students before the year begins allows them to create meaningful and safe experiences for their kids. Sadly, however, many teachers and administrators don’t receive critical information about the English Learners who transfer from other districts or from other schools within the district until well after the start of the year.
One district shares how they were able to simplify receiving transfer student records using Ellevation.
In Sequoia Union High School District, Isabel Cervantes-Falk, English Learner and Special Programs Director, explains, “We have eight feeder districts. Because we are all separate districts with separate systems, they can’t directly transfer their student information into our student information system.”
She goes on to say that because of this, Sequoia has encountered massive data challenges.
“When we compared the information that parents reported through online registration, the information in CALPADS, and the information that we eventually received from the feeder districts, we had over 650 English Learners with data discrepancies. It was a nightmare!”
As you can imagine, these data discrepancies impacted student services, and language screening. In order to get things back on track, Isabel needed to implement a number of new and smart initiatives.
First, she pulled a team together to clean up the data. They reached out to feeder districts to gather more information about which students had been reclassified in the spring and collected each English Learner’s program entry date.
For each EL, the team also went through cumulative folders looking for the original home language surveys or any documentation that indicated the language spoken at home- the primary language- to compare it with what the parent had most recently indicated through the high school's online registration.
Next, the district applied for and received a Tri-District Collaboration Grant. The grant allows the high school district to create opportunities for close collaboration with the two largest feeder districts around a number of drivers impacting student achievement. One key component the grant addresses is data sharing.
Isabel reflects, “Even though the grant only includes two feeder districts, the data sharing piece was so critical that we invited all of our feeder districts to a meeting to share ideas about how we could do a better job at it.”
As an extension of this effort to think outside of the box, the districts now plan to share key data about English Learners three times a year.
Lastly, Isabel decided to partner with Ellevation.
“When it comes to EL information, we need data immediately! I love that Ellevation will allow me to click a button and that I will be able to see everything right there. I will be able to see the basics like what data errors exist and the big stuff like why the student wasn’t reclassified.”
Ellevation also enables any of Sequoia’s feeder districts that use Ellevation as well to securely transfer complete online records to the high school. Those records include but aren’t limited to: basic demographic information, score history, service history, and even copies of writing samples and registration documents.
“Ellevation will give us everything we need to implement focused and direct interventions for students and to make decisions about what services each student needs,” Isabel says.
Students won’t ever have another day exactly like their first day of kindergarten. And as rosters grow, every teacher can’t memorize a handful of facts about each child before the first day of school. However, when more districts implement smart people systems and high-quality online tools like Ellevation, educators can ensure that every child in every district will receive a custom educational experience designed to meet their unique needs.
Whether you're welcoming a kindergarten to their school career or a transfer student into your EL program, we have tried and true strategies that will make the process smooth for everyone involved. Click below to download!