With a large number of children entering the school district without the necessary knowledge of the English language, the Washington Elementary School District (WESD) of Phoenix, Arizona faces the unique challenge of integrating a significant percentage of their students into the state curriculum. The district's 32 ethnically diverse elementary and middles are made up of 38 percent Caucasian, 48 percent Hispanic, 7 percent black, 4 percent American Indian and 3 percent Asian students.
Home to more than 300 refugees, WESD schools currently support more than 50 different languages in their classrooms. In their promise to provide the best education for all of their students and their commitment to adequately teaching the district’s population of non-native speakers, WESD committed itself to initiating a new English as a Second Language (ESL) program in 2005 that would engage a student’s family into the learning experience through an immersive, interactive and personalized program.
With a limited budget and staff, WESD decided that Rosetta Stone® Classroom (opens in new tab) would best fit the needs of their organization and their wide-variety of ESL students. In 2005, WESD installed Rosetta Stone Classroom software onto all of its language lab computers. One year later, the language-learning solution was available on every computer throughout the school district.
"We needed a single solution that allowed a wide range of students from different grades, backgrounds and proficiency skills to attain language skills at their own individual pace," said Sue Brown, administrator for ESL Programs, Washington Elementary School District. "Rosetta Stone Classroom helped us create effective multi-age programs where ESL kids could naturally learn English in an immersive and personalized environment."
Improvement in Comprehension
Each year since Rosetta Stone’s inclusion in the curricula, WESD students have experienced English language gains, leading to improved student advancement and learning, while also driving the ESL programs to expand in funding, staff and participation. Rosetta Stone Classroom has been so successful at WESD, educators have applied elements of the program into new learning environments. Many of the schools have painted their language labs green, imitating the "green signal" that appears on the Rosetta Stone program signifying that a person has learned the correct word or phrase in English. Other schools have created pins for high achieving students with the phrase, "Going Green!", as a means to encourage language learning.
"We're pleased WESD selected Rosetta Stone Classroom to deliver consistent, demonstrable language-learning results district-wide," said Tom Adams, CEO of Rosetta Stone. "In the same way that WESD has integrated the solution into the fabric of their schools, Rosetta Stone is meant to be just one of the tools – albeit a powerful one – a teacher can employ to educate their students."
In the hopes of extending the success achieved in the classroom, WESD decided to integrate ESL learning into school-sponsored extracurricular activities. The program was expanded into the afterschool programs within the year and the afterschool sessions featuring Rosetta Stone have consistently been the highest attended throughout the district.
Encouraging Family Learning
Along with the large number of children who enter the WESD classrooms without English language proficiency, many of the parents of these students are similarly unable to communicate with the faculty and staff. Administrators in WESD believed it was necessary to encourage these non-native speaking parents to learn the English language and become more involved in their child's education in order for their children to reach their full potential. In pursuit of this goal, WESD launched two parallel programs in 19 of their schools at the end of 2007: an adult education program and a family literacy class.
The adult language learning program uses Rosetta Stone Classroom to individually teach non- native speakers the English language. These adult classes utilize the Rosetta Stone Level 3 program, a more advanced language-learning program that builds on language fundamentals and conversational skills, to ensure parents attain the necessary communications skills they need in their everyday lives. With this program, WESD hopes to empower parents to succeed for themselves and become role models to their children who are also going through the same process.
This idea of communal learning is continued in WESD's family literacy class. The family literacy classes bring both parent and child together to use Rosetta Stone, participate in group activities, watch educational movies and play word games. WESD believes that these classes assist in the advancement of both the parent and child by turning learning into a family activity, fostering continued growth in the language learning which immensely benefits the child.
WESD immediately saw an increase in parental participation in school activities after the launch of these programs. The school district noticed that more of the non-native speakers were attending Parent-Teacher events, significantly higher numbers became involved in the school PTA and more parents were participating in meetings with faculty to discuss their child's progress