CA district adopts language program for ESL students

The Centralia School District consists of nine K-6 elementary schools with a diverse ethnic and socio-economic student population in California’s Orange County. With approximately 4,700 students in its schools, including 180 special day class students, the District also operates eight Child Care Centers, two State Preschool Programs, a Bright Start Pre-Kindergarten Enrichment program and two Healthy Start Centers throughout Buena Park, Anaheim and La Palma region.

In the Centralia School District’s most economically diverse schools, teachers faced the unique challenge of engaging English as a Second Language students who were often enrolled for short and inconsistent periods of time. This transient student enrollment created difficulties for educators who needed to assess their students’ English proficiency and monitor learning progress. The district needed to find an effective English Language program that could assist the teachers in their instruction of these students, track individual student progress and provide adjustable lessons based on student needs.

In 2007 and 2008, Centralia School District incorporated language-learning solutions into their overall English Language curriculum, providing an immersive and personalized English learning experience for a wide range of students. Rosetta Stone®
Classroom features — such as speech analysis tools, grammar and spelling components and predefined course templates — complement instruction in the classroom and allow the diverse group of students to attain language skills at their own pace. The Centralia School District selected Rosetta Stone Classroom for these comprehensive and immersive features and for the reporting and tracking tools it offered instructors.

In 2008, after two years of implementation in three of the district’s schools, Rosetta Stone Classroom was made available in all Centralia schools. Since then, these schools have experienced notable improvement in students’ English ability and engagement in English Language instruction. In 2009, with the help of Rosetta Stone, all nine schools of the Centralia School District hit their Title III No Child Left Behind accountability targets for the first time in District history

Like many districts in the state, the Centralia School District straddles a wide spectrum of ethnic and economic communities. The District at once hosts some of the richest schools in the area and some of the state’s poorest. The schools at the bottom end of the economic spectrum, exemplified best by Danbrook Elementary, are plagued by the overlapping challenges of a large population without proficiency of the English language, as well as a widening number of students from below the poverty level who often attend school sporadically or for short bursts of time. For example, in Centralia’s Danbrook Elementary, 47 percent of students are English Language learners, 85 percent are below or at the poverty level, and the average time of enrollment is 2 months.

Despite these challenges, the teachers and administrators of the Centralia School District remained intent on providing their English Language students with the tools necessary not only to learn the language, but also to engage in their education despite the length of their stay. To achieve this goal, the Centralia School District secured state and federal funding in 2007 to overhaul their English Language instruction curriculum and implement a new program tailored to their distinct needs.

Centralia School District’s first choice to spearhead the new English Language program was Rosetta Stone Classroom. In 2007, the District installed Rosetta Stone Classroom software onto all of the computers in three of their schools and, in the
next year, was determined to these expand into all nine of their K-6 facilities.

“Because of the unique demographics of our schools, faculty often interact with and teach to their students as if they will not see them tomorrow,” said Kathi Wagner, Bilingual Education Director, Centralia School District. “Our teachers, therefore, really craved a supplemental service that could be used in their classrooms to get the kids involved immediately.”

For Students
Because students are only enrolled for short periods of time, many of Centralia School District’s children enter their classrooms without teachers and administrators knowing the student’s unique education needs and language proficiencies. Despite this hurdle, Rosetta Stone Classroom, with its adaptable instruction and sequential learning program, has allowed Centralia’s students to be immediately integrated into an already existing class and begin learning the English language on their first day.

“When an English Language student walks through our door for the first time, we have no idea how best to instruct him or her because we have no prior knowledge of their skills or ability,” Ms. Wagner said. “With Rosetta Stone® it essentially doesn’t matter because the software will be able to adjust to his or her specific language needs. That ability to customize to a student has made Rosetta Stone incredibly powerful for our teachers who otherwise would not know where to begin.”

Additionally, Rosetta Stone’s interactive lessons, voice-driven technology and vivid pictures make the software engaging for many of Centralia’s young students. Ms. Wagner comments that, “I see so many ESL kids get stuck at the intermediate
level, but with Rosetta Stone, they find it so much fun and highly motivating, they always want to learn and play with the software.”

For Teachers
In 2009, the first year Rosetta Stone was available throughout the District, all nine schools of the Centralia School District met their growth targets for Title III accountability for the first time in the District’s history. Due to the immense language gains of their students because of the software, and the easy assessment tools, Centralia tags the widespread use of Rosetta Stone as a main reason for their recent success.

In recent months, the Centralia School has initiated before-school programs featuring Rosetta Stone in their poorest school communities to give students a place to go during the hours when other programs geared toward students are not yet open. The program has continued to grow enrollment since its inception and, hoping to keep their young students off the streets and out of trouble, Centralia intends to expand this program to afterschool and parent-child programs in the near future.