CPCS Fourth Grader Receives Standing Ovation for ELL Work

More than 200 people gathered in the gym for the March community circle at Community Partnership Charter School Elementary. After an unplanned speech by principal Derrick Dunlap, all the students, staff members and family rose to give fourth grader Jasmine a standing ovation.

Mr. Dunlap told the audience how he remembered when the fourth grader enrolled at the school a few years ago and could only speak Spanish. He later said he felt chills reflecting on how much progress Jasmine has made in language acquisition, reading comprehension and writing.

“She epitomizes, to me, the character and heartbeat of our school,” Mr. Dunlap said. “I’m just so proud of her.”

Receiving the spotlight during community circle meant a lot to Jasmine because it was a first for her. She said she could have screamed from excitement during the standing ovation. “I was nervous and proud of myself,” she said.

She remembers not knowing how to communicate in English as a pre-K student and trying her best with hand gestures. Now, she has no problem responding with thoughtful answers to complex interview questions presented to her in English.

School leaders agree that Jasmine’s success is a product of her character and her diligence working with staff members providing academic support. Mr. Dunlap also credits her parents for making sure Jasmine and her younger brother access services. The siblings are brought to the school to participate in the school’s free Saturday Academy, for instance.

Jasmine also receives after-school instruction from CPCS teachers in English language arts (ELA) two days per week. Her family is from Guatemala and her parents only speak Spanish at home. But forced to navigate remote learning in response to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, her mother and father consistently participated in Zoom meeting parent workshops.

“They really want me to work and work and get good grades,” Jasmine said.

According to Mr. Dunlap, parental involvement is a strong predictor of academic success.

Jasmine exemplifies the Community Partnership Charter School Elementary mission to produce future leaders who recognize the importance of perseverance.

She also represents the changing demographics at the school.

A few years ago only a handful of students were identified as needing English language learner (ELL) support. Now, 17 students work one-on-one with Keily Alvarado, the school’s ELL teacher. This is Ms. Alvarado’s first year with Community Partnership Charter School Elementary. Another teacher previously balanced ELL instruction with other duties.

Jasmine and Ms. Alvarado

Jasmine and Ms. Alvarado meet three times per week for 45-minute one-on-one sessions. Ms. Alvarado individualizes instruction for each of her students by identifying their strengths and weaknesses. Right now, the challenge for Jasmine in reading is decoding complex multisyllabic words.

Once they caught up with each other after the long holiday weekend, Jasmine focused on improving on her weaknesses. “Let’s begin!” she said, turning to Ms. Alvarado. “I’m happy.”

When she is with her general education peers Jasmine can appear among the shyest in the room. She is usually quietly focused on the assignment or teacher in front of her. But working one-on-one with Ms. Alvarado she is comfortable opening up and cracking jokes in between ELL instruction.

The two worked with a whiteboard and flash cards when they came up on the word “wrapped.” Jasmine counted the consonants and vowels. She then sounded out the word and improvised a sentence to go with it.

“I wrapped myself in a tortilla blanket!” she said.

Jasmine enjoys making people smile. She said being in a large class inspires her because she benefits from the perspectives of her peers.

Noriella, a classmate, said she felt proud of Jasmine when she was recognized with a standing ovation during the community circle.

“She is really sweet,” Noriella said. “When someone is mean to her she just forgets about it.”

Her Year to Soar

According to the New York State Education Department, the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT) is designed to annually assess ELL students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Last year, Jasmine tested into the “transitioning” proficiency level, which means she has shown some independence advancing in her academic language skills. Ms. Alvarado said she is confident Jasmine will soon test into the “expanding” and “commanding” levels of the NYSESLAT.

Testing and tracking data is important for determining the levels of support services each student needs. Jasmine said she also understands how a low enough score on the upcoming New York State Education Department annual ELA assessment could hold her back from a promotion to fifth grade.

Though the stakes make her nervous, Jasmine gained confidence through her improvements on the school’s in-house assessments. She scored a 38 out of 100 on the ELA section in February. Last month she earned an 81, according to Delia Mine, one of her fourth-grade teachers.

Part of that improvement can be attributed to Jasmine receiving test accommodations assigned to her through her individualized education plan, but Ms. Mine is sure Jasmine made dramatic strides this year in her academic development through her effort and focus.

Jasmine also benefited from her teachers working together to deliver consistent support and encouragement.

“The payoff has been tremendous this year with how much she has grown,” Ms. Mine said. “This is her year to soar.”

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