Multiple HISD campuses are now including all their content teachers in the TELPAS rating process. In Sharpstown High School this structural change has resulted in a better understanding of the students’ language proficiency and has helped educators develop strategies and lessons to support students.
Ms. Elizabeth Cocina, Sharpstown’s Dean of Students, explains that “the Social Studies and English Language Arts teachers have been invited to act as raters.” This comes as a belief that all of their educators are teachers of reading, writing, listening and speaking. “Whether they are teaching English, World Geography, CTE, choral singing or Physical Education, our commitment is that all of our students—regardless of their linguistic background—will depart from Sharpstown as outstanding communicators. Therefore, these teachers must be skilled assessors of these abilities.”
Their efforts are continuously focused on providing their diverse student body, of 735 English Language Learners, the appropriate tools to learn. “This means—emphasizes Ms. Cocina—that we as a faculty have to be quite agile, quite nimble in our approaches. Our teaching practices have to be of honed, state of the art and cutting edge to serve these students. Our environment has to be culturally responsive as well, with knowledge of and compassion for the effects of significant trauma on the lives of our students.”
In addition to having Social Studies and English Language Arts teachers as raters; Math and Science teachers are acting as verifiers. “They are paired with raters, generally, in their clusters to keep the workload as balanced as possible, so our teachers are fresh and focused on the task.”
In order to have successful results of students moving from one grade level to the next, Sharpstown has been methodically collecting information from previous years to implement best practices. “Listening to the experiences and impressions of folks that made this process happen last year is the best way to avoid potholes and pitfalls, and to make sure it runs smoothly. Next, we have attended as many Multilingual trainings as possible. After all, the ML department is an expert in the field. Many of the program specialists are veterans of campuses with large ELL populations such as ours. Additionally, we have tried to give our faculty as much time as is feasible to complete the trainings, and we provided a TELPAS overview in a faculty meeting as a formal approach to preparing our faculty and staff.”
The Multilingual Department has also discussed the TELPAS process, the ELPS, the PLDs and best practices in teaching ELLs. “This was done during the PLC time, and it was a relaxed, conversational approach to professional development in which the teachers could ask questions in a non-threatening atmosphere. The feedback I have received has been positive and we believe that these sessions were beneficial,” Ms. Cocina concludes.