Essential Practice #4: Asset-Based Approach
Essential Practice #4: Asset-Based Approach
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March 2, 2020

Greetings educators and friends!

In this newsletter, we continue to explore the 4th of the Essential Practices for ELL Achievement: taking an asset-based approach. Last month, we looked at how we build on students' linguistic and cultural assets in multilingual programs. This month, we take a look at taking an asset-based approach with our growing population of newcomers. 
We would like to take this opportunity to reshare our Asset-based cards, which gives strategies and steps you can immediately take to support newcomers and ALL students in these three areas: Identify and counter deficit traps, embrace students' linguistic and cultural assets, and build empowering narratives. 
Read on to learn more about our increase in newcomer enrollment, meet Elmhurst United newcomers and one of their amazing teachers, and learn about professional growth opportunities and resources you can access to better serve your newcomer students. 

What do you know about our newcomers? 

Taking an asset-based approach with our newcomers begins with getting to know our students' histories and stories. Click the graphic (or here) to see the big picture view of newcomers in Oakland schools. For example, did you know that our fastest growing population is from Guatemala and specifically Mam-speakers? Last year we served over 1400 newcomers from Guatemala, more than the combined total of the next 14 home countries! This year, we have experienced another unprecedented enrollment spike, so many of you may be seeing more newcomers arrive to your school this year, even at schools that have not traditionally served these students. 
Below are some resources to learn more about our newcomer communities.
Newcomer Fact Sheet, including definitions of refugees, asylees, and unaccompanied immigrant youth.
Yemeni Fact Sheet. While not our largest group, our Yemeni population makes up our largest Arabic-speaking population and is an important and well-established part of our community.
A Translation Crisis at the Border from the New Yorker: If you want to learn about the Mam language, culture, migration experience, and historical roots driving this migration, this is a must read! It features Oakland International graduate, Henry Sales, who has been leveraging his language skills and fierce commitment to his community to provide much-needed Mam-Spanish-English legal interpretation at the border.
Southeast Asian Resource Guide. Created to raise awareness of the deportations continuing to threaten our Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Laotion communities, it includes important background as well as titles of informational short videos available on youtube.
For more on our students as well as programmatic guidance and instructional strategies, see our newcomer toolkit here

This month, we have two ELLMA Spotlights highlighting the growing newcomer program at Elmhurst United: First-year teacher Allyssa Baldocchi shares her work to accelerate students' reading and EU newcomer students share their experience "graduating" into mainstream classes. 

Text-Based Newcomer Classrooms

Providing newcomers access to complex text is a challenge teachers of newcomers are productively grappling with across OUSD. 
In this ELLMA spotlight, Alyssa shares how she builds upon the assets her newcomer students bring while deploying reading and talk strategies to provide access to text and build student motivation.
In her words, “we call our department team Polyglot. We are teaching English language in class, while our students actually have a ton of languages that they bring to the table. I think that’s one of the most striking things about our newcomers, how many languages they have. I think about half of our students speak three languages, and some speak more. Language development isn’t new to them, where you’d think we are teaching English from scratch, we’re not teaching language development from scratch. They have a really rich language understanding.” Read more here! 

Elmhurst United Newcomers on the Path to Academic Achievement

From left to right: Alex from Guatemala has been here for 3 years, Kennedy from Guatemala has been here for 2 years, Guadalupe from Mexico has been here for 2 years, and Omnya from Yemen has been here for 3 years.
These smart and resilient students are in their 2nd or 3rd year in US schools and are beginning their transition from a sheltered newcomer program to mainstream classes. Elmhurst provides supportive newcomer classes and then monitors student progress carefully to determine readiness to mainstream to the general program, where they continue to be supported by their new teachers but in a more rigorous academic environment. See the ELLMA spotlight to learn more! 

Congratulations to the students for making the major milestone of exiting the newcomer program and to the Elmhurst United staff for the exemplary care and support you provide our students!!!!

Scholarships for Teacher and Administrative Credentialing

The Oakland International High School Learning Lab is continuing their partnership with the Reach Institute to provide credentialing opportunities for 
aspiring teachers and school administrators seeking to obtain the credential necessary for those jobs. This is a unique opportunity to get credentialed in a context rooted in both OUSD and a focus on English Learners and specifically newcomer students. Scholarships of $5000 are available  to offset tuition costs for individuals who commit to continuing their work in OUSD.

INVESTing in Newcomer Success

A cadre of six newcomer TSAs, called Elementary Newcomer Teacher Leaders (ENTLs), is now teaching newcomers at some of our elementary schools. As part of the new contract adopted last year, elementary schools with 50 or more newcomers are guaranteed an additional half-time TSA (or a full-time if a school has 100 or more newcomers).
In support of their work, the ENTLs (along with other newcomer-focused TSAs and STIP subs) come together for monthly half-day PDs called INVEST (Intentional Newcomer Visioning for Elementary Specialists and Teachers). This professional learning community is focused on supporting pull-out newcomer instruction, building school-wide collective efficacy around serving newcomers through co-teaching and staff PD, and creating resources that can be used district-wide to support newcomers. For more information, contact ELLMA Specialist, James Kindle. 

Global Family is still looking for an ENTL. Spanish bilingual candidates should apply here

ELL Ambassador Corner

ELL Snapshots and RFEP Snapshots #3, the last set of the year, will be ready in your Google folders on Monday, 2/24/20. See blank translations here.
These snapshots are great for creating action plans for ELLs or backsliding RFEPs as we head toward the end of the extended midyear RI window for ELLs , 2nd -12th grade, which wraps up the Friday before spring break on 3/27/20. The spring RI window then opens on 4/4/20 and ends early for ELLs on Wed,. 5/20/20 so we can prepare contingent teacher input forms and finish before the last day of school. Note that a passing RI from either the midyear of the spring window counts toward spring 2029-20 reclassification for ELLs. 

Budget Survey
As leaders focused on the needs of ELLs, your perspective on the OUSD budget challenges is important. Please consider sharing your thoughts by filling out the District's short Best Thinking Document Survey.


Wondering how to access resources to support your newcomer families?  Read on! 
ELLMA’s Newcomer and Refugee/Asylee Services at Lakeview office works hard to connect newcomer, refugee and asylum-seeking families with supportive resources as they enter and move through the OUSD system.
If your families need any of the supports below, please contact us! 
  • Family Orientation to U.S. / OUSD Schools (Please see here for videos in 11 languages introducing families to OUSD schools)
  • Support with School Enrollment & School Choice
  • Legal referrals and support for Unaccompanied Minors seeking asylum in the US (as well as support for high-need asylum seekers who travelled to the US with a parent)
  • Translation and interpretation at schools in minority languages: Mam, Karen, Burmese and Arabic)
  • Provision of backpacks, school supplies & transportation assistance (as needed)
  • Referrals to key academic & enrichment programs (after school programs, tutoring/mentoring services, college readiness programs, technology access programs, job programs, etc.)
  • Parent ESL & School Connectedness Programming
  • Summer program offerings for Elementary, Middle & High School Students
  • Case management for particularly high need students and families (housing assistance for families at risk of homelessness, service coordination for severely traumatized students, etc)
For more information about the above services, please contact Nate Dunstan at
We'd love to hear from you! Please contact Nicole with communications inquiries.
Meet the ELLMA Team!
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