Success Story: Seattle World School

At the Seattle World School, they have a lot to celebrate. It’s the third school year since Seattle Public Schools merged the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center- a school where newly arrived immigrants went for up to 18 months get the skills to go to other public schools-with a secondary school whose purpose is to prepare English language learners for college or careers.

The school, one of six Creative Approach schools in the district, specializes in teaching academic subjects in ways that work for English language learners without any dumbing down. The staff all has professional  training in teaching for these learners. All but three have ELL endorsements, and those three are on track to earn their credential by the end of the year, said Veronica Gallardo, Seattle Public Schools’ Director of ELL and International Programs. The school continues to draw an amazing diversity of kids, as you can see by this graphic, made by a World School 8th grader.

And it is getting results. In winter 2012, World School ninth-graders showed far greater improvement in Math MAP scores than ELL students in any other high school, with more than 90 percent meeting or exceeding growth expectations. They were second in the district for improvement in reading with more than 75 percent meeting expectations.

Enrollment is increasing. Families are making use of the school’s health clinic and family engagement center, and the attendance rate last year was a stratospheric 97 percent. When a group of students came to testify in front of the school board last month, they proved more articulate than many English speakers, and they charmed a very large and impatient crowd.

Bob Hughes, an associate dean at Seattle University’s College of Education, was also there to speak on World School’s behalf. He was impressed with how the students handled themselves.

“I was so impressed with those young people. I think that is a direct result of the teaching they are getting,” he said.

Hughes said the World School’s success was particularly remarkable given that until recently, Seattle Public Schools had a dismal record when it came to teaching English Language learners.

For example, A 2008 report by the Council of Great City Schools detailed how Seattle Public Schools was failing in its mission to teach English Language learners. Here’s a choice quote: “The team found the Seattle schools’ strategic approach to teaching English language learners to be ad hoc, incoherent, and directionless. “

That quote was fairly typical of the council’s impression.

“It was among the worst that the council had ever seen in describing the bilingual programs in seattle public schools.”

That led to a shake-up of the how Seattle approaches teaching English Language learners, centering on the World School, which in 2016 is scheduled to open in a building renovated for its use on the T.T. Minor site.

-Fiona Cohen


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