Coordinator: Updated standards to help educators teach ELL students in Moffat County | CraigDailyPress.com
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Coordinator: Updated standards to help educators teach ELL students in Moffat County

Bridget Manley
Andi Murphy, English Language Learners coordinator for the Moffat County School District, poses next to the ELL book section at Craig Middle School on Tuesday afternoon. The district is implementing updated English language development standards this year that Murphy said will help educators teach ELL students in the regular classroom.
Bridget Manley

At a Glance …

• Moffat County School District to implement updated English language development standards this year.

• Standards for English Language Learners are now embedded into social studies, science, math and language arts content areas.

• Standards also cover social and instructional language ELL students use daily in the classroom.

• District English Language Learners coordinator: Standards should help make it easier for educators to teach language learners in district’s full-immersion ELL program.

At a Glance …

• Moffat County School District to implement updated English language development standards this year.

• Standards for English Language Learners are now embedded into social studies, science, math and language arts content areas.

• Standards also cover social and instructional language ELL students use daily in the classroom.



• District English Language Learners coordinator: Standards should help make it easier for educators to teach language learners in district’s full-immersion ELL program.

Andi Murphy, coordinator for Moffat County School District’s English Language Learners program, tries to put herself in the shoes of the students she works with.



“It is difficult for them,” she said. “I’m sure it is.”

Teaching those students isn’t always easy, either. The school district uses the full-immersion model to teach ELL students, Murphy said, meaning students who aren’t proficient in English are taught in the regular classroom and pick up the language as they go.

That means that on top of the content standards teachers must meet, they also must teach to standards tailored specifically to these students.

Updated state standards the Moffat County School Board adopted last month may help by rolling academics standards and language development standards into one.

The updated standards are “more user friendly to teachers,” Murphy said, “because they’re not having to pull from these language standards and make them mesh with their content standards.

“It’s not another thing on (teachers’) plate. It’s more of a tool.”

The ELL standards, formally known as the Colorado English Language Proficiency Standards, line out expectations for students in four content areas: social studies, science, math and language arts.

A fifth area covers social and instructional language, which includes the basic words and phrases students use every day to interact with teachers and other students.

The standards also separate ELL students into six categories based on their fluency and define what they are capable of doing in each subject.

Say, for instance, that a teacher is planning a lesson on climate and temperature change. A student who knows only a few words of English would be able to look at a chart or graph and point out daytime highs and lows. A student at the other end of the spectrum would be able to look at charts and graphs and explain patterns in temperature changes over time.

Murphy stressed that adapting lessons to ELL students’ level isn’t the same as lowering the bar for them.

“By no means do we lower our expectations, ever,” she said, adding that students are capable of reaching higher goals, but it may take time for them to get there because learning English is not a quick process.

“It takes an ELL student two years to become proficient in social language,” Murphy said. “And then, it can take six to eight years to become proficient in academic language.”

The updated standards can help, she added, by enabling teachers to pinpoint how far along ELL students are in their acquisition of the language, as well as what they are capable of doing and what teachers can do to get them to the next level.

The CELP standards are among several updated standards the state is requiring districts to adopt by Dec. 15, Murphy said.

School board members adopted the CELP standards at its Oct. 27 meeting. The next step, Murphy said, is to introduce the standards to teachers and show them how to use them in their lesson planning.

Sandie Johns, a school board member and former Moffat County High School teacher, is “pretty excited” about the updated standards, she said.

When she was teaching at MCHS, “We were just piecemealing how we were going to work with our English Language Learners, and there wasn’t a great deal of structure there,” she said.

In Johns’ view, adopting the new standards is a step in the right direction.

“We’ve worked gradually into a really, really good structured program that’s going to be the best for these students,” she said.

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