Earlier this week the NJ Department of Education honored ten New Jersey districts for their outstanding second language programs including the River Edge Schools Kindergarten ESL program.
"This was a big honor," Superintendent Dr. Tova Ben Dov said. " created the program and continues to run it. Our program will now be considered a model program and open for visitation, even though we already welcome visitors, for other districts looking to start their own hybrid model of parental involvement and immersion of regular education. "
Schnee and Ben Dov attended a ceremony at the Rutgers Student Center in New Brunswick, alongside several other districts that will serve as models of best practices in world languages programs and bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs for English language learners.
“Helping English Language Learners master English proficiency skills and helping all of our students learn second languages is crucial to ensuring all of our students are ready for the demands of the 21st century,” said Acting Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf. “We are pleased to recognize these outstanding programs and educators, which will serve as exemplars for others to learn from and model.”
The River Edge kindergarten ESL program was started four years ago with 12 students and has since grown to include 33 students as Schnee led the district to move away from the traditional pull-out or push-in programming and adopt a unique co-teaching approach.
"The model I invented is part of a co-teaching approach but rather than my going into the classroom, the entire class comes to the ESL room insteaad for their lesson," Schnee said. "This way none of the ESL students are set apart from their peers like in a traditional pull-out program and it allows all of the students to get to know me."
The model program is a three tier approach which starts with Schnee teaching a lesson alongside the general education faculty member. The second tier is an ESL Literacy course for parents where they will come into the classroom and learn reading strategies with their child and then practice it at home so that together they can both learn to become stronger readers.
The last part is that rather than having students focus entirely on learning English, ESL students are encouraged to utilize their home language in class while being taught the cooresponding English word.
"This brings ESL students to the forefront and empowers them," Schnee said. "It's a win-win situation and hopefully we can expand the model from kindergarten into the upper grades. This is also something that other districts can take something from and replicate to some measure."
The River Edge ESL program was selected based on the district's demonstrated success in developing students’ second language skills and their implementation of effective programs and instructional practices that led to student achievement in a second language.
The district will now serve as a resource center for other districts over the next two years. Educators visiting River Edge will have the opportunity to observe theexemplary practices in second language teaching, learning and assessment. Administrators and teachers will also be able to discuss issues of mutual concern with staff from the centers, as well as the potential for collaboration on their second language programs.
Also recognized for their ESL programs were the Clifton, Howell Township, Linden, Rosell and West Windsow-Plainsboro school districts. The following districts received an award for their world language programming: Englewood, Fair Haven, Princeton and West Windsor-Plainsboro.