Lewiston School Department; Lewiston, Maine
Serving Refugees in the Lewiston Schools
Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed
Starting in 2001, refugees began to arrive in Lewiston. Most were from Somalia. Today, over 85% of the district's English Language Learners are refugees or the children of refugees. Most of the older refugee students come with little, if any, formal schooling and need to learn both English and content to meet high school graduation requirements.
The Lewiston School Department focuses on serving children in their neighborhood schools. Refugee students are supported in accessing all services and programs in their home schools and assisted in integrating successfully. Although there is not a lot of centralized, district-wide programming specifically for refugee students, the English Language Learner (ELL) Department provides leadership in assisting students and their families with academic and social needs. The ELL Department strives to help all English Language Learners acquire the language and academic skills needed to graduate from high school college-ready.
- General ELL Support: The ELL Department offers content-based, sheltered instruction designed to accelerate the rate at which students meet local and state standards. As required by law, all ELL students are assessed to determine language proficiency. Depending on students' needs, ELL services fall along a continuum from 80% of the day in ELL classes to consultation and monitoring student progress. ELL services are always offered in the child's neighborhood school. Program options are as follows:
- Grades K-6: ELL students spend at least 50% of their day in the mainstream classroom. "Pull out" and "push in" services are offered by highly qualified ELL teachers and educational technicians.
- Grades 7-8: Content area instruction is offered by teachers certified in both their content area and ELL. Students at entering and beginning levels attend these academic classes and receive mainstream unified arts instruction with their English speaking peers. ELLs at higher proficiencies are integrated into mainstream classes with varying levels of support.
- Grades 9-12: Content area instruction is offered by teachers certified in both their content area and ELL. Students at entering and beginning level attend these academic classes and receive other instruction with their English speaking peers. "Supported study halls" and transitional programming is offered as student's transition from ELL classes to mainstream classes.
- Extended Year/Summer programming: Supplemental academic support is provided to middle and high school refugee students to help them increase their skills and meet grade level standards. Older students are provided with additional credit options to accelerate their path through high school. Programming for these students ranges from 4-6 weeks. Elementary level students are provided with small group or individual interventions at neighborhood schools, community centers, apartment complexes, or other locations close to their homes.
- After School Programming: Homework "Drop-in" Centers provide students in grades 3-12 with a quiet place to study and enhance their organizational skills. Six "drop-in" centers are located throughout the community and are staffed by at least two certified educational technicians and volunteers.
- Interpretation: On-call interpreters and phone interpretation are available in all languages. Since the major language group is Somali, native Somali speakers are employed full-time in 6 of Lewiston's 8 schools.
- Family and Community Engagement: All schools work with students, parents, and community agencies to help refugee families access extended day activities, community services, and adult education opportunities.
- Safe Schools/Healthy Students: Many of the district's refugee youth participate in this federally funded program, which addresses five elements: safe school environment and violence prevention activities; alcohol and other drug prevention activities; student behavioral, social, and emotional supports; mental health services; and early childhood social and emotional learning programs.
Resource Materials Used in Program
Lewiston's curriculum is guided by Maine Parameters of Learning. Maine is part of the World Class Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium (WIDA) and uses WIDA language proficiency standards to guide ELL instruction. The Safe Schools/Healthy Students program uses research-based programs approved by the federal Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice, the funders of this program. Family programs that are not validated with the immigrant/refugee community are adapted as the logic model allows. All parent programming and materials are translated and/or interpreted as appropriate.
Groups Served by Program
Before 2001, less than half of 1% of Lewiston's students were ELLs. Today, Lewiston School Department, with a total enrollment of 5,000, serves students from 22 language groups in pre- kindergarten through grade 12. Over 1,000 students come from homes where the primary language is not English. Over 85% of our ELL students are refugees or the children of refugee parents, and the major language group is Somali.
The ELL Department uses local funding, various sources of federal funds such as a Refugee School Impact Grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and other grants to provide programs and services for immigrant and refugee students.
Program Staffing and Required Staff Training
All staff are fully certified and credentialed for their positions. Regular workshops and other trainings are offered for all school staff.
Program success is measured by academic and language proficiency growth and analysis of behavioral and social data. Specific programs, such as summer school, collect data from parents and students to demonstrate effectiveness.
ELL students make gains annually in reading, math, and English proficiency as measured by the New England Comprehensive Assessment Program and ACCESS for ELLs. Local data teams look at school-wide data on a regular basis. A parent advisory committee and other community resources and groups assist in decision-making and program direction.
ELL programming has been offered since 1975, and the district began receiving Refugee School Impact funds in 2006. The programs described here are still operating as of February 2011.