Tackling this Dreaded Time of Year…TELPAS! (Part I)

Tackling This Time of Year: TELPAS

With everything else that is going on in the education world right now, TELPAS is probably the LAST thing you or your teachers are wanting to tackle in the month of February. But it’s here. And it’s actually really important. I want to take the next couple of blogs to talk through a few of the challenges that every school with English Learners in Texas feels around this time of year – even when it’s not during “COVID” times.

So let’s first start with the purpose of TELPAS. I know you probably know this, but just to bring clarity and maybe a slightly different perspective.

Let me ask you this: Are your ELs (or Emergent Bilinguals) progressing linguistically like they should? Remember that each year, ELs should move at least one proficiency level – meaning they go from beginning to intermediate, or immediate to advanced, or advanced to advanced high. If this isn’t happening and we don’t have clear goals set, we are not likely to see the growth.

So here’s my next question: If I were to ask your teachers who have ELs in their class (notice I didn’t just say your ESL teachers, because this is for any teacher who has ELs in his or her class), would they be able to define the current descriptors of the language proficiency for their ELs, as well as the descriptors of the level the students needs to move to? In other words, would your teachers be able to do the following:

A. Identify their ELs and the proficiency level in each domain for each student (For example, Jose is intermediate in reading and writing and advanced in listening and speaking).

B. Understand the current proficiency level descriptors in each domain (For example, Jose can read short, literal passages that have mostly high-frequency words and common concepts. He can write simple sentences about familiar topics. There may be a lot of repetition in his writing, and his explanations will be simple and literal. He can have a fluent conversation orally, and can start to talk about more abstract concepts like beliefs, but will still need quite a bit of linguistic support – especially with new topics. He can understand multi-step directions but will still need linguistic support, like visuals).

C. Understand the proficiency level descriptors for the next level that the student in striving for (For example, Jose will need to build his stamina in reading on his current level, as well as chunking more difficult texts. He will start to move into more abstract concepts, but will need chunking and processing to move to the advanced level. He will need to be able to add organization and cohesiveness into his writing, along with more descriptions and explanations to move to the advanced level. To move to advanced high in speaking, he will need to practice more conversations that require higher-level thinking, and will need to practice following directions with less support).

When the teacher understands the primary characteristics of each proficiency level descriptor, it is so much easier to insert linguistic instruction into their lessons. For example, if the teacher knows that Jose (and any other students on his level) can read simple, literal texts, and familiar texts – she knows that that as she advances him, she’ll need to explain abstract concepts, pre-teach new vocabulary, show him how to use context clues, and chunk more difficult reading. But by doing this, she is going to help intentionally move him into the next level. Same with writing, speaking and listening.

Too many of our ELs are becoming Long-Term ELs because they hit a language plateau, and so much of this could be prevented if teachers just had a clear target to hit when working with students linguistically.

BUT THEY DO! It’s exactly what is measured by TELPAS. Teachers need to make sure they are building in reading, writing, listening, and speaking, and they need to be familiar with the proficiency level descriptors under each level.

We know it seems like a lot, but once teachers become familiar with these descriptors, using them can become second nature – and student linguistic growth is imminent!

We are here to help! Right now, we are providing a set of videos (2), one to be given to teachers in the fall, and one to be given to teachers in the spring. The one for spring 2022 will be available February 1, and directly focuses on helping teachers understand the proficiency levels for the dreaded calibration!

The video for fall explains how to easily understand the descriptors and implement them seamlessly into instruction (without a lot of additional planning or time – no one has that right now). You will receive this video by May 1 (to be given to teachers in the fall of 2022).

When you order before Feb 1, you will have access to these videos through the 2022-2023 school year. Click here for more information and to register your campus!

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