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BPC News  Jan 2011, Volume 2, Issue 1

Hot Topics
Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 11:00 a.m. Central Time (CT)
Join us for the third district feature in the BPC webinar series “Best Practices in Dropout Prevention and Recovery: Examples, Strategies, and Resources.” Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD staff will discuss the district’s innovative approaches to serving students at risk of dropping out, as well as strategies to help recovered dropouts finish high school. See this issue’s Featured Best Practice for more information about PSJA ISD’s dropout prevention/recovery programming. Click here to register for the webinar.

New Research and Resources

Academic Vocabulary Guide for Fifth- to Seventh-Grade English Language Learners in Texas
The guide was developed from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) and Mathematics as a resource for classroom teachers in Texas who work with the English language learner (ELL) population. The guide includes words selected from the TEKS with the aim of identifying vocabulary that will help students learn content and skills represented on statewide assessments. Comprehensive word lists in ELAR and mathematics that were compiled, reviewed, and refined by ELAR and mathematics teachers who work with the ELL population include:
• specialized vocabulary words that are content-area specific;
• nonspecialized, academic vocabulary words that can be found across content areas; and
• words and phrases that describe how students are expected to demonstrate knowledge.

Guidelines and strategies for incorporating academic vocabulary instruction in the classroom are included. A webinar that provides an introduction and overview of the guide is accessible at

Texas A&M Online Bilingual/ESL Preparation Courses
The online bilingual/English as a second language (ESL) certification prep courses offered by the Bilingual Education Program at Texas A&M University are designed to help educators develop the knowledge and skills for teaching ELLs.
The bilingual course provides comprehensive coverage of teacher competencies tested on the TExES Bilingual Supplemental #164 and TExES Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test (BTLPT) – Spanish #190 examinations. The ESL course provides comprehensive coverage of the teacher competencies tested on the TExES ESL Supplemental Examination #154.

Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic
This 2010 report from the America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprisesand the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University  includes analysis of national dropout data that indicates some success in addressing the dropout problem. Most of the decline in “dropout factory” schools, the report states, occurred in the South (in Texas, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee), with declines across all types of locales (cities, suburbs, towns, and rural areas). Further, Texas was one of eight states leading the nation in declines in urban-area dropout rates. The report provides case studies and highlights common elements of success involving multiple reform efforts that were sustained, integrated, and improved over time. These include strong leadership with clear graduation rate goals; multi-sector collaboration guided by data; commitment to innovation and continuous improvement; technical assistance for evidence-based solutions; and raising expectations, improving policies, and increasing student supports.

College Success for All: How the Hidalgo Independent School District is Adopting Early College as a District-Wide Strategy
This report
from Jobs for the Future (JFF) describes how Hidalgo ISD took the early college concept and adopted it as a district-wide strategy. By embedding a college and career culture and focus in everyday activities, from elementary school through middle school and into high school, the school system now motivates and prepares all of its students for success in higher education. A JFF webinar featuring Hidalgo ISD can be accessed here. See also JFF's Policymaker's Guide to Early College Designs: Expanding a Strategy for Achieving College Readiness for All.

See Hidalgo Early College High School’s best practice summary here.  

Changes to BPC

Check out the updates to the BPC, summarized here.

For comments and suggestions…

For comments or suggestions on the BPC newsletter, please contact TEA Statewide Policy and Programs at 512-463-9451.

Spotlight On

TEA funds program that supports newcomer English language learners transitioning into secondary public schools 

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently awarded a grant to Project LUCHA, an innovative K–16 Education Center initiative at the University of Texas at Austin designed to assist Spanish-speaking English language learners (ELL) transitioning into Texas classrooms in secondary public schools. The goal is to help newcomer ELLs achieve success in high school and to promote a college readiness culture. The Language Learners at the UT Center for Hispanic Achievement (LUCHA) program was launched in 2006 and works with the Mexican Ministry of Public Education to create alignment between the curricula students receive in Mexico and the curricula taught in Texas.

As a result of this effort, online distance learning courses in Spanish have been aligned to the state’s content standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), and are currently offered to Texas schools that serve Spanish-speaking ELLs.  Additionally, Project LUCHA retrieves Mexican transcripts, analyzes them, and recommends Texas credit equivalencies in a document called the “Graduation Credit Analysis” for each ELL based on Texas graduation requirements and the course alignment created by the program.

After its first four years of operation, LUCHA has delivered more than 5,000 online courses to approximately 2,000 students and has recommended that Texas schools recognize more than 13,000 high school credits from Mexico. By correctly placing these students in the school system so that they are not repeating classes or grade levels, the program keeps ELLs on track for graduation.

The new TEA grant funds will be used to expand the services offered by Project LUCHA to incorporate a new parental involvement component into the program and provide online resources for teachers in English and Spanish. Project LUCHA will also support 26 districts that are part of the Limited English Proficient (LEP) Student Success Initiatives (SSI), Cycle 5.

“We are very pleased that Project LUCHA has been able to provide services to ELL students in 40 Texas school districts, and we look forward to working with new districts in the near future,” said Dr. Amy Pro, Academic Programs Administrator at The University of Texas K-16 Education Center. To learn more about Project LUCHA, please visit

BPC contributor, Brownsville ISD, was an early implementer of Project LUCHA, and the district reports that the program has impacted over 500 Spanish-speaking immigrants enrolling in BISD schools since 2007–08. The district utilizes all program services, working with Project LUCHA staff to obtain and analyze student records from Mexico, conduct diagnostic tests, develop individual graduation plans for each newcomer, and enroll students in online content courses. Additional district supports for newcomer ELLs include instruction in mathematics and science vocabulary to prepare students for TAKS; training for counselors, students, and parents; and technical assistance and support for campuses from district Bilingual/ESL Department staff in program implementation.

With Title III funding, the district also established LUCHA computer labs at each of its five comprehensive high schools. Students work independently on coursework in the labs with supervision and support, including additional one-on-one tutoring as needed, from a full-time (certified) bilingual teacher assigned to the LUCHA lab. While completing online courses in Spanish, newcomers also take an English language development course, which they must complete prior to receiving any credit for content-area courses through the LUCHA lab. The district reports that high school principals have embraced the program and taken full ownership. A district ESL counselor visits students participating in the program regularly to check on progress. In 2008–09, 31 ELL newcomers to the U.S. graduated from BISD high schools; in 2009–10, 63 LUCHA graduates received BISD diplomas.    

Featured Best Practice

PSJA ISD takes on dropout problem 
PSJA ISD is garnering state and national attention for its innovative and multi-faceted dropout prevention and recovery programming, which has resulted in dramatic increases in high school completion for at-risk students. A key strength of the district’s approach is the strategic use of a variety of programs and funding streams to provide multiple pathways and safety nets for students based on specific risk factors.

Of note is the district’s College, Career & Technology Academy (CCTA), which serves non-graduating seniors and recovered dropouts between the ages of 21 and 26 with funding from House Bill 1137. Staff reported that since opening in September 2007, the CCTA had helped a total of 657 students receive their high school diploma (as of August 2010). Of those students, 116 were between the ages of 21 and 26.  The CCTA model is being included in Jobs for the Future’s “Back on Track School Designs and Policies” project (for details, see and Inventing New Solutions at

Based on its success, in March 2010, TEA awarded PSJA ISD a $250,000 Collaborative Dropout Reduction Pilot Program grant to scale up and expand its programming. In addition, in May 2010, the district was awarded a $2 million, two-year grant from TEA to support its districtwide college readiness model called All Students: College Ready, College Connected. The goal of the project is for every high school graduate to earn 12 hours of college credit through programs such as the district’s Early College High School, dual enrollment, or Advanced Placement classes (for details, see

Please view PSJA ISD’s dropout prevention/recovery best practice summary here. PSJA ISD staff will be featured in the BPC’s dropout prevention webinar series to be held at 11 a.m. CT, Wednesday, January 26, 2011. Click here to register.

New Best Practices

The BPC collected best practices from the presenters at the ELL Solutions Forum held in August 2010 at Education Service Center Region 20. New best practice summaries are accessible below. For more information and to access a video and presentation materials from the forum, click here

Updated! Brownsville ISD promotes fidelity in implementation of its elementary bilingual model
To support implementation of the district’s early-exit transitional bilingual program, Brownsville ISD’s Board of Trustees approved program model guidelines as policy, providing a mandate for standardized program implementation across the district. BISD Bilingual/ESL Department staff also developed a host of implementation resources and supports to guide campus-level programming and classroom instruction. Additionally, training and ongoing monitoring of implementation of the English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS), as well as continuous review of student progress, support a high level of program fidelity across the district.

Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD implements districtwide dual language program
PSJA ISD is expanding a K–12 dual language enrichment (DLE) pilot into a districtwide program to provide the option for all students to graduate bilingual in English and Spanish. The district will also continue to provide primary language instruction and support for newcomers at the secondary level through the expanded DLE program. A one-way DLE program at the elementary level is being phased in as all schools in the district build capacity to provide dual language instruction. The first cohorts of dual language graduates from the pilot program outperformed their peers on TAKS, with more than 91% of the first cohort of DLE graduates going on to enroll in postsecondary education.

Plano ISD provides intensive language practice and enrichment opportunities for ELLs
Plano ISD’s in-class book club and writing workshop strategies provide secondary ELLs with on-grade level academic skills and meaningful language practice opportunities. In book club, for example, students choose books they want to read and then conduct substantive discussions about the literature in “safe” small-group environments. The district also offers a wide range of engaging extended learning and enrichment opportunities for ELL students tailored to their needs. This free after-school and summer programming for ELLs provides need-based content-area instruction and language practice based on performance, prepares ELLs for transitions and advanced coursework, and provides opportunities for ELLs to gain credits to stay on grade level.

Another BPC contributor, Montwood High School in Socorro ISD, was also represented at the forum. Please view the Montwood best practice summary here to find out more about the campus’ programming to serve newcomer and recent immigrant ELLs at the high school level. 

Call for Best Practice Submissions

The BPC is seeking additional best practice submissions in the ELL topic area, including:

  • dropout prevention strategies
  • serving refugees and secondary newcomers
  • parent involvement

Please visit Submit a Best Practice to complete a BPC Share a Best Practice--Notice of Interest form. For information on standards and criteria for determining best practices, please visit About BPC and Evidence Standards.

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