Podcast: Building an ML program with Kim Peterson

In this episode of the ML Chat Podcast Kim Peterson joins Justin and Tim to delve into the pivotal role of speaking for English learners. She underscores its significance as a foundation for success in reading and writing and ultimately being able to pass the state assessment. Kim also walks through her journey of building a program from the ground up and shares what she feels every new ML admin and coordinator should know. 

Join us for this enlightening discussion.

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[00:00:00] Kim Peterson: I was an ESOL teacher who co taught with other classroom teachers and I also pushed into rooms and did some pull out. I guess from those experiences, I developed an opinion. I can be a little strongly opinionated. An opinion that co teaching was really hard on adults, but best for kids.

[00:00:29] Justin Hewett: Hey, everybody.

[00:00:31] Justin Hewett: Welcome to the ML chat podcast. You are in for a treat today. We are talking with Kimberly Peterson, the EL program coordinator for Winchester public schools in the state of Virginia. And Tim, I enjoyed this conversation, man. We talked through an OCR audit. And everything that comes from that, we talk about co teaching.

[00:00:52] Justin Hewett: We talk about program design. Now what was your favorite part of today’s interview with Jim?

[00:00:59] Tim Blackburn: If you were in the, if you were in programming this is the episode for you I loved hearing from. From Kim, specifically on the finer points of developing student centered programs.

[00:01:11] Justin Hewett: Yeah. My favorite was when she started talking about roster equals responsibility. That when the student is on your roster, you have a responsibility tag. You’re it step up to the plate. Let’s make sure we give. Each of our students exactly what they need, and I thought I just that really resonated with me because, it’s not a matter of waiting for somebody else to step up and do it.

[00:01:35] Justin Hewett: If you just have one multilingual learner who comes into your class tag, you’re it is the way that she talked about that. It’s your opportunity, your responsibility to make a difference for that student. And maybe there’s not a, a specific EL specialist that’s going to step in and help, come save the day if you will.

[00:01:51] Justin Hewett: No,

[00:01:52] Tim Blackburn: but there are also implications for capacity for building capacity. And, I appreciate how Kim spoke to that, both from the teacher perspective and from the perspective of program coordinators.

[00:02:03] Justin Hewett: All right. Let’s jump into it. Let’s bring in Kim. Thank you

[00:02:08] Kim Peterson: very much, Justin. It’s nice to be here.

[00:02:11] Justin Hewett: Tim and I have been looking forward to this and we’re excited to jump in and learn more. We know you have a lot to share with us, but let’s start at the beginning as is typically is a good spot to start. What brought you into this work of serving English learners, multilingual learners? Was it something you just happened upon or was there a lot of gravity that pulled you into it?

[00:02:31] Kim Peterson: I think it was definitely at the pull of gravity. So my students brought me into it. I was a kindergarten teacher. After having taught some private school, pre k situations, parochial school, I certified and got a master’s in education from Wilmington College and began teaching in York, Pennsylvania. Which is part of central Pennsylvania.

[00:02:55] Kim Peterson: Our little city in York was, I’m currently in Winchester and Winchester reminds me a lot of York city. York city had become very much heavily populated with our Latino families. With the Latino families in York city. And this was. Back in the 1990s, their population for Latino families was about 45 percent.

[00:03:23] Kim Peterson: So what ended up happening was back in the day when my kindergarten class was a morning class and an afternoon class, my morning class would fill With folks who got there first, all of our morning classes filled because we transported to some after school daycares for the afternoon. So the morning classes filled up very quickly.

[00:03:48] Kim Peterson: Our afternoon classes, however. usually filled from the sidewalk on the first day of school. So these were often folks who came the first day of school realizing that they needed to register their children for school. And oftentimes or I even venture to say most times these were families Who hadn’t seen the announcements in English in the local newspaper or on the radio that school was going to be starting or that certainly kindergarten registration was going to go on.

[00:04:22] Kim Peterson: So they got last minute information and filled that afternoon class with. Students who came from homes who spoke another language besides English. So it took me a couple of years of seeing this pattern to figure out that, okay, maybe this is explaining the difference in some of my classes and how my morning class seems to move ahead pretty.

[00:04:47] Kim Peterson: Quickly with our curriculum and my afternoon class is always slower before thinking about whether or not it could be an English learning challenge for that classroom. I wondered, what, why is the afternoon class always so much slower than the morning? Is it me? Am I lacking energy in the afternoon?

[00:05:08] Kim Peterson: You have to take everything down and repeat the whole thing when you teach two half day classes and act like it never happened in the morning, no one was ever here. But they really progressed differently. And my school district was very forward thinking at the time in offering, I guess it was about my third year with York City Schools that.

[00:05:33] Kim Peterson: They offered a tuition covered for us to certify and go through a certificate program with Penn State taking classes in teaching ESL. So I jumped onto that opportunity because two things really. I wanted to better support my students who were in my afternoon class at that point in time. And I also, by that point in time, by that third year, had just fallen in love with the families.

[00:06:00] Kim Peterson: My kids who came from our Latino families had such strong family backgrounds, and parents who just… Really stole my heart with their stories and their desire to have their children learn to speak English and have opportunities for schooling in the United States. I was just enthralled with their culture and the opportunities that they were seizing for their children and wanted to do better as a teacher to support them.

[00:06:29] Justin Hewett: That is so fun to hear your stories. It really was the hearts of the students. They grabbed you, their families. That is fun to hear. Tim, I saw you, you were resonating with the enrolling students on the first day of school.

[00:06:42] Tim Blackburn: It made me think, Kim, just about the importance of the whole notion of meaningful communication with family is that’s so crucial and Title III.

[00:06:51] Tim Blackburn: And so in thinking about the foundations of Title III. And so that’s what I was processing, Kim, as you were sharing, as you were sharing that.

[00:06:59] Kim Peterson: Title III and some of our laws that stem from things like the Dear Colleague Letter. We’ve come a long way in the last couple of decades in terms of, I think, most districts.

[00:07:12] Kim Peterson: Following the voice of the law and that we need to have communication out there for parents and families in a language that they understand and how vital that information really is and really can be just an aside story to that. Registering kids on the sidewalk. We did once in my first couple of years have a student who was literally dropped off with a backpack and no information had never been registered.

[00:07:39] Kim Peterson: No one knew his name. They brought him to my classroom and he couldn’t speak English and I am not a native Spanish speaker as my second language. So I was no help. There was another student there, kindergarten student, who was bilingual and so the office secretary asked him, the other student, please ask him, what is your name in Spanish?

[00:08:01] Kim Peterson: And so he turned to him and said, say your name in Spanish. That was not helpful, but we did ultimately find where the child came from and the parents to whom he belonged. And they were able to be called to the school to actually complete the registration process and he was placed in my class. But yeah, it’s very challenging.

[00:08:25] Kim Peterson: And my little school district currently in Winchester, we’ve gone through some of those growing pains in the last year and a half as we have just become a refugee resettlement city. And a lot of us were very good with our Spanish translations. We have a Spanish speaking bilingual parent liaison, at least one of those in every building.

[00:08:46] Kim Peterson: And we have a dual language program in four of our seven schools. Now we are very small. So between our dual language program and our parent liaisons, we have a lot of bilingual folks in Spanish and English in our buildings. So that communication has become, I want to say almost second nature for us in Winchester, but when we started receiving our first.

[00:09:10] Kim Peterson: Refugee families from Afghanistan, this was a new challenge for a lot of folks here. And we’ve had to rely on really two interpreters who we can call in and we pretty much need them living with us because they can help us with Farsi, Dari, Pashto, the new languages. And it’s actually still within our greater U.

[00:09:31] Kim Peterson: S. society limited in terms of some of the materials that we can get for those newer languages. And

[00:09:37] Tim Blackburn: Dari, Farsi, and Pashto, are those the same folks that speak all three languages, or do you have different interpreters

[00:09:43] Kim Peterson: for each of those languages? We have interpreters. There’s one who can do all of those, and then one who just does a couple of them.

[00:09:49] Kim Peterson: And the families. Usually have one. Some of the families, they might be able to speak Dari and Pashto. And they do tend to understand Farsi if they speak Dari, because that’s a dialect of the language. This

[00:10:04] Justin Hewett: is so interesting. I know, I want to jump to this too. I want to unpack this and go further. But I want to go back to, you’re in your third year of teaching.

[00:10:13] Justin Hewett: You had a chance to go to Penn State and go get your ESL certification, or I don’t know what they called it back then. And then you come back and tell us a little bit about what you learned, maybe going through that certification. And then what it was like coming back into the classroom, and then I know you moved down to Virginia.

[00:10:31] Justin Hewett: So maybe walk us through that part of your story, if you don’t mind.

[00:10:35] Kim Peterson: Okay, sure. I taught the whole time, and it was a part time TESOL certification program through Penn State. Don’t ask me if I would do the summer in between the two years that I did it ever again in my life. Cause my own kids were in middle school and I took two courses that summer and was literally reading at stoplights, people honking and saying, why won’t she go?

[00:10:59] Kim Peterson: Because there was no time to read. It was terrible. It was craziness. After I had my certification in ESL in Pennsylvania, I taught four more years there and they made my kindergarten classroom self contained. So all of the children who were placed in my classroom were active English learners.

[00:11:22] Kim Peterson: Now, they weren’t all level one coming in. Some were really quite bilingual. But they still needed services. It was an awesome community classroom. I would do that again in any second, especially since they made it full day. And I no longer had to do the circus thing of the two half days. It was really wonderful.

[00:11:42] Kim Peterson: Working with all the families and with all the kids in that self contained situation. I never had after that another self contained situation when I, when we moved to Virginia and I taught in 1st Chesterfield County outside of Richmond. For a few years and then moved on to Prince William in Northern Virginia.

[00:12:04] Kim Peterson: I was an ESOL teacher who co taught with other classroom teachers. And I also, pushed into rooms and did some pull out. I guess from those experiences. I developed an opinion, I can be a little strongly opinionated an opinion that co teaching was really hard on adults, but best for kids.

[00:12:29] Kim Peterson: And I will say that because the year that my principal in Chesterfield, the first year I was there. She caved. She caved to us and made it easy. Oh, just pull them out. And she caved to some parents. So that was an interesting situation. We were opening a new school in Chesterfield. About a third of the school came from upwardly mobile social backgrounds.

[00:12:56] Kim Peterson: And those children from those families had never been in school with English learners before. They were coming from a pretty homogenous schooling background and to put it mildly, some of the parents in that situation were upset. They were upset with the idea that perhaps the English learners who were going to school with their children would be very needy and would cause the teachers to have to pay a lot of attention to them, and, or it might, to use the term I hate, dumb down the class, which none of those things have to happen, but it was their fear, and because I think that There were all sorts of easement issues and legal issues with opening the school and we were supposed to be in August, we didn’t move into the new building until the end of February.

[00:13:49] Kim Peterson: Parents were also upset that their kids were in trailers stuck behind all these other buildings. You know the things that happen in schools. So my poor principal was being run ragged. By these parents and just said, just pull them out. So that’s what we did. We pulled them out. Pretty much. I pulled kids from first and second grade and did all of their language arts in a trailer.

[00:14:12] Kim Peterson: We started out in the little makeshift cafeteria at this annex building, but that was a little difficult because I had to stop teaching when it was lunchtime and they would plunk down the mayonnaise and the ketchup. It was time to, to stop learning. If anyone listening is an L teacher or an ESL teacher or has been, I know they know what I’m talking about.

[00:14:34] Kim Peterson: We teach in closets. We teach in things labeled, I’ve seen as Learning Cottage, which means trailer, but it’s a really nice name for a trailer. And it was okay, but the following year, my principal really was, our second year, and we were all moved into the school, she really was passionate about the idea that we would co teach.

[00:14:58] Kim Peterson: And so we got to school and she said, Okay, your stuff is going is in your co teacher’s classroom. She took away our rooms Without telling anybody it’s like room gone. I think I was in tears looking back but by parent open house night I realized the value of this because instead of coming by to see me or maybe stopping by.

[00:15:23] Kim Peterson: Oh, yeah That’s our ESL teacher. That’s our L teacher. I was part of the room. I had fifth graders For math and language arts and I had first graders for math and language arts and flip flop all day between the two and The students just really identified with me as another teacher in the room Oftentimes staffing does not permit for that much coverage and our ESL teachers get spread a little too thin For it to be that effective, but there it was the kids didn’t have to leave the room unless they were part of a small group that we were leaving the room for some targeted instruction and we had a purpose for leaving to a smaller space and it wasn’t necessarily just English learners who were doing that it was based on instructional need and not you’re an ESL student.

[00:16:13] Kim Peterson: You need to go out to a trailer.

[00:16:15] Tim Blackburn: What an image of contrasts, Kim. Yeah. I could see the mayonnaise jar. I could see, I could feel how it must have felt to, to pause the instruction. And you said something that, that really, I think might have actually picked at an old wound. We’re at the scars that we built.

[00:16:34] Tim Blackburn: And that is co teaching or integrated ELD is hard on adults, but best for kids. It is very hard on adults. Yeah,

[00:16:43] Kim Peterson: yeah. And I say that because. It’s very challenging for our teachers to, I think teachers are pretty autonomous by nature. I’ve known an awful lot of them over the years who like to shut that door and do their thing.

[00:16:59] Kim Peterson: Sure,

[00:17:00] Tim Blackburn: but do you feel like that’s, that, do you feel like that’s More a result of our mental models for what teaching is or how it is that we grew up as students and watching our teachers because it is a lot easier actually when we’re working with others for the benefit of our students. And it’s that last part of your comment that’s really resonating me, the notion of best for kids, especially when you think about collaboration,

[00:17:26] Kim Peterson: right?

[00:17:27] Kim Peterson: Yes. The collaborative part, if they cross over that bridge and allow themselves to see, oh, look at what happened with that lesson when she or he did that, and can reach that point of sharing, it’s actually easier. But for some reason, everybody’s got their toolkit and it can be really difficult. In Winchester, I really have no problem convincing at the secondary level.

[00:17:54] Kim Peterson: Our middle school and our high school teachers seem to do this very well, maybe because they’re content oriented. It just lends itself to naturally like I’m teaching English. They’re teaching English. We’re going to do this together. I’m going to be in that room for my kids. They do that really well.

[00:18:12] Kim Peterson: Whereas elementary has had. They’ve had struggles with letting go of doing their thing. That’s so

[00:18:20] Tim Blackburn: interesting. And not to say that, oh, I make a talk for ages about this. I actually had the opposite experience in leading the shift in my school district. It strikes me that, When you contrasted the first year to the following year of, you’re, you just, what I believe you described your principle as pausing on the implementation of co teaching and it sounds to me like the conditions weren’t ready for it, that we hadn’t really have the right system conditions for really situating co teaching for success.

[00:18:53] Tim Blackburn: Am I reading too much into that?

[00:18:55] Kim Peterson: Not at all. Okay, so picture this. An outhouse for a bathroom, like where we were in this annexed area of K 2 and then 3 5 were over behind another elementary school. They had to build like an outhouse thing. It was like we were at camp. So when it rained, the kids were literally trudging through the mud.

[00:19:18] Kim Peterson: To go to the bathroom, or to come out to my trail.

[00:19:22] Tim Blackburn: Yeah, and it also sounds like as far as readiness with the community, readiness with families, the communication required for Basically changing programming, or changing the lived experience in school for kids, it just wasn’t ready

[00:19:37] Kim Peterson: yet.

[00:19:37] Kim Peterson: And that starts with some culture clash, right? When we were, I remember standing in a trailer, which was a first grade classroom. For the back to school night with the parents and the one father was getting rather heated about why do our students have to be in trailers were really unhappy. And I had a Latino father who was standing next to me, turned to me and say, why is he upset about a trailer?

[00:20:02] Kim Peterson: I live in a, we live in, that’s our home. We live in a trailer. And I just said, people have different. preferences. People live different ways. So there really was a culture clash to speak of. And it, I think it took the kids being together to overcome some of that. That was diplomatic

[00:20:26] Tim Blackburn: of you, Kim. I said, diplomatic response.

[00:20:27] Tim Blackburn: Prince William was where I went through my OCR

[00:20:33] Kim Peterson: experience, so I was an ELL teacher, an ESOL teacher for Prince William, my first two years there and then I went into the, their ESOL office, program office, as a specialist for the first year and then I became a coordinator in that program. In that program, I, once I became coordinator, I was the professional learning coordinator and I had no idea what was going to happen.

[00:20:59] Kim Peterson: I should say with that job, to that job what was looming ahead, because my first year in the EL program office there, my director was brand new and they Hicks program, it was not a settlement agreement for Office for Civil Rights because we’ve been in this little suit problem with them and it was a tremendous amount of work to submit.

[00:21:23] Kim Peterson: All sorts of things. They wanted data sideways and upside down in terms of what our service models would look like, what our staffing models would look like to put a long story short in most states. I haven’t run across a state where very clearly. In our English learner world, they state this is the amount of service time that is required, and it is required.

[00:21:51] Kim Peterson: Because stating such would then add up very quickly to exactly what staffing must look like in order to achieve that. But those minimums are very much established by U. S. Department of Justice. Any of the districts that come under some type of disagreement, or audit, or suit, like what I worked under with them, they will very clearly tell you exactly how much those minimums must be met, and exactly what your staffing must look like.

[00:22:25] Kim Peterson: When that division was told what their staffing must look like, They said that can’t possibly happen. We can’t support kids in these level 1s in an hour a day, plus 45 minutes in another content area. The hour a day was the ELD intensive time. Another 45 minutes in another content area was going to be required.

[00:22:49] Kim Peterson: So Department of Justice stated that the other 45 minutes in another content area could be covered. By staff who had been trained in L techniques, 60 hours specifically of English learner instructional techniques. So that meant professional learning for them to have approved professional learning, 60 hours worth for in that very large 100 schools, about 7000 people.

[00:23:22] Kim Peterson: So that became my job was the coordinator of professional learning. for just L, learning in L techniques. We developed a course that we offered it in many different versions. Schools could do it spread out over a few years. They could do it intensively over a year. There was a version that was a college graduate study approved through George Mason University.

[00:23:48] Kim Peterson: But that course covered everything, soup to nuts. that they would need and covered their 60 hours. Then there were schools that did PSYOP training through Center for Applied Linguistics and through Pearson. We brought in, luckily they have a very large grant because they have more than 18, 000 active English learners.

[00:24:10] Kim Peterson: Through the grant, we were able to bring in a lot of presenters and offer things like summer institutes with all sorts of courses and mini sessions, and we had the resources to do that, which was a luxury, but also at the same time, it was very intense at first for the principals who were told at one of our principal meetings that ultimately they were responsible for seeing to it that all of their staff.

[00:24:38] Kim Peterson: Receive this training. I think you could have seen the roof going up and down during that meeting because it was a heavy lift at first and there were a lot of learning pains. People characteristic of it. I think back to people showing up for the trainings in the summer, teachers in the summer, flip flops, coffee mug in hand.

[00:24:58] Kim Peterson: I’m here for the Spanish training and we would say we’re not teaching you Spanish. We’re teaching you how to support kids who are in your classroom who speak another language at home. Or giving you some ideas about that. Yeah, there were a lot of misconceptions, but I will say that when I see folks from Prince William Now, particularly their school administrators, real change occurred.

[00:25:23] Kim Peterson: Real change occurred. I haven’t seen that anywhere since, but there became, over the course of working under the settlement agreement, the three years, and then they passed, and of course they’re always going to be, I don’t know if they’re monitored for the rest of their lives as a school district, or how that works.

[00:25:41] Kim Peterson: We’re not very far from Washington, D. C., so I like to think they didn’t wander too far out of their yard to find some folks to pick on. And I’m saying it like that because the things that can get a school district audited and into some settlement troubles with Office for Civil Rights are things that exist in pretty much every school district.

[00:26:05] Kim Peterson: It can be your staffing, it could be what happened with Prince William was initially one student and one parent complaint about a student who was identified with an IEP and was not receiving enough services in both the services under their IEP and then under L services. There used to be a big saying that I haven’t heard in years, but that SPED trumps ESL.

[00:26:31] Kim Peterson: And maybe you’ve heard that in your past. Very dangerous words. I’ve told my teachers don’t ever say that and if you hear anyone say that tell them never say that again Because we can’t say that. It’s not just that

[00:26:45] Tim Blackburn: we can’t say that. It’s that we have the obligation to meet all of our students It’s not one or the other yeah, it’s just a dangerous assumption.

[00:26:56] Kim Peterson: When I first came to Virginia In my first school district here, I was given a choice for one of my students who was fifth, he was a fifth grader and would be going to the middle school for sixth grade the following year and I was told, You need to choose, does he go to the school where he can receive special education services or does he go to the school where he can receive L services?

[00:27:18] Kim Peterson: Choose for him. And I said, he needs both. He’s entitled to both and it was an argument and it’s we’ve got to get a teacher over there or we’ve got to change that situation Because we can’t exist in that situation. So I would say in most states there’s been growing pains But hopefully we’ve all moved beyond that.

[00:27:37] Kim Peterson: Yeah, but

[00:27:37] Tim Blackburn: again like circling back to hard for adults Yeah, but in the best interest of Children. And then I think is like a really crucial theme here is that when our systems aren’t nimble enough to meet the unique needs of our learners. And I’m wondering, Kim, when you think back at the experience and Prince William and.

[00:28:01] Tim Blackburn: You go back to the scene of how difficult those first conversations were. And then now hearing how things have changed. Can you pinpoint some of the things that did indeed change as a consequence of the, as a consequence of this?

[00:28:18] Kim Peterson: Yeah, I think the things that I see, and it’s belongingness.

[00:28:29] Kim Peterson: One of my favorite mantras, and I’ve got, I’ve adopted this from a presenter in our L field, Ms. Dorito, Doreena Sackman, is roster equals responsibility. So if a student is on your roster, you are responsible for them. It’s not, oh, it’s that kid with an IEP. So that somehow erases their belonging and erases, as a teacher, for me, my responsibility.

[00:28:58] Kim Peterson: To educate them. It’s on someone else. It’s on the SPED teacher or it’s on the L teacher because they’re an L. What I saw happen through that tremendous growth of the training of everybody, teachers and administrators, is the idea of that belonging. That if a child is in that classroom, they’re an equal equitable part of that classroom and that education of my using some strategies to differentiate for this assignment is going to be great for this child and this child, whether they’re an L or have special education services or not.

[00:29:39] Kim Peterson: And maybe some who are unidentified as anything, but we just think it would help. It opens the door for more of that targeted instruction that is equitably delivered to all students. And that, I think, was the real change that I saw. Yeah,

[00:29:56] Tim Blackburn: yeah. Roster equals responsibility, Justin.

[00:30:00] Kim Peterson: Roster equals responsibility.

[00:30:02] Kim Peterson: Get the t shirt. Get the t shirt. Roster equals responsibility. And I think I still see a few challenges because of course where I am in Winchester we have not been through a DOJ and I don’t want to, don’t want to go there I’m not saying let’s do that. But you’re chipping away at hearts and minds in some cases.

[00:30:23] Kim Peterson: And I have found that our secondary teachers, some of that is tough. If I’m a chemistry teacher, and I now have an L or a former L who’s just exited the program in my chemistry class, the question has come to me, how come I don’t get an L teacher to co teach in here? Because I have an L. It’s not a one to one ratio, first of all.

[00:30:44] Kim Peterson: And guess what? Tag, you’re it. We can help you with some strategies and give you some ideas, how to scaffold for that student, but it’s back to that mantra, roster equals responsibility. Guess what? It’s you! Oh,

[00:30:57] Justin Hewett: that is so powerful. I love the tag, you’re it. Hey! Welcome to the game. Here you go. Kim, I love hearing you unpack your experience in Prince William County Schools, with the Office of Civil Rights and everything that came out of that.

[00:31:10] Justin Hewett: It’s amazing to me that you led that, that charge of really bringing in the learning and the certification and putting the process in place that brought about real change, in a significant way. Like large organizations like that, it’s hard to drive that kind of change. And it sounds like, you were able to do that and it’s been lasting.

[00:31:32] Justin Hewett: I want to fast forward to today, now you are the EL program coordinator in Winchester public school district. What do you take from your experience there in Prince William County, going through this, OCR experience and then all the aftermath, how has that impacted? You’re building your program today.

[00:31:52] Justin Hewett: Maybe tell us a little bit about Winchester schools and school district And then tell us how you took that experience from Prince William County and implemented it

[00:32:02] Kim Peterson: Sure. First, I have to give credit where credit is due. My director of the L program and services in Prince William County, what is a brilliant woman.

[00:32:14] Kim Peterson: She’s no longer with Prince William. She is happily retired, but she, Janine Harkey, I have to give credit to her. She had a vision. She had a vision for what an L program should look like in all of its facets and pieces. When the position became available here in Winchester, I was initially really interested in the position because it gave me back two hours of my life.

[00:32:42] Kim Peterson: I was commuting from where we live in this northern Shenandoah region of northern Virginia, and commuting an hour and a half the days that I went into the office in Prince William each way. And that’s on a… Good day, because that area for shopping at Christmas time, forget it. There’s no getting out.

[00:32:59] Kim Peterson: You’re trapped. But coming to Winchester from where I live is a half an hour drive. And so I gained back two hours of my life. One thing that I quickly discovered when I got here is that the program needed building. So I went from an office of our, just our instructional office. We were 12 people, and I’m an office of one.

[00:33:21] Kim Peterson: I have lovely and wonderful teachers. I’m now up to 30 teachers between our seven schools, and we can still grow, I’m sure, with more and more staffing. I have lovely liaisons here who are all part of our program, but the program in terms of processes and procedures, communications, translations, it needed to be.

[00:33:48] Kim Peterson: So I was able to take a lot of the model of what Janine Sadki had built for all the pieces and that she had to present for Office of Civil Rights. I was able to take that model and build it on a small form. In my first, I would say, two years here, two, three years. I kept looking for those other 11 people.

[00:34:10] Kim Peterson: Where are those other 11 people? I need those other 11 people from my former office because to cover all of, wear all of the hats is, it’s a little overwhelming even on a small scale. All of the pieces have to be there, but it’s been fun. To build a program,

[00:34:29] Justin Hewett: You talk about speaking and about it being a game changer and a gateway to success in some of these other domains or acquiring a new language.

[00:34:38] Justin Hewett: Would you mind unpacking that a little bit and maybe speaking from what you’ve noticed in your experience in your district or over the years, why, why that emphasis on speaking?

[00:34:48] Kim Peterson: Absolutely. We know that A student cannot, if you think about writing, for example, both writing and speaking are productive modes.

[00:34:58] Kim Peterson: The student is producing language when they’re speaking, and they’re producing language when they’re writing, whereas reading to oneself and listening are receptive modes. You really can’t write something if you can’t say it. That’s one, one reason why speaking is so important. I wanted to take a look this past spring for my teachers because I really felt that our speaking scores on our English Language Proficiency Test we use, we’re a WIDA state in Virginia, so we use the WIDA Access 2.

[00:35:36] Kim Peterson: 0 test as our annual Language Proficiency Test for English for our students. I noticed that, overwhelmingly, our speaking scores could be a lot better. And, particularly by the secondary levels of, for us, we, our 5th and 6th graders are in an intermediate school, 7th and 8th are middle, and then high school is 9 through 12.

[00:36:00] Kim Peterson: And particularly in those grades, our speaking just needed to be better. And I wanted to take a look and say, How far could our students get? If, let’s say they’re still a level 1, even at a 1. 9, they’re in the level 1 range in speaking, how far could they get with their overall score? So I looked to see, in our data, how many students had reached a level 4.

[00:36:29] Kim Peterson: 0 if they were a level 1 at all in speaking. The answer was 0. They could not be an overall 4. 0 or higher headed for an exit in the state of Virginia is an overall score of 4. 4. That’s not possible if their speaking is still in that level 1 range. So then I went to level 2. Those students who are still in level 2, how many of them could make it to that 4.

[00:36:58] Kim Peterson: 0 marker? Six. Six out of more than a thousand L’s were able to make it to that. Only one of them was fifth grade or above. I want to say they might’ve been fifth or sixth grade. A couple of them were kindergartners, which is easy to see why that might happen for a younger child where a lot of the measure would be on speaking.

[00:37:21] Kim Peterson: But for our older students, in order to get there where that might happen, where is if receptively they were able to make that leap into higher scores because they were already a great reader and already a great writer in another language. So as they learned. The new language, the target language being English, they were able to make that transfer without being able to speak much in the language.

[00:37:47] Kim Peterson: Some of us may feel that way about our own foreign language classes and in that, could we go to a country where that’s the native language and carry on a high level conversation with someone? Maybe not, but maybe we the…

[00:38:05] Kim Peterson: That’s not the reality for most of our students who are English learners in our schools. They are not, most of them do not come with a high level of literacy in that first language where they would make that transfer. So it was pretty significant to say that as a gatekeeper, this speaking needs to be pretty strong.

[00:38:27] Kim Peterson: It needs to be a level three or higher in order for that student to make some great progress with their overall

[00:38:34] Justin Hewett: scores. Yeah, it takes it from being a gatekeeper to becoming the gateway, right? I know there’s a lot of research behind… If you speak it, you can write it, but also speaking is a foundational for building reading as well.

[00:38:47] Justin Hewett: Emma Sanchez was one of my co founders in, in building Flashlight 360, the initial product and getting it going. And she used to always say, she would always remind us if you can speak it, you can write it. And I just love that you underscored that earlier. And really her thought was, and I heard you talk about it earlier today as well, is.

[00:39:06] Justin Hewett: The importance of really changing the hearts and minds and really it being the students that change the hearts and minds of the educators of the adults that are in this process and through getting to know the students, through serving them, through hearing them, hearing what they have to say and share and understanding their story.

[00:39:24] Justin Hewett: As you’re talking about the importance of speaking here, and you’re talking about, look, we’ve got to get students at least to a level three, ideally, obviously, even higher, but at least a level three, so it gives them a chance to be able to, build in these other language domains. It makes me wonder, not that we’re necessarily trying to gamify it, but we are also trying to accelerate students.

[00:39:44] Justin Hewett: When it comes to Access 2. 0 and it comes to the scoring of it, are all of the domains weighted the same? Do they all score the same? Do they all have the same importance in the composite score for a student?

[00:39:57] Kim Peterson: No. With Weedit Access, the reading and writing, which combine to form a literacy score, they are together are 70 percent of the weighted score for the overall score.

[00:40:09] Kim Peterson: They really have to get there with the literacy, and what we’re seeing through the speaking data is that they’re not getting there until their speaking is at least in that level three range. Having the ability to speak and, of course, comprehend in English. Students have to get to a certain level before, if you look at, for example, in Virginia, our standards of learning, they call them SOLs and our SOL tests, they are really begin to be accessible in a content area realm for students when they’re an overall level three.

[00:40:51] Kim Peterson: Much before that. They need quite a bit of support and what we would call scaffolding in a content or general education classroom. Because, if you look at where they actually are and what the students can do, and WIDA gives us that through their can dos, they really are not able to access some of those strands proficiently until at least that level 3.

[00:41:19] Kim Peterson: And that’s in all domains. So we do need to teach with all four domains in mind, listening, speaking, reading, and writing, but speaking really is highly important. And I would say my point in bringing this forward to my teachers was to say, this may be a very ignored domain in some classrooms, especially starting.

[00:41:44] Kim Peterson: In and around fourth or fifth grade, where things become, we switch from students learning to read to often reading to learn. They make that, we make that instructional shift in our world. When that shift happens, A lot of things start to be assigned to go and read this and then you’re going to write this in response.

[00:42:12] Kim Peterson: So where is the speaking? Often times that doesn’t happen in many classrooms where there’s organized speaking, meaningful speaking with and about content.

[00:42:23] Justin Hewett: And so in your district, as you approach this new school year, what is it that you’re doing across the district to help focus more on speaking and help make that more of a central piece to the curriculum and the work being done?

[00:42:36] Justin Hewett: We

[00:42:37] Kim Peterson: are excited to bring flashlight learning in for our grades 5 through 12 for our English learners for our program. I am picturing in a small group setting when my teachers work with a small group within a classroom that they’re going to use some of that wonderful and vast library of visuals to initiate content discussions that could spread to the whole classroom, but will be very meaningful.

[00:43:06] Kim Peterson: For those English learners at levels one and two in working with the specific vocabulary that goes with those visuals and for they get a front loading preview of using some sentences with that impressive vocabulary that goes with the visuals. Any and all of my teachers who have looked at the program and seen it are very excited to bring that to our program.

[00:43:30] Justin Hewett: That’s exciting. Thanks. Thanks for talking about Flashlight 360. That is how we got connected is you were working with Pam Wyatt and looking to put this in place. And Pam connected us and recommended we talk more. And so it’s been fun to hear your story and talk through this. I’m excited to hear how everything goes with you as you go to implement Flashlight 360.

[00:43:51] Justin Hewett: I think that, one of the things that we hear a lot of times from districts as they’re doing this is their teachers initially are unfamiliar with the work of, understanding where students are at. In speaking and what they need next. And so they talk about how Flashlight 360 is giving them a framework to be able to build that common language within the district.

[00:44:13] Kim Peterson: Yeah. And I think having it as both a formative assessment and some benchmark data for them to go with, teachers have been asking for something, but how do I measure the growth in speaking? I want to measure that during the school year. And they really haven’t had a tool at their access to be able to do that.

[00:44:31] Kim Peterson: Other than, of course, waiting for our access scores, which by the time we receive our access scores in June, the school year is over, and so then the students have taken the test in February, so by the time we’re in August and back to school, the scores are already six months old. So I am looking forward to having some formative assessments and hands on targeted instruction as a result.

[00:44:57] Kim Peterson: And that’s,

[00:44:58] Justin Hewett: that is the whole point, right? Is we can’t use old data to make decisions right now. We need right now data.

[00:45:04] Kim Peterson: That’s right. We want to stay current with our students and know where they are.

[00:45:09] Justin Hewett: Kim, this has been so delightful being able to, learn about your journey, hear about the mission that you’ve been on.

[00:45:16] Justin Hewett: I think we’d love to ask just maybe a couple of questions, more rapid fire questions here as we bring it home. One, for example, is if someone was a brand new EL director, if you were going to go start a brand new, a program all over again, what’s the one thing that you would do first in building a new.

[00:45:34] Justin Hewett: If you stepped into one similar to maybe Winchester or a school district, that basically the EL program needed to be built again. And you went from a team of 12 to a team of one again what’s the first thing

[00:45:45] Kim Peterson: I would do, walk through your buildings and see what’s happening for instruction in each of those.

[00:45:51] Kim Peterson: I guarantee in most districts, there aren’t that many schools that are the same. that are cookie cutter in terms of what’s happening with instruction in each of those. So that has to be something that you take into consideration to building your plan and start communicating with your ESL teachers, gathering your team.

[00:46:12] Kim Peterson: One person out on a branch by themselves is not going to be too successful or as successful, I should say, as when they have others who are part of that team and are invested in doing what needs to be done. So if you look at what’s already in existence, you can start to build from there. And I would say looking at those piece those pillars that we talked about that are outlined carefully in the Dear Colleague letter and In the USCD toolkit, which is based on that Dear Colleague letter, those outline all of the pillars that you need, but you have to look at the structures that are in place within your current district and evaluate what is that going to look like for Daniel Morgan Intermediate School, as opposed to Daniel Morgan Middle School, and what’s the difference between those and where can we go from in each place?

[00:47:03] Tim Blackburn: I’m just delighted by this conversation, Kim. The, just the connection I’ve made to what you shared before. It’s just the importance of evaluation, the importance of having an accurate sense of hearing from all of our students, and all of the students that we

[00:47:16] Kim Peterson: serve. Yeah, in order to teach with the end in mind, which is best practice, we have to know what we want it to look like.

[00:47:25] Justin Hewett: Tim would call that clear intended learning, right? Actually, I shouldn’t say, Tim would say that. That is what we’re talking about here. That’s ultimately, everybody said, who says that? Whose, whose word is that actually specifically, Tim? I want to make sure we give credit to where that, Oh,

[00:47:41] Tim Blackburn: it comes from Stanford at Sarah Rutherford Kwok is her name.

[00:47:45] Tim Blackburn: Yeah,

[00:47:46] Justin Hewett: that’s right.

[00:47:48] Kim Peterson: I think one of the big things that, you know, back when I was at Prince William and we were working under the settlement agreement is that a lot of teachers and administrators. Aha was, Hey, this really isn’t that different what you’re talking about. This is just good instruction. And the answer to that is yes.

[00:48:09] Kim Peterson: This is absolutely just good instruction, but the difference is that some of these supports and extra things that you do in differentiation, scaffolding support, these are things that are good for a lot of kids, if not all kids at some point or another in their educational career, but for an English learner, these things are vital.

[00:48:34] Kim Peterson: That’s the difference.

[00:48:36] Justin Hewett: I’m pretty sure that was your mic drop moment right there, Kim. I couldn’t agree more. Kim, I think there are so many amazing things throughout that you’ve said, and that you’ve shared, that are gonna really… Impact our community and our folks. It’s been really valuable.

[00:48:51] Justin Hewett: I know that Tim and I are both going to start taking that roster equals responsibility. That was so powerful. And earlier when we were talking about the co teaching and how it was hard for adults, but better for students. And I think that really resonated because I think a lot of the things that are best for students are harder for adults.

[00:49:10] Kim Peterson: Yeah, we have to get over ourselves and get past the point of saying where’s my desk? How come I don’t have a closet? All of those

[00:49:19] Justin Hewett: things. Where’s my table in the lunchroom? That’s right. Kim, I’m sure a number of our folks would love to, to connect with you. And if anybody has any additional questions or followup or they want to reach out to you, is there a good place for them to, is an email a good spot?

[00:49:35] Justin Hewett: Or do you have a spot on Twitter or how should

[00:49:37] Kim Peterson: they find you? My email’s a great spot. Yeah, my email’s a great spot. I’m always on email.

[00:49:43] Justin Hewett: Okay, we’ll put your email into into the show notes, as well as a link to a number of the other things we’ve talked about today. Do you have any parting wisdom or advice for maybe a teacher that’s just getting started?

[00:49:55] Justin Hewett: This is going to be their first school year. Right now, they’re just getting started and let’s say they’re going to work with English learners. What would be your best piece of advice here as we wrap up?

[00:50:04] Kim Peterson: My best piece of advice is be a willing learner as a teacher. Be willing to collaborate and learn from other teachers around you because usually in almost every school, certainly in every school I’ve been in, there have been people who have had far greater years of experience and experiences compared to me.

[00:50:23] Kim Peterson: So I learned. From a lot of those people. And I can still learn from even brand new people. We learn best from each other’s just like the kids do. The temptation as a new teacher is I’ve got to practice my and develop my own toolkit. And while that’s true, the temptation is to grab the kids at the door and go.

[00:50:44] Kim Peterson: Try not doing that sometimes, and actually staying and maybe having your group at a table within the classroom, and being able to have those touch based discussions with the classroom teachers who have those kids all day. Because, that not only do those kids belong as part of that roster equals responsibility classroom, that’s where they’re spending the other six and a half hours of their day.

[00:51:10] Kim Peterson: So if you can talk about what’s going on in science, even though you’re not in there in science, you’re going to be so much more helpful for your students and for their teachers if you collaborate. So that’s my word of wisdom.

[00:51:24] Justin Hewett: Beautiful. Amazing. And to be constantly learning,

[00:51:28] Kim Peterson: right? I think what’s hard, a lot of our new teachers, and as nationwide, it’s a struggle to find highly qualified teachers.

[00:51:36] Kim Peterson: And it’s certainly a struggle to sometimes find teachers who are certified as ESL and highly qualified as ESL teachers. We’re getting a lot of what we call career switchers, people who, we have career switcher programs in Virginia, where ESL is one of the things that, if I could be a pizza delivery person and now go and I have a bachelor’s degree, do a career switcher move, and within a few short months I’m in a classroom.

[00:52:03] Kim Peterson: What’s hard about that is when you come in as a ESL specialist position, it’s like you’re looked to bring something to the table in terms of that collaboration. Collaboration and. That’s really hard to do if you’ve never been a teacher before. So I think some of our folks are in a really hard position with that, but just saying.

[00:52:25] Kim Peterson: That’s okay. You’re going to learn. You’re going to learn from some very experienced teachers and be willing to do that. It really cuts

[00:52:31] Tim Blackburn: both ways, right? In the sense of, often we talk about co teaching. There’s the benefit of having job embedded professional learning. Yes. Everyone’s skill set is honored as a part of that collaboration, but easier said than done, right?

[00:52:47] Kim Peterson: The challenges are real.

[00:52:49] Tim Blackburn: But also accepting that coherence in a student’s school day is so vital. And my takeaway from this is ensuring that our programming and our systems really privilege the student experience before thinking about, say, how it might be inconvenient for

[00:53:05] Kim Peterson: adults. Inconvenient for adults.

[00:53:08] Kim Peterson: But think about the equitable opportunities for the student. And are those happening if we fracture their day? So if you think of that student who has an IEP, and they go with those folks, and they’re also an L, and they go with our folks, and they keep leaving the classroom, maybe they have speech. Gosh, some students may literally be left with 20 minutes that they’re in their seat in their classroom.

[00:53:34] Kim Peterson: That’s actually just not okay. We have totally fractured our learning in a way that’s not good. Yeah.

[00:53:40] Tim Blackburn: We can do better and we have to do

[00:53:41] Kim Peterson: better. We have to do better than that.

[00:53:44] Tim Blackburn: Yeah.

[00:53:46] Justin Hewett: Wow. Thanks again, Kim. Thanks for being here. Tim, thank you. I’m excited to, to unpack this more with you, Tim, but Kim, thank you for being with us.

[00:53:54] Justin Hewett: All right. We’ll see you later. Yeah. What a pleasure

[00:53:57] Tim Blackburn: to meet you.

[00:53:58] Kim Peterson: It was a pleasure talking with you. Thank you.


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