Effectively Using ESEA Title III, Part A Programs for English Language Learners

The following blog was contributed by Dale McDonald, PBVM, Ph.D., NCEA Vice President of Public Policy.  

Do you have English Language Learners in your Catholic school?

Have you heard of Title III-A? 

As Catholic school educators engage in their mission to serve all students, it is important our private schools receive the aid they are entitled to. ESEA’s Title III-A is a program that requires equitable services for English Language Learners (ELs) and their teachers. 

Here are FAQs about Title III-A and how it can be implemented effectively in your Catholic school: 

Who are ELs?

According to ESSA, an EL is a student aged between 3-21 who meets one of these criteria: 

  • Was not born in the United States, or whose native language is a language other than English; 
  • Is a Native American or Alaska Native, or a native resident of the outlying areas; and comes from an environment where a language other than English has had a significant impact on the individual’s level of English language proficiency;  
  • Comes from an environment where a language other than English is dominant and has difficulties in speaking, reading, writing or understanding the English language that may affect their education. 

What are the purposes of Title III-A? 

  • To help ensure that English learners attain English proficiency and develop high levels of academic achievement; 
  • To assist teachers, principals, and other school leaders in implementing effective English language instruction; 
  • To promote family and community participation in English language instruction programs. 

Are private school students and teachers included in the Title III-A program? 

  • Yes. The local educational agency (LEA – public school district) must ensure that ELs can participate meaningfully and equally in educational programs and services by identifying and assessing all potential EL students.
  • The public school district must provide for the participation of eligible private school students, their teachers and staff in Title III-A programs in their district. 
  • The district must also engage in timely and meaningful consultation with private school officials during the development of their Title III-Part A programs.  

How is Title III-A implemented? 

The state education agency (SEA) allocates funds each fiscal year to every district in the state with an approved Title III plan and should ensure that its LEAs receive funds with enough time to spend them in a meaningful way during the school year. 

What questions should private schools ask when collaborating with their district? 

  • How will nonpublic school students be identified? * 
  • How will the needs of eligible teachers and staff be identified? 
  • What services will the district provide to meet the needs of identified students and their teachers and other personnel? 
  • How will services be assessed to improve the service in the future? 

*The private school and the LEA should establish objective criteria to determine which private school children are eligible based on responses to a survey and/or scores on an English language proficiency (ELP) screener assessment.  

What services may be provided for using Title III-A funds? 

  • Tutoring for ELs before, during or after school hours; 
  • Summer school programs to provide English language instruction for ELs; 
  • Provision of supplemental instructional materials and supplies. (These materials and supplies must be clearly labeled and identified as the LEA’s property, and must be secular, neutral and nonideological.) 
  • Professional development for private school teachers of ELs; 
  • Administration of an ELP assessment for identification of ELs and/or for the purpose of evaluating the effectiveness of services, including test booklets, teacher training and stipends to teachers to administer assessments. 

Is there more information available to guide the implementation of Title III-A programs and services for ELs in private schools? 

Yes, the U.S. Department of Education has provided guidance specially addressing participation of private school students and teachers in this program. It is an important resource and should be brought to any consultation meeting. 

An English Learner Tool Kit from the U.S. Department of Education is available online.  This resource contains an overview, sample tools and resources to help with the effective implementation of the program. 

In addition to the Title III-A resources, educators have many other tools available to assist them serving ELs both at school and at home. Several other Titles of ESEA, particularly Title I-A, II-A and IV-A are important as well as technology resources for at-home services to provide connectivity and hardware to students caught in the digital “homework gap.” As Catholic schools increase their efforts to serve more diverse learners, it is important that they find and use every available resource to support them.

Committing to Cultural Responsiveness as a Catholic School Educator

The following blog was contributed by Betsy Okello, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, The Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, University of Notre Dame.

As Catholic school educators and leaders, committing to cultural responsiveness is not merely nice to do or an add on to our core curricula. It is essential to developing our students spiritually, academically, and socially. The first step on the journey to becoming culturally responsive educators is to clearly understand what this commitment means in terms of our practice and our habits. What does it mean to be responsive, not just to our students’ cultures but also to the diversity of cultures in our global community? Here, we will focus on what cultural responsiveness is and what it is not.

Cultural responsiveness is providing students with windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors. Cultural responsiveness is not using a simple checklist to match the current students in my class to the books on my library shelf. In the 1990s, Rudine Sims Bishop challenged educators to provide students with windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors through books and images. This metaphor is widely cited in educational circles but needs to be deeply understood rather than taken at face value. Providing students with windows through books allows them to encounter people who have different experiences, ways of dressing, ways of speaking, and cultural traditionsand to find value in these differences. These stories should highlight the diversity among ethnicities and nationalities so that students understand that not all Latinx families are Mexican, and not all Asian families are Chinese. There is diversity both within and among these communities. Providing students with mirrors allows them to see their own experience reflected in the stories they read in school. This is critical both for students’ development as readers and their own sense of dignity and worth. We know from research that children can comprehend texts more deeply when those texts include characters and topics that match their cultural background knowledge (Bell and Clark, 1998). We want our students to be able to do more than just decode words. We want them to be able to make meaning, connections, and use what they learn through texts. Reading books that activate the background knowledge of all students allows them to find value in the knowledge they bring into our classrooms (their language, heritage, cultural traditions, etc.). Providing students with sliding glass doors allows them to step inside the experience of another. We have seen students do this countless times as they enter the fantasy worlds of Hogwarts, the Magic Tree House, or The Shire. These imaginative worlds are magical and important but so too is reality. We can also invite students into a city bus ride to the last stop on Market Street, a forest of freshly planted trees in Kenya or an after school drawing lesson between a grandfather and grandson. These stories, settings, and characters matter and reading them in our classrooms will show students that their stories, experiences, and families matter as well.

Cultural responsiveness is something we do all the time. Cultural responsiveness is not reserved for holidays or particular celebrations. Annual, month-long celebrations such as Hispanic Heritage Month and Black History Month are important because they establish dedicated time to highlight the cultures, traditions, and contributions of these communities. Setting aside an entire month can help ensure that we pay particular attention to the diversity within each community. These celebrations provide a wonderful opportunity to highlight books written by authors of color (see this video on Hispanic Heritage Month and this one on Black History Month for some suggested titles). However, this cannot be the only time students encounter the stories, perspectives, and images. Cultural responsiveness is not something we only pay attention to when prompted by the calendar. Cultural responsiveness needs to be something we commit to daily – across subjects and throughout our day. Even when our youngest students are beginning to read, teachers can use decodable texts that are interesting, culturally responsive, and relevant to their daily lives and experiences. Students can read informational text on topics related to social justice that are accessible for their developmental and reading levels. And especially in our Catholic schools, students can learn the stories of diverse saints throughout the year so that they can come to know saints who look like them. Becoming more culturally responsive requires us to make deep rather than surface level changes to our curricula. These changes can even be co-constructed along with students. Such design work alongside students helps guard against superficial curricular changes (such as changing the names of characters or the settings) rather than centering and valuing the knowledge that students bring that is absent from the current curriculum. When making changes to our practice and habits to become more culturally responsive, we must consider all three aspects of culturally relevant pedagogy: academic achievement, cultural competence, and sociopolitical consciousness(Ladson-Billings, 1995).  We can ask ourselves, will this help our students better access and understand the content? Will this help students become more fluent in their own culture and the culture of another? And will this help students develop a sociopolitical conscience so they can make better decisions and choices as Catholics committed to Catholic Social Teaching and as global citizens?

Cultural responsiveness is a commitment we make to families and communities. Cultural responsiveness is not just about what happens in our classrooms and schools. When students enter our classrooms, we want them to be able to bring their full selves across the threshold and to be able to recognize and draw upon the funds of knowledge they bring. We also want students to go back out of our classrooms with new knowledge that they use to navigate the worlds they inhabit outside of our classroom walls. To be responsive to students’ cultures, we must bring an asset lens and orientation to understanding the richness and diversity of experience they and their families bring and interrogate how we as Catholic school educators can more powerfully understand and engage that richness. In our Catholic schools, we do not just teach students how to do certain subjects, such as how to solve problems in math, how to read, or how to do a science experiment. We understand education as the formation of a scholarly identity. How can we teach students to become mathematicians, readers, writers, artists, scientists, and saints?  What schools teach, and what kinds of texts, stories, examples, and problems teachers share with students, influences what students think is possible and what they can imagine. Providing students with access to a wide range of high quality culturally relevant texts expands their vision – both their ability to see themselves in new ways and to empathize with others. As Catholic educators, we honor parents as the primary educators of their children. This requires that we build and sustain relationships with families and are responsive to their cultures and needs as well as to the cultures and needs of our students. This might look like inviting families in as guest readers in our classrooms. It might look like making home visits to better understand students’ home lives. It might look like hosting family literacy and math nights to better support families. Engaging in these activities with students and families celebrates, honors, and draws upon their expertise and gifts and helps us understand and meet the needs of all members of our communities.

As we begin the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, let us take the opportunity to commit or re-commit to cultural responsiveness as Catholic school educators. Let us take this journey together recognizing the importance of multiple perspectives and the power of community. Let us challenge ourselves to consider how the doors of our classrooms and schools open both ways: How can we think about the ways the doors of our classrooms and schools open in and invite students and families into this space? What experiences do they have inside the space? What knowledge do they create? And how can that knowledge and experience transcend the doors back out into communities to transform them and ourselves?

Painting of St. Laura Montoya, Colombian saint who taught the “pedagogy of love.” Original artwork by artist Zack Okello

The Value of EdTech Safety

The following blog was contributed by Christina Jontra, Chief Navigator at Neptune Navigate, ask@navigate411.com.

The resources that are available to us today can be used to enhance the learning experience of our students. We have the ability to see galaxies never seen before, communicate easily with people all around the globe and view art and artifacts in museums without ever leaving our classrooms. With all of these resources, we also have the responsibility to teach our students how to use them responsibly.

The sheer amount of information our students and we have at our fingertips today is staggering. No longer are we limited to accessing information from books accessible only during a library’s operating hours.

With technologies like virtual reality, teachers can take virtual field trips to museums and tour historical sites all over the world without ever leaving the classroom. In addition, some of the most prestigious universities in the country offer free online classes in various subjects.  

Attaining knowledge and information is not a problem for anyone living in 2022. However, with access to all this technology and the information that comes with it, educators are responsible for teaching students how to navigate this digital world safely.

This responsibility comes straight from the teachings of Jesus. In three of the four Gospels, Jesus explains that it would be better to tie a millstone around one’s neck than to cause a child to stumble. The technology that we make available to students has the ability to cause one to stumble, so it is our responsibility to protect against it.

Educating students in this digital age must include more than meeting their academic needs. It is our responsibility also to equip students to protect both their reputations and their privacy online, recognize and respond to cyberbullying and ensure that the information they are accessing is accurate and reliable.

Current research indicates that 13- to 18-year-olds spend an average of 8 hours and 39 minutes each day looking at a screen. We cannot assume that because students spend so much time online, they intuitively know how to make social media work for them and not against them. Understanding that in the digital world, everything is permanent and nothing is ever really private is of utmost importance.

We need to be intentional about teaching students how to protect their privacy when posting on social media. We are good at protecting our privacy in the real world. We don’t share things like our social security numbers, house keys or vacation plans with strangers. However, too often online, students share so many details about their daily life that it is easy for strangers to find them in real life or steal their identities.

Every report regarding teens’ online activity warns about the prevalence of cyberbullying. Many estimate that 7 out of 10 kids in America have been the target of cyberbullying. We can’t ignore this problem. We need to equip our kids to identify and respond to cyberbullying when they see it online. Too many kids suffer in silence when they are the target of a cyberbully. Statistics indicate that 70 percent of kids who are bullied online never tell anyone. We must communicate to all our students that we are more than willing to help them in these situations.

Finally, accessing information is not our problem. We are bombarded with more information every day than our ancestors had in their lifetime. The problem today is having the skills to identify accurate and reliable information. Sadly, the internet is not organized like our school libraries. Websites are not labeled nonfiction or fiction. We have to give students the tools to determine what constitutes a reliable news source. This is a skill that we have to start teaching in the early grades and continue throughout high school. The resources available today can be used to enhance the learning experience of our students. The vast amount of information and data so readily available to us is staggering, and with it comes a responsibility to teach students how to safely and responsibly navigate and manage it.  As the writer of Proverbs implores us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Beyond Academic Excellence and Faith Formation: Should Catholic Schools Emphasize Values More?

The following blog was contributed by Quentin Wodon1.

One of the leading academic journals for Catholic educators is the Journal of Catholic Education. A great feature of the journal is that it is open access, so you can read all its articles for free. The last issue of the journal (Volume 25, Issue 1) includes a focus section suggesting that beyond academic performance and faith formation, it could make sense for some Catholic schools to emphasize values more. The focus section includes a brief overview and three articles.

The first article by Daniel Lapsley and Katheryn Kelley suggests that core value propositions in Catholic education include a) supporting students in the development of a personal, self-selected religious–spiritual identity; and b) providing moral-character formation. The first value proposition may have been overshadowed by a narrow focus on the Catholic identity of schools as opposed to the spiritual development of students, while the second remains too implicit or hidden in the curriculum. A focus on moral choices and character development is a natural fit for Catholic schools, but this cannot be left to an “invisible pedagogy” of personal formation: It needs to be tended to. Adolescents place a premium on beliefs not simply handed down to them but felt as their own. A strong Catholic identity for schools is an asset, but an approach for the spiritual development of all students, including non-Catholics, is needed.

The second article which I wrote notes that research on Catholic schools has focused on their contributions to human capital. Are there other areas where a Catholic education could make a difference? The authors point to an emerging literature on schooling and, among others, the participation in the democratic process, the likelihood of being convicted of a crime, and the likelihood of marriage. Using data from the Understanding America Study, they assess how attending different types of school is associated with marital and childbirth outcomes in adulthood. Compared to adults who attended public schools, adults who attended religious schools have higher marriage rates, lower divorce rates, and a lower incidence of nonmarital childbirths. Effects are greater for Protestant schools, older adults, and those who grew up in less financially secure households. The analysis may not imply causal effects, but it suggests potential positive long-term outcomes for students who attended religious schools as children.

The third article by Patrick Wolf, Albert Cheng, Wendy Wang, and Bradford Wilcox relies on data from a market research survey to assess parental priorities for what children should learn in school. For parents with their youngest child in a Catholic school, deepening the faith is important. It ranks below an emphasis on a sound moral base and communication skills, but at the same level as critical thinking, preparing for the job market, or preparing for college. By contrast, for parents ‘very willing’ to consider Catholic schools but not having enrolled their youngest child in one, deepening the faith is at the very bottom of their priorities. Emphasizing faith may not be attractive to them. Another difference is that few parents with their youngest child in a Catholic school emphasize teaching children to embrace diversity, while this matters for parents willing to consider the schools. In a context of declining enrollment (for a recent discussion and a discussion of potential comparative advantages for Catholic schools, see this article), this suggests that if schools are to respond to the priorities of parents very willing to consider them, they may need to pay attention to the promotion of values apart from the transmission of the faith. This does not mean weakening the schools’ identity, but it may entail a shift in focus about how to transmit the faith while also promoting values and welcoming children who may not be Catholic, but whose parents have an interest in Catholic schools.

In different ways, the three articles note the role that Catholic schools may play in instilling strong values among students. Adherence to formal religion may be weakening, but there is a yearning for meaning and community. There is also a pushback against narrow visions of academic excellence. Beyond the emphasis on academics and faith formation, there is an opportunity for Catholic schools to help students develop their values and spirituality in a manner that would be palatable to a large share of the population, including non-Catholics. The good news is that Catholic education have a lot of experience in this area.

1This post is based on the overview paper for the focus section of the issue of the Journal of Catholic Education being mentioned. The author works for an international development agency and is a Distinguished Research Affiliate with the College of Business at Loyola University New Orleans. He also manages the Global Catholic Education project as part of his volunteer work. The analysis and views expressed in this post are those of the author only and may not reflect the views of its employer, its Executive Director, or the countries they represent.

The Power of a Smile and a Kind Word

The following blog was contributed by Jodee Blanco, New York Times best-selling author and consultant.

We all know that gratitude practices can mean the difference between having a deeply contented or a restless heart. When I go into schools to implement my anti-bullying program or do professional development, I include creative strategies for focusing on gratitude that I use in my own daily life and the results are palpable.

While gratitude, like eating right and exercising, can be a game-changer, there’s another powerful habit that once we adopt can be equally as transformational—remembering to smile, the kind that radiates from the soul and lights up whomever you’re smiling at. I hadn’t realized it myself until a couple weeks ago on a school tour that included multiple professional development sessions.

I was doing a student engagement training for a small group of teachers who were all new to the school, and some, new to teaching. I could tell how hard they were concentrating and was both moved and humbled by their earnestness. I noticed too that they were so determined to do a good job and accomplish as much as they could in our limited time together, that they weren’t smiling. That’s when it hit me. Was I doing the same thing? Was I so focused as the presenter on covering all the material that I had stopped smiling too? It was as if God gently poked me on the nose.

Getting the hint, I immediately smiled, and everyone instead of just digesting information became more fully present and joyous. I felt the energy in the room shift.

I told them that as helpful as the content of the presentation might be, the most vital take away was that very moment, that we all need to remember to smile when we’re teaching, that when we are jubilant in God’s grace and are wearing his smile on our faces, it turns on all the lights in the classroom. If school is a grind for the teacher, then it will be for the student too. When the teacher can’t wait to teach, the student can’t wait to learn, and nothing communicates that excitement more than a smile.

It seems simple right? Not always. When we’re frustrated with a student for being disruptive or for behaving badly, smiling can almost feel counterintuitive. Ironically, that same child who’s likely acting out in a cry for help may need that smile from us much more than the classmate who’s always winning the approval of adults.

Sometimes a student may be so used to negative attention at home that they bring it on themselves at school without knowing it because, for them, negative attention is better than no attention. A smile from a teacher, one that expresses patience, tolerance, forgiveness and above all, God’s goodness, says to that student, you are deserving of kindness.

One of the ways to keep smiling when you’re having a rough day is to access your inner child. What activities did you love to do as a kid? I asked each of the teachers in that student engagement training this question and their answers ranged from climbing trees, making forts with blankets, eating berries warmed by the sun to playing and splashing in the rain.  Just talking about those memories made everyone giggle. Try it right now. Think of a favorite childhood activity. Are you smiling? For me, it would be looking for fossils! If you can summon that sense of wonder and innocence and bring its magic to class, you could end up changing a kid’s whole perspective.

It wasn’t only the training I did with those wonderful teachers that reminded me of what a smile can do not just for students, but for oneself. I have a dear friend with Down syndrome. His name is Kenny. Every few months I take him out for lunch at one of his favorite restaurants and shopping for books and DVDs. He’s an avid reader and film buff. We had an outing yesterday and I was distracted and rushed thinking about everything I had to do to get ready for my next school tour. Kenny sensed I was stressed and he tried to hurry along his shopping, which is something he loves to take his time doing and that I usually love to enjoy with him. We zipped in and out of that store so quickly, I barely remember paying.

Kenny’s life is simple. He lives in a house that’s part of a government program for the developmentally challenged. When I come to pick him up, it’s one of the highlights of his month and usually mine too. As we got out of the car and began unloading his packages, he stopped to admire his reflection in the passenger side window. He kept standing there looking at himself, then said, “You know, I look like Matt Damon!”

 “Yes, you do!” I replied, realizing it was the first time since I’d picked him up that day that I actually smiled. “Come to think of it, I look a lot like Ben Affleck too,” he added, confidently. I forgot all about my tour and crazy to-do list, and I’d wished that I’d remembered to smile earlier, that I hadn’t lost that precious time with him, distracted by things that in the end, really, truly didn’t matter.

About the Author

Jodee Blanco is the author of the seminal New York Times bestseller Please Stop Laughing at Me… and anti-bullying’s first voice. Dioceses turn to her regularly for professional development and to implement her anti-bullying program in their schools. Jodee is the author of a series of books for NCEA and a content provider for The Andrew M. Greeley Center for Catholic Education at Loyola University in the areas of anti-bullying and governance. She also consults for schools and dioceses on enlightened parent communication practices, SEL and Catholic values-based crisis management. For more information, please visit: https://www.jodeeblanco.com/catholic-schools/.

Jodee’s Publications with NCEA:

Back to School 2022 – 2023

Dear Members:

Nearly all of our schools are back in session for the 2022 – 2023 school year, and many of you have marked that return with a celebration of something special in your community. You may be surprised to hear that our inboxes are not flooded with invitations to events at individual schools, so it was with great joy that I received a note from Ms. Lauren Casserly of St. Mary of the Mills School in Laurel, MD, a parochial school in the Archdiocese of Washington. St. Mary educates some 220 students, and this past Monday it celebrated the start of the school year with a celebration marking its recognition as an accredited STEM school, the first in the archdiocese.

I was blessed to have a front-row seat at a ceremony with a deservedly proud community in attendance. School principal Ms. Jennifer Castaneda gave me a tour of the new STEM lab before the ceremony, its accoutrement on par with the best such labs in the country, and its makeover from what had been library space a testimony to what a bit of elbow grease and community support can do. The students offering a demonstration of the lab were impressive, as were Ms. Casserly and her fellow STREAM coordinator, Mr. Derrick Harrell.

A Catholic high school president, Lorcan Barnes, one of my mentors, told me that his goal was always to make an improvement over the summer that would make returning families say, “wow,” and one every five years that would make them say “WOW.” The STEM lab and accreditation is a “WOW” moment for St Mary of the Mills, and I know that, at over 5,900 Catholic schools across this country, communities have worked hard to deliver such moments to their returning families.

Religious orders had cultures of continuous improvement woven into their fabric before Corporate America discovered that it was a thing, and lay men and women staffing our Catholic schools of today carry on that tradition. So, thank you, St. Mary of the Mills, for the invitation to share in your community’s joy, and thank you to all of you doing things great and small to make your schools ever better places for your students. One of the great joys of NCEA is seeing that investment and growth, so please, share those stories with us so that we may share them with others.

Welcome back!


Lincoln Snyder
NCEA President/CEO

Guided reading reimagined: How to close reading gaps with differentiation and scaffolding

The following blog was contributed by Lynne Kulich, director of early learning at NWEA.

My earliest reading memory is of my three-year-old self seated on my grandma’s lap in her living room while she read and reread Old Hat New Hat by Stan and Jan Berenstain. I don’t recall why I was so fond of that book, but I’m guessing the repetitive text with picture cues, which made it easy to decode and comprehend, had something to do with it. In addition, I love the main idea gleaned from the story: the perfect hat just might be that old hat made new again.

Guided reading is like that old hat/new hat notion; sometimes what’s old can be dusted off, be made new, and become a perfect fit.

What we now know about guided reading

According to NAEP data, only 35 percent of fourth graders nationally are proficient or above on state summative reading assessments. While this data is daunting, what’s even more frustrating is the data from two decades ago, which suggests fourth-grade proficiency scores haven’t changed significantly. Why aren’t we moving the needle for all students? The answer may surprise you.

While teachers, including myself, have certainly tried to implement best practices in hopes of closing reading gaps, we’ve also been limiting opportunities for students to be successfully engaged with complex, grade-level text. State proficiency exams require students to decode and comprehend text at—not below—grade level. If students are busy reading text at their instructional reading levels, albeit below grade level, how can we reasonably expect them to read grade-level text on the state summative exams and earn a proficient score? I wouldn’t want to try swimming laps in the deep end of the pool if I’ve only been allowed to tread in shallow water. The jump from the shallow end to the deep end is best accomplished gradually, with scaffolding. The same can be said about reading grade-level text.

What about that frustration factor? Are grade-level texts too frustrating for some students? Well, they may be challenging, but research suggests students aren’t turned off by complex text. Linda Gambrell and colleagues studied motivation and its relationship to reading in the ’80s. They looked at the effects of internal and external motivators on student reading behaviors. Their studies of the relationship of text difficulty and motivation suggest either no relationship or a much more complicated one than we previously considered. When students are challenged and their learning is obvious, teachers won’t need to worry about frustration or a lack of motivation. Instead, with appropriate support, students can successfully engage with grade-level text, and any frustration is mitigated.

How to help readers catch up

The standards are clear: there’s no time for remediation. So what’s your plan? Here’s what I would do, now that I know better.

  • Step 1: Administer a reading assessment like MAP® Reading Fluency™ that provides a complete picture of a student’s reading skills, from foundational skills, like phonological awareness and word recognition, to oral reading fluency.
  • Step 2: Use the assessment data to determine students’ skills gaps, and differentiate instruction and provide the scaffolding students need to read complex text at, not below, grade level. (Differentiation is the different activities students work on that are designed to meet diverse instructional needs. Scaffolding is the different support students need to be successful.) 
  • Step 3: Strategically plan guided reading with grade-level text. Create guided reading groups based on common skills gaps and zone of proximal development (ZPD) levels. Ask the following questions: Which students need to improve their reading rate or their reading comprehension skills? Who needs work on decoding single-syllable words? Who needs help segmenting phonemes or decoding CVC words? Let the answers help you group your students.
  • Step 4: Select your grade-level text. Consider using a science or social studies passage; they’re rich in vocabulary and expository content.

You’re a change warrior!

Remember, text complexity is a matter of equity. For decades, we have assigned struggling readers text below grade level. This denies them the opportunity to successfully read grade-level text, develop rich vocabulary and complex syntax, and build content knowledge. We can’t continue denying complex text to struggling readers and wondering why they can’t keep up with peers and meet grade-level expectations.

Trust the process. You’ll be amazed at the amount of growth your students make, and that “old hat” can become a perfect fit after all.

Read the rest of this article on the NWEA blog, Teach. Learn. Grow. Hear more from our literacy experts with our on-demand webinar “Data and practice: Science-backed strategies to improve early literacy right now.” Call us at 1-866-654-3246 to learn about how we support literacy instruction.

Three ways to put assessment data to work in the classroom

The following blog was contributed by Chase Nordengren, the principal research lead for the professional learning team at NWEA.

The results of assessment, whether you’re using formative assessment strategies or an interim assessment like MAP® Growth™, can empower teachers and school leaders to inform instructional decisions.

To ensure that your instruction promotes equity and empowers students, you need to assess students well—and that means making the best use of the processes, tools, and information that assessments provide to accurately and fairly understand where students are in their learning. But first, you must ask yourself what your goal is.

Why are you assessing?

The first thing to do before assessing students is ask yourself: What am I hoping to accomplish? Here are examples of some of the questions that assessments can help answer:

  • As a teacher, how can I adjust my instruction to meet students’ needs? How will I know what kind of progress they’re making?
  • As a school principal, how can I ensure that our students are tracking toward key milestones? How can I offer the best professional development to support teachers?
  • As a district administrator, how can I evaluate our district’s programs for improvement planning? What’s working best, and what should we stop doing?
  • As a family member, how do I know my child is receiving instruction that will extend their current knowledge and skills?
  • As a student, how does my learning connect with my goals?

What to do with assessment data

Once you know your purpose, you’re ready to assess. Assessments that deliver real-time data can be immediately acted upon, providing invaluable opportunities for teachers and school leaders.

Here are some examples of what educators can do with actionable assessment information:

  1. Differentiate instruction by student readiness

Sound interim assessment data lets teachers know exactly where each student is compared to their classmates and peers nationwide. It allows a teacher to meet students within their zone of proximal development (ZPD)—the optimal spot, just beyond their current level of independent capability, where instruction is most beneficial for each student.

MAP Growth uses a grade-independent RIT score that measures academic growth, much like a yardstick might measure physical growth. Starting from this score, teachers can begin providing tailored instruction to meet student needs. They can then use ongoing formative assessment strategies to update their understanding of student knowledge over time.

Read the rest of this article on the NWEA blog. Call us at 1-866-654-3246 to learn about how we support educators. And visit the NWEA blog, Teach. Learn. Grow., at nwea.org/blog.

A Preview of What’s to Come at CLS – October 16 – 19, 2022 in Arlington, VA

Dear All:

In my years of service as a diocesan superintendent, NCEA’s Catholic Leadership Summit was always a highlight. I knew that I would return to my diocese with at least one big idea that would inform my priorities for the next year. In addition, I looked forward to broadening my network of fellow leaders who helped me grow and excel.

Regional Groups and PLCs

We are shaking up the event schedule this year. Each participant will be part of two groups – their regional group and a Professional Learning Community. Regarding the regional groups, NCEA’s map divides the country into fourteen regions regarding the regional groups, and we will reinvigorate that infrastructure. If your regional group is functional, we look forward to supporting your work. If your group hasn’t met in a while, we will work with you to put the band back together. We will also bring together the leads for the 14 regions into a national committee. We used to meet this way in a structure called CACE (Chief Administrators of Catholic Education), and that same format is a natural way for us to organize our conversations around policy.

As for the PLCs, it’s frequently noted that the best conversations at CLS happen spontaneously, and we want to bring those conversations into the classroom. When you register for CLS, you’ll be asked to identify your office by certain denominators; large diocesan offices, offices of one, and everything in between – you will join a group of like leaders, and we will work with your PLC to develop the agenda for that session. We will also have PLCs for religious order and private school networks and for associate superintendents. Moreover, we will host virtual meetings for your PLC after CLS to continue the conversations. My hope is that everyone finds their tribe within the tribe, and the event feels more conversational and less didactic.

Hill Day

We are particularly excited to dedicate a day to visiting Capitol Hill to advocate for our Catholic schools and their students as a national system. Our goal is to get in front of as many members of Congress and their staff as possible. If you’ve never done advocacy work, no fear – we will prepare you with all the talking points you need to make an impact. In addition, we will need to collect data from you to create materials for your senators and representatives that will flow into a handsome one-sheet telling the story of Catholic education in your state and district, so please look for that email soon.

Director of Leadership Engagement

We are thrilled that Karen Barreras will start her new position of director of leadership engagement on July 1. Karen will reach out to every superintendent and network leader, and coordinate all your PLCs and regional committees going forward. Based on your feedback, we are investing in better infrastructure for bringing people together, and I trust that you will be happy with the results. Coming together virtually, between our in-person events, will strengthen us as a system and help all dioceses and schools succeed.

Let us know if your state or region needs help organizing a regional committee! We are here to help facilitate the conversation and support you in structuring a group that provides you the support you need from fellow superintendents and network leaders.

Register Now!

If you haven’t already, please take a moment now to register for this event. Karen will be reaching out to you personally with next steps to ensure you are prepared for the great things we have planned.

It’s a wonderful time for us to come back together in person, and we look forward to seeing you in Arlington.


Lincoln Snyder

Supporting Refugees, Forcibly Displaced People and Migrants: The Role of Schools and Universities

The following blog was contributed by Quentin Wodon, World Bank & Loyola University New Orleans.

A few days ago, UNHCR released its latest report on trends in global displacement. The report estimates that globally, 89.3 million people were forcibly displaced as of December 2021. This included 27.1 million refugees, 53.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs), 4.6 million asylum seekers, and 4.4 million Venezuelans displaced abroad.

The number of forcibly displaced people has increased further in the first half of this year, especially due to the war in Ukraine that has led to 8 million people being displaced within Ukraine and 6 million becoming refugees in other countries. Overall, there are today well over 100 million people forcibly displaced people globally.

June 20 is World Refugee Day. The day is observed every year to honor the strength and resilience of refugees and to educate people to take action in their support. Celebration for the day started in Africa, with the United Nations later adopting a resolution for the Day in 2001 for the 50th anniversary of the 1951 convention on refugees. Issues related to refugees, forced displacement and migration are here to stay, with climate change likely to bring additional stress.

In March, the Vatican (Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development) released a series of documents providing guidance on ministering to migrants and examples of projects organized around seven practices: Acknowledging and overcoming fear; Promoting encounter; Listening and being compassionate; Living our Catholicity; Understanding migrants as a blessing; Fulfilling the evangelizing mission; and Cooperating towards communion. A range of other resources from the Vatican including reports for various regions is available here.

Refugees and IDPs are often in need of emergency assistance. But they also require investments, including in their education. As noted by Father René Micallef SJ in an interview for the Global Catholic Education project, in the past “efforts focused on immediate needs that could evoke generosity when portrayed in a photo or short video… Yet refugees have little material capital (e.g. fertile agricultural land) and providing them with human capital and skills through education is the only viable way of helping them stand on their feet.”

Father Micallef further notes that “a holistic education of students about the current mass migration and asylum phenomena should weave together personal elements (encounters with the “stranger”), imaginative ones (art, movies), ethical and political reflection, as well as critical analysis of data from social science and economics.” Father Micallef points to a first potential role for (Catholic) schools and universities in responding to the forced displacement crisis, which is to raise awareness and advocate on behalf of forcibly displaced people. In too many areas of the world, the humanitarian response to the displacement crisis is simply inadequate. Schools and universities can also encourage their students to raise funds in support of refugees (see this example of schools in Brooklyn raising funds for Ukraine).

In addition, a second potential role for Catholic schools and universities in responding to the displacement crisis is to provide scholarships for refugees, including in the United States. This is not always easy in a contest of tight budgets, but it can be done. In a post for the quarterly newsletter of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, I mentioned how Notre Dame of Maryland University, the first Catholic college for women in the United States, made two full scholarships available for young Afghan women for next year. Catholic schools may also be able to reduce tuition for refugee children.

The needs are massive. In the United States, 100,000 Afghans and an additional 100,000 Ukrainians are expected to resettle. Catholic schools and universities have a responsibility to help. And as an individual reading this blog post, you may be able to help as well. To do so, I would encourage you to visit the website of Welcome.US, a nonprofit aiming to support the resettlement of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees in the United States (see also the brochure prepared by Welcome.US for World Refugee Day).