Oct 21 2019

Internationals Network for Public Schools: A Deeper Learning Approach to Supporting English Learners

Too often in U.S. schools, English learners are segregated into classrooms on the margins of our educational system. There, they often must engage with remedial content and face low expectations. Some educators may also perceive secondary students who are English learners as being too old to "catch up." The Internationals Network for Public Schools, a network of 27 schools in pubic school districts that serves secondary students, expects all its students to graduate ready for college, career, and life and ready to pursue a meaningful secondary path. It is one of three deeper learning networks researched for a study on how networks expand and sustain deeper learning models in schools across the U.S.

The Internationals model emphasizes rigorous academics, linguistic dignity, and bilingualism. Internationals schools integrate language development across content areas while engaging students in deeper learning—an approach that includes project-based learning, work-based learning, and performance assessments that allow students to explore their interests and learn academic content in personalized and inquiry-based ways. Deeper learning approaches help students think critically and solve complex problems using mathematical, scientific, and creative reasoning. Teachers engage students in learning experiences that require collaboration, effective communications, and self-directed inquiry, enabling them to "learn how to learn" and develop academic mindsets that increase perseverance and productive learning behaviors.

Internationals' students are also supported by school structures that address their social and emotional needs, including regular access to social workers, counselors, and wraparound services. Implementing language and content integration, using a deeper learning approach, and focusing on the whole child has allowed the Internationals Network to provide a range of coordinated supports that result in strong outcomes for English learners.

In examining how the Internationals Network has successfully recreated, sustained, and spread its model, the research team found that:

  1. Internationals works collaboratively with local practitioners to establish its schools, helping ensure its deeper learning model is feasible and sustainable.

    The Internationals Network maintains a set of conditions that it strives to secure so its complex model can be implemented (including the network having input on staffing, flexible graduation timelines and requirements, and assurances that educators in Internationals schools can incorporate language into their core instruction). It also engages in ongoing discussions with district leaders and and local educators about student need and the feasibility of the model to ensure it is welcomed in and responsive to the community.

  2. Internationals cultivates a culture of professional learning in which teachers and leaders learn about and experience the Internationals model and hone their abilities to implement the model in collaborative and ongoing ways.

    The network deliberately engages teachers and leaders in immersive professional development so they can effectively implement its approach. Educators and leaders receive onboarding that allows them to experience the network's instructional model and learn with and from their experienced colleagues. That includes an open-door policy wherein teachers visit each other's classrooms to provide feedback or learn new techniques. Cross-network workshops bring together teachers and leaders around specified topics and build communities of practice.

  3. Internationals partners with school districts and external partners to deepen and sustain local investment, to expand the network's approach, and to further develop teacher capacity.

    Internationals schools engage the district and broader community after establishing their sites, which helps to sustain them by securing important resources, building investment in the approach, and deepening staff capacity. Some network schools have also partnered with third-party organizations to extend educator capacity.

The Internationals Network for Public Schools, a network of 27 schools in pubic school districts that serves secondary students, expects all its students to graduate ready for college, career, and life and ready to pursue a meaningful secondary path.

These findings have the following implications for schools and districts interested in implementing deeper learning:

  1. Deeper learning models can be well supported when local stakeholders are involved in establishing deeper learning schools. School and district leaders seeking to implement deeper learning approaches can develop a clear understanding of the policies and structures they need to instantiate their visions and then consider how they can partner with local communities from the onset.
  2. School and district leaders should be aware that experiential and immersive learning for educators and multifaceted systems for professional support that emphasize continuous improvement and collaborations are key to a school's ability to implement deeper learning for English learners.
  3. School and district leaders who want to expand their work around deeper learning could consider how they can leverage partnerships such as those in the Internationals Network to help foster and sustain deeper learning practices for English learners.

Internationals Network for Public Schools: A Deeper Learning Approach to Supporting English Learners by Martens Roc, Peter Ross, and Laura E. Hernández is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

This research was supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Core operating support for the Learning Policy Institute is also provided by the Sandler Foundation and the Ford Foundation. We are grateful to them for their generous support. The ideas voiced here are those of the authors and not those of our funders.

Photo provided with permission by Internationals Network.

Deeper Learning Networks
Deeper Learning Networks: Taking Student-Centered Learning and Equity to Scale is a cross-case analysis of three individual case studies of networks of schools. In a series of interviews, network representatives and educators in partner schools and districts discuss their strategies and practices for advancing deeper learning. Case studies and supporting content, including additional videos, are available below.

 

Deeper Learning Networks: Taking Student-Centered Learning and Equity to Scale
Laura E. Hernández, Linda Darling-Hammond, Julie Adams, et. al.

Big Picture Learning: Spreading Relationships, Relevance, and Rigor One Student at a Time
Kathryn Bradley and Laura E. Hernández

New Tech Network: Driving Systems Change and Equity Through Project-Based Learning in Public Schools
Julie Adams and DeAnna Duncan Grand