A Case Study in U.S. Mainland District with a Pacific Islander Population

Springdale Schools has a mission: “Teach Them All.” In pursuit of this mission, Springdale has long recognized the role data have in informing instruction and engaging parents in the education of their children. Data have been used to identify gaps in services provided to students and families; to build cultural understandings among
teachers, students, and parents; and to help teachers craft instruction that is relevant to students and honors their cultural and linguistic heritage. Community partners of Springdale Schools use the data to improve services to students and to apply for grants and
research opportunities.

Springdale School District has a large number of students from the Marshall Islands. The city of Springdale is home to the second- largest population (19.3 percent) of Marshallese Americans in the
United States (Duke, 2014). The majority of students in the district identifying as Pacific Islander are from the Marshall Islands. The lack of economic and employment opportunities in their home
islands, as well as the better access to education, continue to prompt Marshallese families to migrate to the northwest corner of Arkansas.
The opportunities in the region have also attracted other families from all over the world, and over 41 languages are now spoken in the district. The district uses the home language survey and the parent/student interview methods to
determine which students are part of the community’s Marshallese population. The district is using these data to improve services to this subgroup of students, including supporting grant applications and research by community organizations that serve the Marshallese population and other minority communities in Springdale.
How the Data Were Found
Unlike the other districts and states described in the case studies in this chapter, the Springdale School District does not collect data about any racial/ethnic subgroups beyond the required federal categories. Instead, the district uses a Home Language Survey Form and a Parent/Student Interview Form to ascertain a student’s home language, language of communication between school and parents, and student’s place of birth. The district also conducts parent-student interviews with all new families as a way to ask about the student’s detailed racial/ethnic identification. The Springdale
School District annually reevaluates its programs and provided services for each student to make sure that it is serving all students equitably, fairly distributing resources, and making regular adjustments to account for cultural and linguistic changes in the student population.

Using the Data
The collection of these data from the Home Language Survey Form and the Parent/Student Interview Form allows the school district to communicate with parents in a language they understand, thereby increasing parents’ engagement in the education of their child. The district has been able to use the data both internally and externally. Most performance outcome data are used for internal programming, services, and research. For example, the district is currently investigating the performance levels of students who test out of English as a second language (ESL) programs relative to their ESL counterparts, with the goal of determining how to best allocate resources for second-language learners.

Externally, Marshallese advocacy and other community organizations have many uses for aggregated data from the district. The Consulate General of the Marshall Islands, the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese, GAPs in Services to Marshallese People, and the Marshallese Educational Initiative are all located in Springdale, and often these groups need the data for research and grant-writing purposes. Additionally, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has begun a collection of health-related data on the local Marshallese population and has reached out to the district for information such as attendance records.
Lessons Learned
The Springdale School District shares the following lessons learned:

• Be careful not to overshadow smaller subgroups. All of the services and programs in the district are accessible to all students, including Pacific Islanders as needed (as they qualify). However, the district has found that other Pacific Islander student populations can be overshadowed by the larger Marshallese student population. For instance, when looking at outcome data, teachers and administrators sometimes ascribe data addressing the Pacific Islander population to Marshallese students when other ethnicities are represented within this subgroup. Additionally, since Springdale’s employment industries attract families from all parts of the world, the district needs to be continually prepared to serve newly arrived linguistically and culturally
diverse populations. For example, in January 2016, 27 Puerto Rican students whose families had relocated to Springdale became members of the school system (Interview, 2/29/2016). The Springdale School District is committed to ensuring an equitable educational experience for all students—thus, providing new students from abroad with services and programs on par with those dedicated to the Marshallese community or any other culturally or linguistically diverse population currently served.
• Connect performance outcome data with changes in the classroom. The Springdale School District relies heavily on performance outcome data to direct school services and programs. The school system has extensive language supports in place, including (1) teachers trained in the art of making content comprehensible and attainable to students who speak languages other than English, (2) language academies that serve as “arrival centers” for new immigrants, and (3) opportunities for students to learn, converse, and collaborate with their native English-speaking peers and others who have reached full proficiency in the English language. These supports are available at the elementary, junior high, and high school levels. Other district initiatives include providing professional development and support to teachers and administrators in the use of language supports in the content areas and targeted English language development classes based on each student’s degree of English language proficiency. Teachers may also elect to take part in a series of
classes that focuses specifically on how to make a classroom more accessible both linguistically and culturally for English language learners. After successfully completing the courses and the state exam, teachers earn 12 graduate hours in TESOL and an ESL Endorsement. The classes and exam are free to teachers who have met the course and exam requirements. While these examples are specific to the Springdale School District, the larger lesson for other districts is that the district implements its programs based on what the data suggest would provide all students with the best educational experiences through individualizing instruction and services provided to each student and initiating and refining programs offered to groups of students.
• Embrace diversity and work toward common education goals. The Springdale School District offers a great example of how a district can bring together school staff members, parents/guardians, CBOs, and the community in general to better serve its diverse student population. The district’s commitment
to equitably serving students is laid out in its 2015 Annual Report to the Public: “The Springdale School District in partnership with parents and community provides a quality educational environment, which guides all students to learn the skills and acquire the knowledge necessary for them to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world.” Another example of this commitment is the district’s efforts to recruit and empower Marshallese teachers.While many Marshallese teachers who relocate to Springdale do not
meet the educational requirements to teach in Arkansas, the district has hired many of these individuals as bilingual instructional assistants and community liaisons. The district, in partnership with a local nonprofit, OneCommunity, has begun to make college scholarships available to Marshallese instructional assistants wishing to pursue a degree in education. This is one of the initiatives the district is pursuing to fulfill the need for Marshallese teachers and administrators. This commitment to embrace and promote diversity drives the Springdale School District in pursuit of excellence so that its diverse population of students each fulfills their potential and promise.

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