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LANGLEY PARK— The International High School At Langley Park (IHSLP) was featured by the Center for American Progress as an innovation high school that is redesigning high school to engage students and prepare them for their futures as the school gears up to for their first senior class to graduate in May.
The IHSLP was selected as a redesign model because of its strategies to prepare English language learners for college and careers through a competencies-based approach and project-based learning.
It was highlighted in the Center For American Progress’s study, “Redesigning High School: Local Perspectives from Schools and Districts,” along with Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine, Science and Math Institute in Takoma, Washington and four Hampton City, Virginia schools who are working toward high school redesign.
“Each school or district emphasizes the importance of small learning communities to connect with and support students; organizes learning based on the skills and knowledge students should have as members of the workforce and their community; emphasizes hands-on project-based learning; and/or embeds social and emotional learning or other student supports into the school day.”
Created with English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students in mind, the IHSLP serves students who are all either newcomers to the United States or otherwise are not proficient in the English language.
The overall goal of the school is to cater to the whole child, which includes nurturing those who may come from a variety backgrounds. As part of their mission they have social workers and counselors at the school in addition to educators as well as other community resources such as a partnership with CASA. Additionally, the school day includes an early end time to accommodate students who work and one period dedicated to homework help.
For the 2018-2019 school year, the school educates students from 29 countries, including the U.S., and those students speak a total of 18 languages. However, while ESOL is a major aspect of the school, the school refuses to let it hold their students back.
“We don’t think about our kids from a deficit standpoint,” said Principal Carlos Beato. “I think that across the U.S. one of the things that’s done very often is that we take kids not knowing English and we par that with not knowing how to do content and so one of the things that’s innovative about our school is that we’re a mastery-based school and we have a specific set of overarching skills that our kids have to master in order to pass their classes.”
The Center For American Progress called the school an innovator in high school education for its competency and project-based learning in addition to its diversity in order to involve students in “academic opportunities in which English language learners typically do not participate in traditional high schools.”
With a specific set of skills the students must master; content knowledge, critical thinking, social-emotional development and language learning, this strategy offers flexibility on what level the student start at and how they demonstrate the mastery of these skills.
“I think what sets us apart is that language skills are separate from content skills and if a student is able to show that they’ve learned something, with the exception of English obviously, if they are able to show that they know content, why should that hinder their scores?” Beato said. “By giving them a score in language and giving them a score in content, showing what they know, I think we’re doing our kids a really good service and I think that’s the main thing that sets us apart from everybody else.”
What’s more, the IHSLP will be graduating its first senior class this year, an accomplishment that Beato is extremely proud of as the students will be graduating above the national average for English language learners.
At this point, 70 percent of the students have been accepted, Beato said. Of that number, 23 percent of them have been accepted into two year schools and 77 percent were accepted into four year schools from schools such as Skidmore, Goucher College, Loyola, Hood College, George Mason, Salisbury and more.
Additionally, these schools have offered a total of $3 million in financial aid to the students.
Since its opening in 2015, the school has made a number of other accomplishments in addition to its college success, including being the high school with the highest language growth for two years in a row in Prince George’s County and having a successful sports program, especially soccer where they made it to the semi finals this year.
Yet, there is always room for improvement and part of that includes changing the mindset of families by way of the students in order to move away from repetitive cycles where ESOL students finish or don’t finish high school and go straight to work or think they cannot go to college because they are undocumented, Beato said.
“The students at International High School at Langley Park are trailblazers,” Beato said. “They’re paving the way for other English language learners who are continuously coming into the country letting them know and allowing them to see that anything and everything is possible and that no matter what your status, no matter what kind of family you’re coming from, you can be successful and you can learn English and content at the same time and our first graduating class has just proven that.”