Take a dedicated and experienced teacher, add an effective and targeted digital computer program – and you have a recipe for success in supporting English Language Learning. Sam Cisneros teaches Academic Language Development and English classes at Muirlands. One of the tools he uses is Achieve 3000, a computer program that takes current news articles from periodicals like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, summarizes them, and offers them at a variety of reading levels. The program targets reading levels, monitors lexical growth, supports vocabulary building and note-taking, asks comprehension questions, and keeps things interesting for students. There are about 50 Muirlands students who use this program several days a week after school with the guidance of Mr. Cisneros. Last year, students were seeing gains ranging from 400-600 points in their reading levels. Mr. Cisneros says the program is useful because “…it meets the student where they’re at.” He explains that struggling readers often become more frustrated in class because they are behind and don’t know what to do to improve or catch up. The Achieve 3000 program is so strong because it will not allow a student to work at a reading level that is too far above or below their ability-level.
When students log in daily, they are all reading the same text. Based on how they tested initially and how they are progressing individually, the text is different—it reflects exactly where they are at as readers. Students can choose from a wide variety of articles. Many of the texts are relevant to content they’re studying in history and science. Others are timely articles of high interest: sports, current topics in the news, entertainment. Students read with a focus on comprehension and answer eight questions. Then they have an option to do a stretch activity (more reading) or a math connection. Students know instantly how they’ve done. They can track their own growth, though most of them don’t really know what a lexile score means. “I guess what I like most about the program is the material that they are gathering and presenting to our students. These articles, which come from the most reputable of sources, present academic English language at its best to our students, at a level that they can understand” says Mr. Cisneros.
For more than fifteen years, English Teacher Sam Cisneros has been involved in education at many levels in San Diego. He earned his undergraduate degree, teaching credential, and Master’s degree all from local universities. Beyond teaching at Muirlands, Mr. Cisneros spends his summers teaching English as a Second Language courses at a variety of district high schools including San Diego, Mira Mesa and Crawford. Two evenings a week, he can also be found teaching Reading and Critical Thinking at Southwestern College in Chula Vista.