A Federal Program Monitoring (FPM) review is an essential aspect of education policy. It is designed to assess whether a local education agency meets the minimum requirements of a compliance category. Since English language learners (ELLs) are a category whose growth and achievement are closely tracked, districts and schools with high numbers of English language learners (ELLs) are more likely to be selected for an FPM review of their English learner program.
While FPM isn't always easy for ELL administrators, it is a vital check-and-balance as it helps to advocate for ELLs and to ensure government-provided funding is spent on the right programs and tools that advance English language acquisition.
Coming out of a Federal Program Monitoring review “in compliance” means that the district, school, or educational agency:
- Adequately records and analyzes English learner (EL) student progress
- Makes data-driven decisions
- Delivers targeted instruction and interventions
- Promptly addresses language and academic deficits
Essentially, to exit FPM in compliance means that funds were found to be used in a way that yields the best student outcomes for ELLs. Let's discuss some ways to help your district or school better prepare for a current or future Federal Progress Monitoring review.
Strategy 1: Train Your School Community
First, everyone, not just those involved with multilingual learners, should know and understand the requirements to be evaluated during a Federal Program Monitoring review.
Professional development and coaching are essential to ensure that the school community: educators, staff, and stakeholders (principals, counselors, parents) understand the importance of the FPM process and how to ingrain progress monitoring in the day-to-day so that no one is scrambling for documentation at the last minute. Sometimes it is as simple as ensuring a meeting agenda is readable or requiring each parent to log their attendance on a sign-in sheet.
Additionally, ensure ELD instructors and inclusion teachers know how to execute best practices that align with what a review seeks. Offer workshops, webinars, and ongoing professional development to familiarize them with the program monitoring process. A well-trained staff at the start of a year will also be more capable of accurately tracking student progress and challenges.
Strategy 2. Implement a Standards-Based English Language Development Program
Equally important, selecting an appropriate designated ELD program outside your standard literacy curriculum is vital for compliance with Federal Program Monitoring. Understanding the teacher shortage sweeping the nation and finding experienced and specialized EL teachers is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Therefore, choose a curriculum that aligns with federal requirements and state-adopted standards and includes classroom-proven resources that help teachers deliver effective whole-class and small-group instruction to English learners of all levels.
Further, to accommodate different learning scenarios, the ideal ELD program should also be hybrid and offer the flexibility of virtual or self-paced learning. That way, as we saw through the pandemic, you can ensure all levels of ELs can get valuable English language instruction regardless of staffing issues or an unexpected health crisis. In the case of virtual academies or charter schools that do not have daily teacher-student interaction, look for a program that includes a “virtual teacher” who provides explicit ELD instruction.
It's important to remember that ELA is different from ELD. English learners need structured English Language Development that emphasizes all four language domains. Title III and ESSER funding can be used to purchase an ELD curriculum that supplements and complements your existing Literacy program. A program aligned with the latest standards best prepares you for a successful review.
"...selecting an appropriate designated ELD program outside your standard literacy curriculum is vital for compliance with Federal Program Monitoring. "
Strategy 3. Make Progress Monitoring Ongoing
Whether or not a district is selected for a Federal Program Monitoring review, ongoing progress monitoring should be part of the multilingual services department’s DNA. Gathering all the available student data at the beginning of the year, like English Language Proficiency (ELP) test scores and placement information, and organizing it into a formatted spreadsheet will save you many headaches later.
Once you've implemented a designated ELD program, having staff regularly monitor the sites and teachers periodically monitor the student’s progress (being aware of any student challenges) throughout the year allows educators to make timely adjustments to instructional strategies and interventions, leading to improved student outcomes.
A comprehensive ELD curriculum should include reliable formative assessments identifying students’ language skill gaps. This would provide clear direction for instructional next steps so that teachers know which language challenges must be addressed during the school year. At the end of the school year, an equally comprehensive summative assessment measures growth and opportunities for improvements. This simplifies data collection, analysis, and reporting, facilitating compliance and improving the effectiveness of English learners’ path to proficiency.
Assessment data is only part of the picture. Students' progress throughout the school year with learning new language skills and understanding when there are challenges are just as important. Use progress monitoring data to identify trends or patterns and use that to guide instruction at the small group or even whole-class level. Educators can document these targeted interventions by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of individual students, allowing for a smoother FPM review.
Strategy 4. Document Stakeholder Collaboration
Finally, effective progress monitoring requires collaboration among educators, administrators, parents, and students.
One of the challenges a school with a high population of English language learners faces is that many parents don’t understand English themselves, may be unfamiliar with the school system, and/or may have logistical issues preventing them from fully engaging.
Title III and ESSER funding can also be used for purchasing tools and resources that make it easier for immigrant parents to participate actively in their children's education. Building structures and systems for parent engagement can connect families to the classroom. Engage parents by sharing progress reports and involving them in goal-setting discussions. Schools may also have existing English Learner Advisory Committees (ELACs) that specifically include the parents and guardians of EL students.
Overcoming hurdles in getting stakeholder involvement is one feat; having a system to record and document these activities is another. Ensure your school site council meeting minutes are regularly kept and include complete descriptions of all activities. Maintaining quality records of ELAC meetings and parent engagement is critical for FPM compliance.
Remember to capture the following in a document:
- Meeting minutes
- Full descriptions
- Needs assessments
- Sign-in sheets
Federal Program Monitoring is an essential tool for promoting English learner achievement by holding educational institutions accountable. By following the strategies outlined above, you can make sure your school or district is prepared, compliant, and, more importantly, fostering an environment for continuous improvement in the education of your English language learners. With a robust monitoring system and designated ELD instruction, students are better positioned to succeed academically, and educators can make informed decisions to support their diverse learning needs.
Language Tree Online understands how important Federal Program Monitoring compliance is for schools. Our curriculum is based on state-adopted standards and encompasses built-in tools to make meeting compliance much easier for teachers and administrators.
Contact us to learn more.
Mary Purcell is a certified teacher and administrator in the states of New Jersey and Delaware with a Master’s in Educational Leadership and School Business Administration. She spent the better part of a decade teaching Literacy, History, and Health to middle school English Language Learners in an inclusion classroom. With a passion for education, she is an active contributor to Language Tree Online. For more information, connect with her on LinkedIn.