Canton Public School District, Mississippi

Mississippi, USA

At a Glance: Canton Public School District, Mississippi

The aim of the English Learner (EL) program at Canton Public School District (CPSD) Mississippi is to advocate for ELs who are often unrepresented or have no voice. This role has become increasingly important as more high-school-aged newcomers have arrived at the district in recent years. For Ms. Tarro Funches, the EL Coordinator at CPSD, her responsibility involves empowering teachers of all subjects to support the ELs in their classrooms. She said, “that is why I’m here: to be their advocate. To be their voice when they don’t have a voice.” 

Based in the city of Canton Mississippi, CPSD is 30 miles north of Jackson and eight miles from the Historic Natches Trace Parkway. The district has over 3,500 students enrolled at ten schools. Around 10% are English Learners and 29.5% of families live with income below the poverty level. 

Like many district administrators, Tarro believes in using federal funds wisely. Having worked at the Mississippi Department of Education and Office of Federal Programs, she takes the time to research products and choose the best option for the ELs in her district. Sometimes this work involves collaborating with stakeholders outside of the school gates. For example, the district is part of a community task force, working with the Sherrif, Police Department, Mayor, and other community members to better get families acclimated to their community and find jobs.

Challenges for the English Program at Canton Public School District

1. Materials that are suitable for High Schoolers

Before working with Off2Class, CPSD was using a game-based product with ELs that only went up to Grade Level 5. Students complained that the content was “babyish” and teachers found that the content was not keeping students’ attention.

“It’s hard to find a language acquisition program that is on the maturity level of secondary students because everything seems so basic or elementary,” Tarro said. “I needed to find something that will keep the kids focused and not feel like they are back in an elementary school, pre-K, or kindergarten classroom.”

2. Support for Newcomers

The particular focus of the High School EL Program at CPSD is on newcomer students. Throughout the year, new students enroll in the High School. Some of these ELs have barely any English, coming from diverse backgrounds including Yemen and Vietnam. Tarro was looking for a product specifically for higher grade levels. She said, “We get kids that hadn’t been to school since fifth grade, and they’re enrolling in 9th, 10th, or 11th grade”. Tarro described the gap facing these newcomers as “huge”, and the district needed a program to help bridge that gap.

3. Keeping teachers happy

Making an EdTech product successful in a classroom relies on teacher engagement. “You have to work the program,” said Tarro. “You can’t just sit students on the computer and expect them to do what they’re supposed to do.”

Therefore, when choosing a new product for the EL program, Tarro invited the ESL interventionist to sit in the presentations from different providers. “I believe in getting input from the practitioners. That’s why I had the ESL interventionist from the High School sit in on the presentations,” she said. “We sat down to make a decision together on a product we are going to use.”

4. Good use of public money

With a background in the Department of Education and Office of Federal Programs, Tarro only buys products that meet the district’s accountability model. She said she makes purchase decisions “with that federal mindset of getting the better bang for your buck, and not spending money frivolously.” She researched different ESL programs to find one which would help the students to exit the EL program.

The Off2Class Solution at Canton Public School District

1. Age-appropriate materials for Newcomer ELs

Using Off2Class, CPSD offers appropriate materials for High School students no matter what level of English they have. Even beginner-level lessons are suitable for this age group, and the comprehensive curriculum means that students of all levels can use it.

“This program is beneficial because of that newcomer aspect,” said Tarro. “It takes them from the basic where they left off and helps move them to where they need to be.”

2. Off2Class features demonstrate good use of federal funds

Off2Class is an effective choice because it combines five tools that are typically disparate across an ELL district team. By combining these tools into one, unified platform, Off2Class provides a cohesive product experience and significant budget savings (compared to purchasing each component from different vendors).

When choosing between products, Tarro was impressed with the homework, testing, and monitoring options on Off2Class. “The students can do homework, the teacher can monitor the homework, I can monitor the teachers signing off on the homework, and the pre-assessments,” she said. These features help ensure Off2Class meets the district’s accountability requirements. 

What is more, Off2Class allows teachers to quickly adapt to changing circumstances. This adaptability is particularly important during the uncertainty of COVID. “If we have another COVID outbreak, and we have to shut down, language acquisition will still be going forward,” Tarro said.

3. Teachers are implementing Off2Class and are pleased with the outcomes

When choosing Off2Class, Tarro consulted the district’s ESL interventionist. “We both decided that Off2Class was a better fit for our students,” said Tarro. 

Having involved the ESL team in choosing a product, Tarro recognized the importance of empowering them to use it correctly. Since introducing Off2Class, Tarro said “I haven’t had any complaints. They love it.” In addition, the students have also adopted the new program well. “My kids are showing growth,” said Tarro. “The program is working.”

Collaboration is key to supporting English Learners

The collaborative approach between the EL department, teaching staff, and the wider community means ELs in Canton can overcome the obstacles that they face. Reflecting on the hard work of students and colleagues, Tarro said, “Just to see them fighting and wanting to do better, and learn, and the teachers not giving up on them: it does my heart all the good in the world.”

Successful English programs work well for both students and teachers. Off2Class offers an extensive range tools which allow ELL departments to reduce the number of EdTech programs that they are using. This reduction in EdTech tools can also benefit the department’s budget. 

Our expert team can help you design a personalized Off2Class system that will empower your teachers and match the needs of the learners in your district. We can also advise on federal funding options. Book a consultation with our friendly advisors.

""My kids are showing growth. The program is working.""

Quote owner  Ms. Tarro Funches, EL Coordinator at Canton Public School District