For the past two years, Ames Community School District elementary English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers have been learning about the newly-adopted ESL Standards from the English Language Proficiency Assessment for the 21st Century (ELPA 21) consortium (more details about ELPA 21 available at

As teachers studied the standards and talked about how to instruct students to meet them, it became clear that the instructional materials that teachers had in their classrooms to teach students were not consistent or aligned with the standards.

Last spring, ESL staff began reviewing materials that could be used across the District to help English Learners (ELs) meet the standards. After scoring several materials on a rubric based on guidelines from Stanford’s Understanding Language, two sets of materials were selected by elementary ESL teachers for further consideration. The two sets that are being piloted this school year are National Geographic’s Reach (K-5) and Benchmark Education’s Spring Forward (K-2) and RIGOR (3-5).

Meeker and Sawyer Elementary Schools have been using National Geographic this fall and will rotate to Benchmark Education in mid-January. Edwards, Fellows, and Mitchell Elementary Schools have been using Benchmark Education materials this fall and will transition to using National Geographic. Materials were available for review in elementary buildings at fall parent-teacher conferences and will be made available again at spring conferences. Community members are invited to give feedback on the materials via an online form.

In addition to feedback from parents and community members, observations are being conducted of the materials in use and ESL teachers will provide feedback at the end of each rotation. In the spring, ESL staff will meet as a team to make a final recommendation to the School Board for which materials to purchase to begin using in the Fall of 2018.