Rochester International Academy (RIA) provides a strong transitional program for newly arrived immigrant and refugee students. Because the community is an official resettlement site for the United Nations, 98 percent of RIA’s students are refugees, many of whom have never been in a formal school setting and whose 16 native languages fall in the uncommon, “low-incidence” category. Serving a population that is also 100% economically disadvantaged, RIA’s mission is to provide rigorous social and academic language instruction and interdisciplinary learning in collaboration with families and community partners so that students can later attend—and succeed at--comprehensive schools throughout the district with full access to college and/or career opportunities.
To achieve this mission, RIA uses a combination of high-quality classroom instruction and innovative technology appropriate to the students’ linguistic needs. Each student has an iPad to foster personalized learning, with apps providing native language support and engaging students in hands-on, interactive lessons. The completely revamped school library includes numerous digital texts in multiple languages with bilingual supports, and the addition of Chromebooks in 2016-2017 promises to offer students even more learning opportunities.
RIA staff members have embraced digital tools to teach and assess their students. Flexible teacher-designed content assessments and rich student information reside in internally-designed databases that allow staff to track, share, and improve students’ progress as they move through mixed-age instructional groupings. Data include education history, assessments, anecdotal notes, conference and feedback notes, home contact notes, and student work samples. As a result, teachers build instructional plans targeting specific student needs.
By incorporating innovative and appropriate use of technology and assessments in the school curriculum, RIA exemplifies the characteristics of a School of Opportunity and serves as a model for linguistically diverse schools.