Summer Language Academy welcomes new students to the Anaheim Union High School District

It is not always easy to be the new student on campus, let alone one for whom English is a second language.

For the seventh year, the Anaheim Union High School District collaborated with California State University, Fullerton to host the Summer Language Academy. The four-week program is a culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning program established to meet the needs of the growing numbers of teenage newcomers, a term used to describe English learners who have been in the United States for 12 months or less, speaking different languages.

The academy provides an affirming space for students to explore who they are, who their peers are and how they can find their place, without giving up their identity, culture and language. 

The program’s curriculum is developed by CSUF Professor of Secondary Education Fernando Rodríguez-Valls and Associate Professor of Secondary Education Alison Dover, who work with a team of educators from Anaheim Union and the university to bring the lessons to life in classrooms.  

“The biggest impact for CSUF students is having the opportunity to work in a program that differs from the regular school classroom,” said Rodríguez-Valls. “It’s a place where teachers and students learn together to eliminate the barriers and challenges.”

  • Summer Language Academy CSUF tour
  • Summer Language Academy tour group
  • SLA group learning
  • SLA board in class
  • SLA students close-up
  • Summer Language Academy

This year, the program took place at Savanna High School, where students researched community issues and worked on projects detailing how the problems can be solved. On the last day, the students present their projects at an event that features many different languages, highlighting the students’ and community’s plurilingualism and multiculturalism. 

“We get to work with our newcomers and emergent plural language students to focus on the assets that they draw strength from and the issues that affect their world,” said Dover. “They have such unique insight and perspective on what kind of solutions that we should use to solve community problems that are affecting them every day.” 

Summer Language Academy educators have found that the program helps students feel more confident, competent and interested in school. They also noted, in analyzing pre- and post-test data, growth in both written English and in the depth of students’ analysis. 

During the 2018 program, 65 percent of the academy participants demonstrated growth as writers, with 41 percent of students scoring one higher rubric level than their current grade and 24 percent scoring two or more higher than their grade level. 

This Summer Language Academy was the first of its kind in the state. Over the years, the program has been adopted by other school districts in Southern California. 

In 2018, the Orange County Department of Education honored the program with a “Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness” award. 

Video by Anaheim Union High School District communications department.