What are schools doing with Vital English and PAL?

We spoke recently with Lauren Johanson at Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Walnut Hill has been using PAL for three years now, so we wanted to hear more about how they’re using it!

Lauren started at Walnut Hill in 2015 as the international student advisor and discovered that Walnut Hill wasn’t doing an orientation that was specific to international students. She worked to implement that and now has an extra day with them before school starts, but she has found that the PAL materials have helped her significantly with the students’ preparation for school.

Before PAL, she had a handbook that she sent to all new international students when they were admitted, but (as we all know), the success of getting students to read a handbook is very much hit or miss! She continues to use the handbook, but she finds that PAL has helped her spread a lot of information out over multiple formats and a longer time frame, so students are more likely to engage with the information and feel more connected to the school.

Another area where PAL’s materials have been helpful to Walnut Hill has been the English language test. Lauren reports that Walnut Hill’s ESL teacher has found the test to be a reliable indicator of students’ English skills, and she uses it, with a spoken interview and a writing sample, to help place students in ESL courses. Given the significant lack of appropriate outside testing materials for ESL placement at the high school level, having PAL’s test has really helped Walnut Hill with their placement process.

One of the features that Lauren particularly likes is that she can go in and update it easily. Since Lauren works with all new international students as soon as they enroll in March or April, it’s helpful for her to be able to update the materials in PAL as they change on campus.

Lauren’s goals for future use of PAL include following up with parents and consultants to see if they feel that PAL has been helpful for students’ adjustment to boarding school, and helping her colleagues take advantage of PAL’s subject-specific vocabulary lessons when students need additional support with math or science vocabulary.

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