School Spotlight: Folk Arts Cultural Treasures Charter School Serves ELL Students Well

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Earlier this year, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released a toolkit to help charter schools better serve English Language Learners, understand federal civil rights laws and regulations, and learn about best practices underway across the country. The Folk Arts Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS) is one of the schools profiled in the toolkit.

Located in Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood, FACTS is a K–8 school founded by Asian Americans United and the Philadelphia Folklore Project in 2005 with the goal of serving immigrant and refugee communities.

In the 2012-13 school year, FACTS enrolled 479 students, approximately 68 percent of whom were Asian American, 20 percent were African American, 6 percent were multi- racial, 4 percent were Latino, and 2 percent were white. Sixteen percent of these students were classified as English Language Learners (ELLs), with approximately 70 percent of the student body speaking a language other than English at home. FACTS has seen remarkable success–meeting its Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals for four consecutive years and Annual Measurable Achievement Objective (AMAO) for ELL students as well.

FACTS attributes their success to several best practices:

  • When FACTS opened, one of its founding organizations, Asian Americans United, already had a reputation among immigrant communities as a trustworthy resource and partner. Recruiting efforts included direct engagement with immigrant families in their resident neighborhoods. Over time, the school proved itself successful and parent demand rose quickly. In 2012-13, the school’s waiting list had over 400 students, including 140 hoping to enroll in kindergarten.
  • To evaluate each ELL student’s academic abilities, the school uses comprehensive assessment tools like:
    • a home language survey that captures nuanced information such as the dominant language for both father and mother;
    • a detailed assessment of state standardized test scores; and,
    • input from teachers, administrators, and parents.
  • ELL students are on a “flexible program model” customized to their individual needs and designed to integrate these students into general education classrooms as much as possible.
  • FACTS’s students are monitored for two years after they exit the ELL program. Additionally, to monitor its program’s overall success, FACTS conducts an annual evaluation based on students’ test scores and feedback from administrators, parents, teachers, and students.
  • FACTS translates the school’s application, flyers for events, and all notices sent to students’ homes. An interpreter language line service is available when parents call the school, and FACTS offers professional interpreters to ensure parents are able to participate fully for report card conferences and at school events.

FACTS is an excellent example of how charter schools have the ability to serve ELL students well. To learn more about the work of FACTS, visit
To learn about other schools and best practices, view the toolkit here.

This blog is excerpted from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ recent publication, Serving English Language Learners: A Toolkit for Public Charter Schools.

Renita Thukral is vice president for legal affairs at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.