Director of Language Services and Cultural Equity
Kansas City Public Schools
Allyson Hile is the Director of Language Services and Cultural Equity at Kansas City Public Schools where she leads a team of 14 individuals who support English-learning students and families and the teachers and school administrators who work with them. There are over 55 different languages spoken by KCPS students and their families, and Allyson and her team work to support these families in using and understanding English, while acknowledging and affirming their native language and culture.
Q: How long have you been in education? How did you get your start?
A: In March I will have been with the district for 20 years. I started as a bilingual paraprofessional at Northeast Middle School and at the time, the department needed to expand. They offered to send me back to school to get my teaching certification and English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement, which I did from Avila University and eventually got my MSE in Curriculum and Instruction from KU. I then took an ESL sheltered social studies position at Northeast Middle. My students were beginning and intermediate English language learners (ELLs), and I taught 6th and 7th grade social studies for six years. I then took a position as an ESL Instructional Coach, which I loved, and in 2012, I became the Director of Language Services and Cultural Equity.
Q: What has changed in providing English language learner (ELL) instruction and support over the last 10 years?
A: I would say the idea that the outcomes of ELLs are the responsibility of everyone, not just the ESL teacher. While there are real issues surrounding state and federal accountability, the Every School Succeeds Act (ESSA) has contributed to a greater school level focus on the academic and linguistic growth and proficiency of ELLs. Because of this, we now have more opportunities to collaborate on curriculum and professional development with classroom teachers and this has elevated everyone’s practice.
Q: What is our community’s biggest challenge or opportunity in the next five years regarding our ELL students?
A: Kansas City’s greatest opportunity lies in its ability to recognize and celebrate the cultural and linguistic diversity in our community. Right now Kansas City is working to become a Welcoming City, a designation that demonstrates our commitment to becoming an inclusive community where we recognize that when the newest arrival can succeed, we all can succeed. I am really excited to be part of this process, which includes representatives across sectors and on both sides of the state line. Additionally, next fall, KCPS is looking to open a Welcome Center for our newest arriving ELL families, partnering with community agencies to not only provide an intensive language program for K-6 students, but also wrap-around support services for their families.
Q: What or who motivates you?
A: For sure, our students and families motivate me! Many of them have been through so much, and their perseverance, grit and resourcefulness is so inspiring. This summer we had 5 ELLs that were recent graduates serve as Summer VISTA Associates (like interns) in the office. They were so much fun to have around because they had so much energy and excitement for their future. They really helped remind all of us why we do this work.
Q: What are most proud of at work?
A: Most recently, I was proud of the ELL results on the latest MAP results released last month. The percentage of ELLs who scored proficient or advanced on the annual test, compared with all students, has increased by nearly five percentage points since 2015. Professionally, I’m proud of every single member of the Language Services team. Every single day they inspire me with their commitment to our families, our work, and our schools. Personally, I’m proud to be approaching 20 years with KCPS and proud to be part of the KCPS story. For the past decade, this school district has defied expectations and made steady progress toward becoming the kind of school system our children deserve. Strong, steady leadership gives me tremendous confidence that we’ll continue to build a school system that all Kansas Citians can be proud of. Finally, I’m proud to live in a city where so many people are working toward building a stronger school system. We may not always agree on the approach, but there is little doubt that Kansas City cares about its schools.
This content was originally published by SchoolSmartKC on 10/30/2019