English Learner program expected to grow

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

The number of students enrolled in the English Learner program in the South-Western City Schools district has seen a steady increase over the past 16 years. It is believed the enrollment numbers will continue to grow.

At the April 28 board of education meeting, Ed Kennedy, the coordinator of the English Learner program, said there are more than 3,000 English learner students currently enrolled in the district. That is far beyond the 1999/2000 school year, which only had 300 students.

According to Kennedy, the number of students enrolled in the program will rise in the future due to growth in the surrounding communities and a high parental interest in all-day, everyday kindergarten.

With this growth – current and future – the district will have to adapt to meet the demands of a more diverse student population. Kennedy acknowledged that there is some room for improvement – specifically talking about the district’s results in the Ohio Department of Education’s latest Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives (AMAO) – but said they are willing and prepared to meet al challenges.

Beyond the AMAO, Kennedy said he would like to see more of a focus on peer interaction in the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) classroom. He used small reading groups as an example of this sort of peer interaction, which ideally would help their communication skills.

He said he would also like to see a similar instruction in the Sheltered Instruction Observation and Protocol (SIOP) Classroom. Kennedy himself was a SIOP teacher in the district before becoming the coordinator of the English Learner program. He said the most important lesson he learned was that the students are always listening to their instructor, but they learn the language better when presented with the opportunity to read, write and speak the language they are trying to learn.

An area Kennedy said that might pose some challenges down the road in the financial cost of the English Learner program.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice mandated that parents must be given documentation in their native language when it pertains to their child’s education.

Kennedy said there would likely be a significant cost associated with that rule, but he added that the district is more than happy to comply because it helps the parent understand how and what their child is learning in the classroom.

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