Archive for Thursday, October 8, 2009

ESL classes become emphasis

October 8, 2009

De Soto USD 232 may have missed the mark in terms of meeting Adequate Yearly Progress for 2009, but the district is already working to improve chances of achieving the standard next year.

On tests students took in the spring of 2009, the district achieved the coveted AWP benchmark in math and science, but did not meet the standards for reading.

Despite 91.9 percent of students in USD 232 meeting or exceeding the Adequate Yearly Progress reading goal this year, students in the district’s English Language Learners program did not reach the state goal. The state target required 76.7 percent of English Language Learners students to be proficient, and only 64.9 percent of those students met the goal.

Adequate Yearly Progress is the process of evaluating student performance in public schools, districts and states to ensure all students score at standard level or above by 2014 – a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Scores from standardized tests are compiled from students in third grade to 12th grade to calculate Adequate Yearly Progress.

Debbie Taylor, English Language Learners coordinator for USD 232, said the district has approximately 200 identified students for the program.

Students in need of English Language Learners instruction are taught at Starside and Riverside elementaries, Lexington Trails and Mill Creek middle school and De Soto and Mill Valley high schools. Currently, almost half the students in the program attend Starside Elementary in De Soto, Taylor said.

The program places a strong emphasis on language acquisition and learning the academic vocabulary necessary for a student to be successful in a classroom, Taylor said. Students are assigned to a general classroom; in the two elementary settings all teachers are ESL certified or currently undergoing certification.

Taylor said the numbers of students enrolled in the program has increased steadily each of the 12 years she has headed it.

New students are required to fill out asking questions such as what is the child’s first language and what language is used at the home, Taylor said. Anytime a language other than English is chosen, the district will provide the student with a language assessment test to determine if placement in the program is necessary.

A student exits the program after showing he or she is proficient in listening, speaking, reading and writing for two consecutive years, Taylor said.

Students in the program are required to take part in the state assessments if the student has been in a U.S. educational setting for one year.

This was the first year the English Language Learners subgroup did not make Adequate Yearly Progress, Taylor said.

“We’re working very closely with Mr. (Earl) Martin on development with teacher content,” Taylor said. “We are working hard to do everything we can to make sure students are receiving allowable accommodations on testing and providing the service to help them meet the standard on the state tests.”

Martin, USD 232’s director of teaching and learning, said the district would be focusing on English Language Learners more this year than in the past.

“It’s the area in the district we need to focus on,” Martin said earlier this month. “We’re doing some coordination with our ESL teacher that the district hasn’t done to the same extent in the past. We’re writing action plans for each student that did not meet the achievement targets (in Adequate Yearly Progress) last year.”

Martin said one of the strengths of the No Child Left Behind Act was that districts must focus on all groups of students.

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