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Regional School District 13’s English language learners population increased by 83 percent in the last year, causing administrators to look more closely at the programs they offer.
“It was an important finding, I'm glad that Region 13 looked at that early like we're supposed to at the beginning of the year, and now we're really just planning and making sure that the English learning needs of this group of students, that they're met through the academic instruction that we're providing them,” said Scott Rossignol, director of student services and special education.
Rossignol said the 11 students range in age from elementary to high school, but are primarily concentrated in elementary school.
Because most of the students are at John Lyman Elementary School, administrators identified a specialist coach to work additional hours with those ELL students. It was determined that the staff is already sufficient for the other ELL students.
The district has been working with Maggie Stevens, a professional learning specialist with Area Cooperative Educational Services, to make sure its ELL students are receiving the programs they need to succeed and that the district is meeting state and federal standards for identification and assessment.
Stevens said there’s no one reason for the influx of ELL students that districts are seeing across the state.
“The school district itself is an attractive school district to come to because it is such a warm and welcoming community, so that’s part of the reason,” she said.
She said the state has seen a 19 percent increase in the number of ELL students since the 2012-2013 school year. The ELL students have 186 different native languages, ranging from Spanish to Urdu.
In Region 13, English language learners primarily speak Spanish, but the district also has Bangla, Vietnamese and Mandarin students.
“I think it’s just important to note that our communities are becoming more diverse in Connecticut and it’s important for districts to be prepared as their population changes in order to anticipate the needs of their population of students,” Stevens said. “It’s my hope that school districts around the state like Region 13 reach out for support, especially those who have encountered these large increases in their ELL populations.”
The instruction ELL students receive in Region 13 typically happens in small groups, with a specialist coach outside of the main classroom setting.
“What the instruction might look like really depends on their current English proficiency and their academic skill sets as well,” Rossignol said.
Stevens said although it’s not necessary to speak a student’s native language to teach them how to speak English, it can be helpful.
“Ultimately the goal is that the student has native-like proficiency, so that the student could function at the same level as their monolingual English peer and find as much success as any student in the school system,” Stevens said.