12/03/04 — Foreign students in Wayne beat test scores of state's other foreign students

View Archive

Foreign students in Wayne beat test scores of state's other foreign students

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 3, 2004 1:59 PM

Foreign students in Wayne County are seeing improvements in their test scores, outscoring their counterparts across the state, says a school official.

Hope Meyerhoeffer, the school system's director of the English-as-a-second-language program, said the state requires that 40 percent of ESL students in the school system make progress in at least one of four areas to advance to the next grade. Those areas are reading, writing, speaking and comprehension.

Last year, all school districts in the state met that requirement. Wayne County boasted a 71 percent passing rate, she said.

The state also requires that at least 20 percent of students who have been in U.S. schools for five years be able to speak English. Mrs. Meyerhoeffer said 33 school systems in the state did not meet that goal; Wayne County did, with 63 percent.

On the end-of-grade tests in math and reading for grades 3 through 8, she said, Wayne County met all its goals.

She called the state's report an outstanding reflection of work being done in the school system.

The number of non-English-speaking students, along with the teacher shortage problem, has prompted the school system to open its doors to teachers from other countries. Mrs. Meyerhoeffer said there are currently 36 teachers from foreign countries.

There are 1,863 students in ESL classes, about 10 percent of the student population.

Mrs. Meyerhoeffer told the school board Wednesday night that there are 21 different languages spoken in Wayne County schools in addition to English.

Spanish continues to have the most, 1,566, followed by a variety of Asian dialects. Two new languages were added this year, Wolof (Africa) and Ilocano (Philippines).

Other languages and the number of students who speak them are as follows: Cantonese/Chinese, 126; Mandarin/Chinese, 74; Korean, 42; Chinese, 39; American Indian, 29; Arabic/Syrian, 17; Japanese, 6; Hindi/Urdu and Portuguese, 5 each; German, Serbo-Croatian and Vietnamese, 4 each; Russian, 3; Telugu, Turkish and Ukrainian, 2 each; and Punjabi and Thai, 1 each.

Mrs. Meyerhoeffer said the challenge is not only teaching students to speak English but helping them with math and reading. With 17 full-time ESL teachers and five part-time, the average ratio is 47 students per teacher, she said.

"Some teachers begin the year with 126 students by themselves," she said. "We had to rearrange some of the schools and teachers to accommodate this."

Typically, she said, an ESL teacher in elementary and middle school will spend 45 minutes a day teaching students. In high school, it is 90 minutes a day.