11/07/10 — County students speak 27 languages

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County students speak 27 languages

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 7, 2010 1:50 AM

The number of foreign-speaking students in Wayne County Public Schools continues to climb, as do the students exiting the English as a Second Language program after passing the state's proficiency test.

Hope Meyerhoeffer, director of the ESL program for the district, recently presented an update to the school board about the "NOMS" and "LEPS," or national origin minority students and limited English proficient students, respectively.

"If you look at 2009, at that time we had 1,586 students as opposed to this year, with 1,536" for the NOMS, she said. "(In the LEPS), we had 1,453 this year and 1,478 last year."

There is a reason for the dip, she said, explaining that 16 percent of the LEPS, or 231 students, exited the program by year's end.

"They took a state test called the access proficiency test, and they passed," she said. "That's a 'hooray' if I ever heard one, to think that our students are learning English that rapidly that they can exit the ESL program."

Mrs. Meyerhoeffer also gave a breakdown of the various languages represented within the school system.

"Last year we had 21 languages in little Wayne County, but this year as of Oct. 15, we have 27 languages," she said.

The largest representation, 1,401 students, are Spanish-speaking, she said. Next highest is Arabic/Egyptian/Lebanese/Syrian, with 50, while Asian countries also comprise larger numbers -- 12 Filipino, 11 Chinese, nine Korean and eight Japanese-speaking students.

For the first time, Cambodian/Khmer, from Indonesia, is on the list, Mrs. Meyerhoeffer said.

"But if you look at all the languages, the ones that we have this year that we did not have last year, are Bosnian, Gujarati/ Gujarathi, Serbo-Croatian and Swedish," she said.

The immigrant count for the school system is also up, Mrs. Meyerhoeffer said. Categorized as students who have been in the U.S. or Wayne County less than three years, she said last year there were 113 students in this group, while this year there are 102.

"Wayne County has opened its doors to a large group of people who are called refugees from a number of countries in the world," said Wanda Nieves, ESL lead teacher. "We had a student from the Congo -- in the U.S. eight months -- who has been in Wayne County less than a month.

"We have families that are coming from former Burma, Haiti, Iraq and Yemen. Most of these families are being brought to our country by industry, like Butterball."

The impact on the schools has not been fully felt yet because in most cases, the fathers arrive first, Ms. Nieves explained.

But the trend is expected to continue and she said the district is preparing for it.

"We're hoping to have enough dictionaries in the schools so that when they get here, we can translate," she said. "Our teachers are excited about working with them."