09/19/11 — ESL enrollment on the rise

View Archive

ESL enrollment on the rise

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 19, 2011 1:46 PM

The number of immigrant students in Wayne County Public Schools is climbing, and officials say they expect the trend to continue.

"Students born outside the U.S. and have lived in the U.S. three years or less, last year we had 102. At the present time we have 151," Hope Meyerhoeffer, director of English/language arts, foreign language, ESL and visual arts, told the school board recently. "They're increasing every day, so I would suspect that within the next month we may be up to 200."

A large part of the growth can be attributed to parents being hired to work at some of the local industries, Mrs. Meyerhoeffer said, prompting follow-ups at the various companies to seek some assistance, specifically in translating the language.

The district's English-as-a-Second-Language, or ESL, program has grown steadily over the years, accommodating the increasing number of languages being introduced into the school system.

"The ESL group of students who have English as their second language, in 2010-11, we had a total of 1,536 students with 27 languages," she said. "I will say that these 27 languages are probably more than most counties.

"This year and this is data that was prepared last week -- we had another increase (last week). Our figures are changing but right now we have 2,365 students, 26 languages."

The largest number is Spanish-speaking, with 2,171 students in that category. The next greatest segment, with 65, speak Arabic, Egyptian, Lebanese, followed by Chinese, with 36, Haitian/Creole with 22, and Tagalog/Filipino with 14. Remaining languages are all single-digit numbers.

The LEP, or Limited English Proficient program, is offered to students who are taking ESL classes.

"They were tested. They were not proficient enough without the extra training that we provide in ESL classes," Mrs. Meyerhoeffer said. "In 2010-11, we started out with 1,423, and then at the end of the year when they were assessed, they had high enough percentage level, (that) 83 of them exited the ESL program."

The program has grown by 152 this year, bringing the total enrolled to 1,492.

While the student numbers have increased, the number of teachers in the program has dropped slightly, Mrs. Meyerhoeffer said.

"In 2010-11 we had 24 full-time ESL teachers, eight part-time but they also are teaching Spanish and/or French, usually high school teachers," she said.

This year, there are only 21 full-time ESL teachers and seven part-time. Positions vacated by educators who retired or transferred at year's end were not replaced, she said.

One positive measure that has worked to better shore up language skills among students, Mrs. Meyerhoeffer said, has been to retain them in the ESL program, when necessary.

"When they come in and cannot speak English or they have to have ESL classes at that time, it's very difficult to try to pick up the academic skills," she said.

"This past year we had 50 students in grades K-1-2 who were retained. That's where we need to retain them before they move on, especially the largest numbers, (which) were in kindergarten."