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English as second language enrollment climbing

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In 2000, McCook Public Schools had no children documented as "English Language Learners." Four years later, in 2004, Carolyn Klimper's job helping 10 or so McCook students who were learning English as their second language started as "a side job," "extra duty," with her sixth grade English teaching job at McCook Public Schools.

In the past three years, Klimper's ESL (English as a Second Language) job has become full-time teaching and supervisory, and the school's program involves two para-professionals (Sandra Gaytan and Maria Beasley) who teach 40-some Spanish-speaking students and one Chinese-speaking student at McCook's four attendance centers.

Students learning English in the McCook school system numbered in the low 30s in 2006-07, in the high 50s in 2007-08 and nearly 40 in 2008-09.

Jamie Garner, of Educational Service Unit No. 15, based in Trenton, told McCook board of education members at a board meeting Monday evening that federal law states that every student needs English for equal opportunities to learn. The federal No Child Left Behind mandate requires that all students are provided with growth and testing in their English-language learning.

Also by law, Klimper said, parents must be provided with information in the language that they understand.

Garner said English language learners progress through five stages, using English as a "social language" as a "newcomer" and "emergent speaker"; to using English as an "academic language" as a "fluent" speaker."

Most ESL students require five to seven years to become advanced, fluent speakers, speaking English as a "native language speaker," Garner said.

Klimper said that McCook has done "an amazing job" of getting training for staff members, giving them good instructional methods to keep the kids moving through the stages.

Klimper is also pleased, she said, that with funding help from the ESU, McCook provides an after-school study hall for ESL students.

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