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Karen Mulattieri: Students transitioning to English language need support

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 1:59 p.m. CDT

Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 sponsored an English Language Learners Forum on Feb. 25, which was focused on information presented by students and staff, as well as expert panelists who shared information about requirements in Illinois for ELL educational programs and provided examples of how other school districts are serving the population.

Some 70 people participated that evening, a mixture of teachers, teacher assistants, parents, administrators and community members. Here are some of the ideas shared by students and staff members:

Students say the transition to the United States can be difficult, both academically and socially, even if they studied English in their countries.

Students rely on teacher support offered in ELL, resource and content classes.

Staff members believe that District 205 would benefit from a long-term vision for the ELL program.

Teachers are stretched when we receive ELL students with no English and inconsistent prior schooling — there are 14 newcomer students at Churchville Middle School and York High School.

Highlights from the panelists:

Both St. Charles District 303 and Woodstock CUSD 200 offer additive programs. District 303 offers Transitional Bilingual Education services through fifth grade and is planning to add middle school. Woodstock offers dual language instruction from pre-kindergarten through ninth grade.

Programs were formed based on best practice and research in ELL Education.

Results from District 200 show former ELLs and general education students participating in two-way immersion dual language classes outperforming their peers on ISAT, even when instructed in Spanish.

Strategic recruitment can make these programs cost effective and may even reduce overall cost in terms of staffing. Extra materials are needed. Transportation to service centers was part of each district’s plan.

Data from Elmhurst CUSD 205:

ELL enrollment has been increasing since 2007. The active ELLs are at 4.9 percent of the total enrollment. We have ELLs in each of our schools.

Transitioned ELL students are performing below their general education peers.

Percentage of ELL students with an IEP is higher than general education peers.

For more details on the ELL Forum, visit the District 205 website.

Karen Mulattieri is the English Language Learners and social studies coordinator for Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205, which serves more than 8,000 students in Addison, Bensenville, Elmhurst and Oak Brook.

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