Teaching English Learners Needs New Approach as Numbers Surge

Teaching English Learners Needs New Approach as Numbers Surge

At Lew Wallace School 107, principal Arthur Hinton sees students come from all over the world, according to Chalkbeat Indiana.

Roughly 70% of the 509 students are classified as English language learners, a population that has only increased since Hinton arrived in 2020.

More than a quarter of the district’s students are now classified as English language learners (ELL)  — more than 6,700 as of late February, an increase of more than 2,000 students since 2017-18. As in many other districts, staffing up for those levels has been a challenge. At the end of February, the district had eight vacancies for English as a New Language teachers, out of 110 positions total. Bilingual assistants can be even harder to come by: The district had 24 vacancies as of that date for its 76 positions.

The number of ELL students has grown by 27% since 2018. And because of overall enrollment declines in the district’s non-charter schools, ELL students account for a growing share of the student population: more than one-fourth in 2023.

The district now plans to reimagine how it serves English language learners. Officials say instruction for these students should be more consistent across school buildings and allow students to learn alongside their native English-speaking peers. Students learning English should not be restricted from classes such as music or art because they are pulled away for separate English language learner instruction.

The plan includes assigning each school in the district at least one leading English as a New Language “teacher of record,” responsible for overseeing the school’s English language learner program.

Right now, instruction for English language learners varies from school to school. Only some district elementary schools offer co-teaching, while others don’t have enough staff. Sometimes teachers are used as interventionists — staff who pull students away from class to work directly with them on their specific needs — rather than as co-teachers.

At the middle and high school levels, some English language learners do not have access to electives, because their English as a new language instruction is held during those times.

The district’s plans would mean less separation, and more exposure to the mainstream classroom as students learn English.

The philosophy: Everyone is an English as a New Language teacher.

Chalkbeat Indiana

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