Adapting to Non-English Languages

The Pittsburgh Morning Sun discusses the challenges of teaching non-English speakers. Melinda Kitchen, a teacher in USD  250 Pittsburgh.  The superintendent “learned that Kitchen, who taught first grade, was fluent in Spanish, and asked her to work with the district’s Spanish-speaking children. Seven years after graduating from Pittsburg State, Kitchen now teaches 28-35 English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL students) per year.” In FTE terms, the district now has 3.5 teachers working with ESOL students.

The article mentions that Florida spent $6,525 per student on its ESOL program in 2004-05, though it’s not clear how much of that money is a marginal cost–that is, whether that is the money the state spends on each student (regardless of language) or whether that’s an extra cost of teaching an ESOL student.

Looking elsewhere, the article mentions Grand Island, Nebraska, home of a packing plant that employs many immigrants, whose impact will grow over time. “With more than 700 students in 14 elementary schools, Grand Island’s kindergarten is comprised of 52 percent white students and 48 percent of other ethnic groups.

However, the 12th-grade class at Grand Island Senior High is 75 percent white and only 25 percent other ethnic groups.”

How do schools adapt? Some have used Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc., a company that has developed its own way of teaching reading and writing. Others use technology, including software that is customized to the student’s native tongue.  A spokesman for Blackboard Inc., says that “The problem with the classroom is that it’s one time only. The great thing about online is that it’s any time.”

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