0
Votes

Rate of ESL Students Doubles

Enrollment in the English as a Second Language program is growing.

Enrollment in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program this coming school year grew at twice the percentage rate of total student enrollment.

Alessio Evangelista, supervisor of the county's English as a Second Language program, said students enrolled in the ESL program have grown by an estimated 20 percent compared to an estimated 9.7 percent rise in total enrollment. More students are expected to sign up before September, he said. "We know there is an influx in the summer," he said. "The numbers are a constant moving target."

Enrollment in the active ESL program has risen from 950 last school year to 1140 so far this coming fall. The student population is estimated to rise from 40,751 to 44,715, said Sam Adamo, director of Planning and Legislative Services.

THE SCHOOL BUDGET for the ESL program has risen by nearly $2 million, from $5.9 million in Fiscal Year 2004 to $7.7 million in the current year, said Sue Hurd, assistant superintendent for Business and Financial Services.

Evangelista said Loudoun has increased the number of ESL teachers, lowered class sizes for ESL classes and provided parent liaisons and interpreters for parents who do not speak English. "We provide interpreters for close to 60 languages that are represented," he said.

He said Loudoun had 71 students in the ESL program in 1990, compared to 1,960 active and monitored students as of Monday. The county had "fewer than 10" ESL teachers a decade ago compared to an estimated 78 for the coming school year. He said no one seems to have an exact number for the total ESL teachers 10 years ago, partly because some teachers taught more than one subject.

The ESL students fall into two categories for educational purposes: active and monitored. Students who speak very little English and are receiving daily instruction are "active." After one or two years of active status, students' progress is "monitored," to see whether they need additional services.

Once the students become practiced in English, they attend classes with English as the primary language and are no longer tallied in the ESL count.

School Board member Warren Geurin (Sterling) said many of those students still have limited proficiency in English and lack the ability to deal with some of the curricula.

"An ever-increasing number of our students face learning challenges that you and I did not face, and that our children did not face," he said. "Classroom teachers tell me that it is extremely difficult to teach the basics called for in our Standards of Learning (SOL) to students who do not understand English very well and who cannot read English well."

"FROM A COMMUNITY point of view, this population reflects what America has always stood for," Evangelista said. "The United States is a magnet for those who want a better life for themselves and their children. Our school system accepts the responsibility of providing a welcoming environment."

Evangelista said there is a higher concentration of ESL students in eastern Loudoun than western. The highest ESL populations are in these schools:

* Elementary: Forest Grove (90), Sugarland (77) Guilford (75)

* Middle: Sterling (107) Farmwell Station (51) Harper Park (37) and Seneca Ridge (37)

* High: Park View (180), Broad Run (92) and Dominion (88)

All of the schools are located in Sterling, except Farmwell Station in Ashburn and Harper Park in Leesburg.

Geurin said it takes five to seven years to become proficient in English. Consequently, schools in Eastern Loudoun have a difficult time raising and maintaining school-wide achievement levels.

Hurd said the school district received $538,764 in state funds toward the ESL program for FY05 compared to $377,904 for FY04. The federal government provided $210,956, said Preston Coppels, director of Instructional Services.

Geurin said the federal government also provides Title I funding for schools with a high percentage of low-income families, and many of the ESL students fit that grouping.

As a member of the Limited English Proficient Caucus, Geurin has urged the state legislature to increase state funding to pay for ESL teachers and services. The caucus is an offshoot of the Virginia School Boards Association. He recommended changing the funding formula for ESL. Instead of funding one teacher for every 59 students, the state should fund one teacher for every 40 students, he said.