Virginia: Teachers reach out to English language learner population in county schools

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Oct 3 13:29:08 UTC 2007

Fostering cultural diversity
Teachers reach out to English language learner population in county schools
by Natalie McGill |

Responding to an increase in English-language learners, Central High
School in Capitol Heights has been designated a future site for
Communities of Practice: Supporting English Language Learners or
COSPELL, a program which allows county teachers the chance to earn a
master's degree with an emphasis on bilingual special education. A
K-12 initiative, COSPELL is run through George Washington University's
Graduate School of Education and Human Development Bilingual Special
Education Program.
County schools and the state Department of Education provided $250,000
and $1.5 million for the program respectively.

Eighteen teachers selected from northern, southern and central county
regions will get the chance to earn a full $45,000 scholarship to earn
their master's degrees in two and a half years. Selected teachers will
take evening classes at Central, such as cultural and language
diversity, assessments and methods classes on teaching students with
different language needs. Dr. Cathleen Rozanski, Central's assistant
principal, is the school's liaison with George Washington University.
Rozanski said that even with county schools adding additional English
for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs, the number of ESOL
students continues to rise and the number of county teachers must also
rise to meet students' needs.

The number of Hispanic students is rising in particular, and teachers
will focus on reaching out to that population.

Rozanski said there are nearly 200 students in ESOL at Central High
School, whose student body is more than 1,200. Rozanski said the
Hispanic population is the fastest growing ESOL population in the
school and also countywide.

''The English-language learners, the special education population,
that's generally the students where we don't meet AYP," Rozanski said.
''It's not just a Central High School issue, that's countywide —
making sure there's qualified teachers to help students that are
struggling to get their high school diploma."

Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, is the benchmark percentage set by
the state Department of Education that a student body must reach to be
considered proficient or better in mathematics and reading.

Kate Conrad, an English and drama teacher at Central, applied for the
program after learning about it before the start of classes Aug. 20.
Conrad hopes to become a better teacher and be available to general
education, special education and ESOL students in the same way. Conrad
wants to bridge gaps between the student populations.

''It seems they're in three different worlds," Conrad said. ''Figuring
out a way to bridge all those areas and work our school as a community
rather than three separate areas, I'd love to figure out a way to do

Helena Hartsfield, Central's English teaching coordinator, also
applied for the program. Hartsfield said there has always been a need
for bilingual educators at Central. If selected, she and other
participants are required to stay in the Prince George's County school
system for two more years.

''It would definitely make me more marketable because there's a need
for certified teachers," Hartsfield said.

Bill Hanna, a University of Maryland College Park professor who
teaches classes on urban planning, is also executive secretary of
ACTION Langley Park, a community group working to address needs of the
mostly Latino community in the surrounding area to the university.

Hanna applauds any program that will address bilingual needs of ESOL
students and also work toward mainstreaming special education

''There aren't a lot of people who are bilingual in the school
system," Hanna said. ''Even in Langley Park-McCormick [Elementary],
there are few teachers that are bilingual. They try to solve that
problem as having a parent liaison, but I'm not sure if that's the
same as having the teacher."

E-mail Natalie McGill at
nmcgill at

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