Evansville, Indiana: English as a Second Language Works to transform many voices into one

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Sep 12 14:22:25 UTC 2007

English as a Second Language
Works to transform many voices into one
By John Martin
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The number of foreign-born students in local public schools continues
to increase, and so do the countries those students represent.

DENNY SIMMONS / Courier & Press Haiti native Samuel Morrison, 12, a
sixth-grader at Thompkins Middle School, has been in the United States
for only six weeks, but he's catching on to the English language in
his English as a Second Language class. Most come from Mexico, but a
growing number of children from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and
elsewhere are enrolling in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp.
Overall, EVSC has 412 students in its limited-English programs. That's
a spike of 328 percent since 2002-03.

Like many students from other countries, Fabiola Delacrez-Mendoza, a
12-year-old native of Mexico, had to learn English when she arrived in
the United States. Fabiola is still taking English as a Second
Language classes, but she speaks the language better than either of
her parents, who work at Evansville restaurants. "My dad speaks a
little. My mom doesn't speak it at all," Fabiola said this week in her
classroom at Washington Middle School.

The school corporation and the state are devoting more resources to
assist international students. EVSC hired two English as a Second
Language teachers this year, bringing its total to eight. A
Spanish-speaking social worker also has been hired, a first for the
corporation. General Assembly funding for limited English instruction
has ballooned from $700,000 annually to nearly $7 million. That's a
rate of $162 per student.

But that still isn't enough to meet statewide needs, according to new
research from Indiana University's Center for Evaluation and Education
Policy. Indiana has seen the third-highest rate of growth of
English-learners over the last 10 years. Further, students in
limited-English programs should not be "segregated," according to the

"Latino students, or any other students, really don't get to interact
with any other teacher or any other group of educational experts
beyond those who have the linguistic capabilities to work with them,"
said Gerardo Lopez, an associate professor of education leadership and
policy studies at IU.

The U.S. Department of Education recently granted $1.5 million to
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis to prepare English
as a Second Language teachers.

Locally, EVSC and the University of Evansville are planning an online
course for general education teachers with several international
students in class, said Sandra Madriaga, EVSC's supervisor of English
as a Second Language.

She said EVSC's limited-English students are intermingled with the
general school population for most of the day.

Middle school students are bused to Washington for part of the day;
high school classes are offered at Bosse.

Elementary level

At the elementary school level, international pupils are among the
regular school population but receive some one-on-one instruction if

"We do not offer a self-contained ESL program," Madriaga said. "It
would not be in the best interests of students if we did."

Stockwell Elementary School has a high concentration of
Spanish-speaking children, and that's where Spanish-speaking social
worker Alma Gauchpin spends a couple of days a week.

Gauchpin's job description continues to evolve, but her main role is
to assist international families new to the area.

"I help them navigate the system, understand what processes are in
place for students," Gauchpin said. "We stress the importance of
parental involvement and regular school attendance."

EVSC also works with organizations such as Hospitality and Outreach
for Latin Americans (HOLA) on initiatives, such as orientation
sessions for international students' families.

Those families have a lot to learn, said Daniela Vidal, an HOLA spokeswoman.

"A lot of parents don't know about the truancy law," Vidal said. "They
may have a sick child in the hospital but didn't know they're supposed
to call the school and tell them. They just don't know any better."

International students, like any new student entering the school
system, must have an immunization record and a birth certificate.
Certificates in other languages can be translated.

School officials can't ask about a family's legal citizenship status,
Madriaga said.

New children in EVSC must complete a language survey, which asks what
language is most often used in the home. If the answer is a language
other than English, Madriaga is called to give the child a "placement

The results help determine what type of instruction the international
student receives and whether he is enrolled in English as a Second
Language classes.

English as a Second Language teachers Maria Coello-Biarnes, who is
from Argentina, and Krista Wagner, an American, have children of
multiple nationalities in their classes at Washington Middle School's
International Newcomers Academy.

Wagner on Monday asked her 14 students to write six sentences about
what they did over the weekend and to "underline the past tense verb
in each." She later handed students a cartoon picture and asked them
to write a story based on it.

Learning English is a slow and steady process, Wagner said, and it's
not unusual for a student to repeat the class.

But Wagner's students said they are enjoying learning the language and
the benefits of American culture.

"I'm making a lot of new friends," said Julie Xialo, 11, from China.

Aleksey Medvedev, 12, from Russia, said he likes American "houses and
cars. And McDonald's."

-- http://www.courierpress.com/news/2007/sep/12/english-as-a-second-language-works-to-transform/
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