[lg policy] Florida: Collier schools to send backpack of books home to English language learners over summer
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Wed Apr 11 15:00:21 UTC 2012
Collier schools to send backpack of books home to English language
learners over summer
By HEATHER CARNEY
Posted April 10, 2012 at 9:36 p.m., updated April 10, 2012 at 9:48 p.m.
About 1,000 elementary school students will start summer break this
year with a new backpack stuffed with books and a dictionary. The
Collier County School Board on Tuesday approved a $56,000 backpack
program that targets English language learner students in second and
third grade who are at risk of not passing the Florida Comprehensive
Assessment Test. The pilot program is being paid for with federal
"Many of these students will go up north, to packing houses, or to
their home country," district program director Maria Torres said.
"They will not have opportunity for an English speaking summer
program." The backpacks and books will come with activities the
students will be encouraged to complete. But Torres still has doubts
that the program will automatically raise student test scores.
"If I was to tell you that students will pass because of this program,
I would be lying," she said. The district hopes that providing
students with a new backpack filled with 15 new books on writing,
reading, math, science and social studies will prevent them from
losing academic momentum and prevent teachers from having to play
catch up in the classroom. The books are offered in Spanish, English
and Haitian Creole so parents who don't speak English can help their
students with the reading and activities.
Torres said the district is always looking for innovative ways to help
these students, particularly with increased standards and pressure
from the state.
"We know we have a gap there," she said. "If at least they're reading,
their learning curve will go up."
The state will decide in May if scores of English language learner
students in their first year in the district will count toward a
school's grade. If the scores do count, the district could have eight
F schools and seven D schools next year.
Torres said it takes five to seven years for a student learning a
foreign language to know and use academic vocabulary. She said it
takes one to two years to develop interpersonal language, or to have
Already this year, the state raised the score a student must receive
to earn a level three, or passing score, on the FCAT. Students in
third grade must pass the test before moving onto the fourth grade
Torres said the district will measure the programs success by
assessing each student at the start of the school year. Teachers will
also track students one-on-one in the classroom.
Superintendent Kamela Patton said the program meets the individual
needs of the students and is a good use of district money in difficult
"In a declining time of resources this shows we're still meeting the
needs of the kids," she said.
In other board news:
The district revised its Student Code of Conduct to clarify that
hoodies would not be allowed under the no hats policy.
The Board also revised the student disciplinary policy so that any
student involved in a fight could have the possibility of being
punished, whether that student started the fight or not. The district
wanted to avoid having a zero tolerance policy on fighting so that
school administrators could review cameras and speak with witnesses to
determine an appropriate punishment.
"If we have zero tolerance, then we've locked the door," Patton said.
"Then we've forced both sides to be punished no matter what."
The school board will vote on the revised policies at a later board meeting.
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