By Neetu Chandak
A Maryland county school district is attempting to adjust to the 10 percent increase in students enrolled in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) since the previous school year, even though the district already has 165 interpreters who can speak 21 languages.
The goal of ESOL is to increase English proficiency through a language development curriculum. Students are initially placed in ESOL courses based on English proficiency scores measured through a placement test, according to Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS).
AACPS in Maryland also has 22 bilingual facilitators in addition to the 165 interpreters, according to the Capital Gazette Wednesday.
Bilingual facilitators assist with the communication gap between international families and schools. Facilitators help with translating school-based documents, explaining policies and community outreach among other services, according to AACPS.
The district has additionally accommodated for non-native English-speaking parents by translating back to school letters, report card templates and other school communication in a dozen languages over the past 18 months, the Gazette reported.
But the services were not enough, according to Gaston Gamez, English language learner family and community outreach Program manager for AACPS.
“The number one support is bilingual facilitators,” Gamez said, the Gazette reported. “We don’t have enough staff.”
AACPS has about 11,400 families that require language support and 5,400 students in the district receive ESOL services, according to the Gazette. The district also provides 40 programs like English classes and parent support groups to the parents for free.
Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Urdu and Arabic are the most spoken languages in the district after English.
The district hired 22 interpreters in 2018, a spokesperson from AACPS told The Daily Caller News Foundation. The district hopes to hire 20 more interpreters this year.
AACPS had a total 81,379 students enrolled in 2017, according to the Maryland Report Card.
The increase in non-native English speakers in school districts is not a challenge AACPS faces alone.
Montgomery county, which borders Anne Arundel county, also saw increases in non-native English speakers of over 32 percent since 2009. Of the 3,000 students in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), 32 percent were Hispanic students and Spanish was the more frequently spoken language at home, according to The Atlantic on Feb. 28, 2017.
MCPS hired 36 ESOL educators for the 2016-2017 school year, according to The Atlantic.
There were stark differences in graduation rates among Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students and non-LEP students. LEP students graduated at nearly 41 percent while non-LEP students had around a 93 percent graduation rate in 2017.
Adding five full-time equivalent ESOL counselors in MCPS would cost the district $503,210, according to MCPS Budget Questions for fiscal year 2019.
The increasing number of those who speak a foreign language affects English proficiency and budgets, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) study that found public schools put nearly $60 billion to teach illegal aliens, children of illegal aliens, refugees and legal immigrant students in 2016.
“The struggle to fund programs for students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), sometimes called English Language Learners (ELL), represents a major drain on school budgets,” the 2016 report said.
MCPS did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment in time for publication.
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