USD 491 hastens to meet ESL needs
At the beginning of the semester, administrators in Eudora USD 491 discovered an unplanned aspect of district growth.
"This year, we had an influx of students where their home language is something other than English," Eudora Middle School Principal Don Grosdidier said.
Tests found 18 students with a first language other than English.
The state legally requires the district to offer academic help to students who need help gaining proficiency in English.
"You can't tell if a student is proficient just by having a conversation with them. You need to test them," Grosdidier said.
In order to help the students, the district scrambled to put together a program in a matter of weeks to offer help students gain English proficiency.
The majority of the task fell to Grosdidier.
"We had to kind of scramble to put something together to test those students to determine if they would qualify for ESL services," Grosdidier said.
The district conferred with the neighboring De Soto school district to help set up a test to find the affected students and to establish a program to meet their needs.
The De Soto school district has maintained a steadily growing ESL program for the last seven years.
Deborah Taylor, head of De Soto's ESL program, sees the increasing importance of teaching ESL within school districts.
"It's vital right now because of all these assessments and AYP," Taylor said. "Districts are being held accountable for the scores of ESL students."
Once the Eudora district identified the students needing the most help, it hired a former Eudora High School graduate, Cynthia Andrews to help with the district's ESL students.
"They're actually in every building, from Nottingham all the way through high school," Grosdidier said. "It's not something that's only in the middle school. We have ESL students in every building now."
Before joining the district Andrews' worked half time in ESL in De Soto.
"She agreed to work for us and work for them," Grosdidier said.
Her first task was to assess the students, Grosdidier said.
Of the 18 students who spoke languages other than English in their home, Andrews found 11 needing additional support.
The ESL training Andrews provides consists of writing and grammar work as opposed to spoken English skills, Grosdidier said.
"Then, Cynthia helped us establish a plan of service for those students. Since that time, we have been providing them various levels of service dependent upon their needs," Grosdidier said.
The district will look to find ways to expand its ESL capabilities by getting more teachers certified in ESL.
Certifying teachers could have multiple advantages.
"One thing Eudora will want to get started looking at is starting classroom teachers working on their ESL endorsement," Taylor said. "The more teachers you can have working on their endorsements and having students in their classroom, the more state funding you will receive."
Although Grosdidier said he found the increased enrollment and need for ESL surprising, the trend could continue.
"Eudora's experiencing a lot of growth. I think it's an attractive place to move to and if that's the case, the population is going to be more diverse," Grosdidier said. "I just think it's a natural part of the growth."