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English-language learners remain focus for Roaring Fork School District

John GardnerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Roaring Fork School District Re-1 has experienced a 568 percent increase in second language learners districtwide in the 12 years since the implementation of the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP). That percentage is 216 percent higher than the state average, according to statistics from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE).That creates a big obstacle for RFSD teachers who must bring non-native English speakers up to par in math, reading, writing and science, all while teaching English as well.”We continue to get kids, who for the most part have not had any education in their native country wherever they come from, coming to us as a fifth-grader and they’ve never been in school,” said RFSD superintendent Judy Haptonstall. “They are not literate in their own language – or in English – so you are starting with a blank slate and you have a lot of work to do to get those students up to speed and ready to graduate.”Haptonstall said at schools with larger Latino populations like Basalt Elementary School and Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale, Anglo and Latino students CSAP scores are calculated together to determine a standard percent of students at proficient or advanced for a particular subject in a particular grade. But with test curriculums changing year-to-year and the huge increase in English-language learners there are large fluctuations in the district’s percent of proficient and advanced students at any grade level in any subject.For example, Anglo fourth-graders at Basalt Elementary tested at 81 percent proficient or advanced in reading for 2007 and 91 percent in 2008. While over the same time period, Latino students tested at 23 percent proficient or advanced in 2007 and 41 percent in 2008. Combining the scores shows the school at 48 percent proficient or advanced, up from 24 percent the prior year.At Crystal River Elementary Latinos increased in reading from 2007 to 2008, 21 percent in proficient or advanced, while Anglo students slightly decreased 1 percent over the same period.The fourth-grade districtwide tested at 58 percent proficient or advanced in reading for 2008. While that is still 8 percent below the state average, it’s also an 8 percent increase from the previous year. It’s those gains with the Latino students while maintaining or increasing scores among Anglo students that Haptonstall wants the district to keep working on and focusing on in the future.”What we’ve seen is those schools have maintained or increased their growth of Anglo kids, but we’ve got 80 to 90 percent of those kids proficient already,” Haptonstall said. “There’s been a steady increase for the native-English speaking kids, who’ve certainly benefited from the focus on instruction over the 12 years of CSAPs. What’s been difficult is that when we only had 20 kids that didn’t speak English, now we have 220 in the same school, making the impact bigger and it’s having more effect on the scores.”Haptonstall said the RFSD will work with the CDE to examine how they might increase the academic performance of those students learning English while continuing to increase the numbers of students who move into the advanced levels with the CDE providing additional resources in terms of both dollars and expertise during the 2008-09 school year.Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO


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