As the Everett Public Schools begin to craft their current year’s budget, one new emphasis has become the English Learners (EL) program and its expansion within the schools.
The new population coming into Everett, particularly Spanish speakers from El Salvador and Portuguese speakers from Brazil, have grown substantially and require more EL instruction – with the elementary program set to expand potentially to the Keverian School next year.
Anne Auger, director of EL for the district, told the School Committee this month that the population of EL students is growing, and they are a resilient group that has come to the city to learn.
“The largest numbers of our EL students are now in Pre-K to fourth grade,” she said. “Some 60 percent of our students speak a different language at school than they do at home. Most of our students are growing up bi-lingual or tri-lingual… We on a track to be about one-third EL in a year or two.”
Auger said the EL population in 2016-17 was 17 percent, and this year it has grown by 10 percent since then, to be at 27 percent.
The most common second language of instruction is Spanish, followed by Portuguese and Haitian Kreyol.
Auger said one of the transitions is to train most teachers in the Sheltered English Instruction (SEI), which allows EL students to be streamlined into the classroom rather than to be removed for a separate English as a Second Language (ESL) class.
That is what was done in the past, but Auger said having teacher support in the classroom and a centralized director overseeing the program has been much better for students.
“We found that the old way was disjointed and ineffective rather than having them in a full inclusion model classroom all day,” she said. “We have enough ESL teachers to outfit the program at most of our schools and we are trying to expand.”
During the recent School Budget requests from the principals of the various schools, that need for more EL teachers and staff was quite apparent. In virtually every presentation, school leaders indicated they needed to hire more EL teachers, and Everett High Principal Erick Naumann said he could envision having a director of EL just for the high school.
He said there are 430 EL students at Everett High, and 250 formerly EL students – for a total of 780. He said in all likelihood, there are probably more than 1,000 students at the high school who are EL or formerly EL.
At the Keverian School, Principal Alex Naumann indicated that they plan to expand the EL program to his school, joining the Lafayette School.
“Certainly right now EL opening at Keverian helps us alleviate a lot of issues,” he said, noting that he is requesting to hire five EL teachers next year. “Some 20 percent of our population are EL students and that number is increasing daily.”
Nearly every other school as well, including the Lafayette, the Parlin and the Whittier, requested new EL hires.
Assistant Supt. Charlie Obremski said the population is increasing tremendously and more staff in necessary.
“That population is exploding,” he said. “We see it as something similar to Special Education in that it needs a dedicated department and dedicated staff. To be able to help these students, we’re going to have to hire a lot more staff.”
Added Assistant Supt. Kevin Shaw, “We’re not just educating the students, but we’re changing the philosophy of how we educate EL students…We’re looking to put these teachers in the classroom with the students. It’s essentially a co-teaching model that we’re looking at.”
Auger said one thing to keep in mind is that EL students and their families are particularly resilient.
“The resiliency of these students amazes me every day,” she said. “Many of them left family and have come here during their adolescent years. The ability to assimilate and do it with a smile is inspiring…Many of their parents have come here so they could be in a school district like Everett Public Schools.”