Official wants more ESL help

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— The Steamboat Springs School District could be doing more to meet the needs of its non-English speaking students, director of curriculum and instruction Kelly Stanford said Tuesday.

Stanford will recommend that the district request Education Fund Board funding to hire a full-time teacher with an English as a Second Language endorsement. Stanford said she will make the recommendation to the district's administrative team when it meets to discuss its 2005-06 priorities for the Fund Board, a nonprofit group that allocates revenue from the city's half-cent sales tax for education.

The teaching position, if adopted as a priority by district administrators and approved for funding by the Fund Board, would focus primarily on helping teachers work with English Language Learners -- the term used for students who aren't proficient in the English language.

"It would provide more support for teachers in terms of planning and meeting the needs of ELL students," Stanford said.

The district's ELL population has tripled during the past three years, from 12 students in 2002 to 36 this year, Stanford said. Most of the ELL students speak Spanish as their primary language.

The 1,900-student district hired its first full-time ESL aide at the beginning of the 2003-04 school year. But the number of newly enrolled ELL students forced the district to hire a second full-time aide shortly after hiring its first. The district recently added a third aide to work with ELL students at Steamboat Springs High School.

The aides work under the district's ESL pull-out program, meaning ELL students are pulled out of their classes to work on English acquisition individually or in small groups with the aides. However, a majority of the students' time is spent in their regular classrooms.

"I think we could be doing more," Stanford said when asked whether the district was meeting the needs of its non-English speaking students.

She said she would like the district to move toward a "push-in" model where ELL students remain in their regular classrooms throughout the school day. But doing so will require more professional development for district teachers and a full-time coordinator to work with staff on planning and other factors critical to addressing the needs of the ELL population, which Stanford thinks will continue to grow.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234 or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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