Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nashville English Language Learning program makes adjustments, gets tips from Memphis

While still praised as "one of the best ELL programs in the state and in the nation" by Tennessee Department of Education official Connie Smith, Nashville's English Language Learner program is undergoing changes and getting tips from Memphis, according to this article in the Nashville City Paper (originally published in June) and this article in Monday's Memphis Commercial Appeal.

As previously reported in the Hispanic Nashville Notebook, Nashville schools' English learner programs have a track record of success (story here). Both ESL and ELL classes are credited with improving overall classroom concentration in Nashville, because students who have language difficulties are no longer asking friends to interpret for them in class.

ESL and ELL teaching require special teaching methods but not necessarily communication in the students' native languages.

Less busing

From the Nashville City Paper:
Metro Nashville Public Schools is in the process of a shift from emphasizing placement of students at English Language Learner (ELL) Centers to kids into ELL Program Schools closer to home.

This [2008-2009] school year, because of the changes, about 600 kids will receive ELL services in their regularly zoned schools. Kids being transported to ELL Centers often have to ride buses up to one hour each way, according to LaWanna Shelton, executive director of ELL for MNPS.
ELL Centers and Program Schools are identical in terms of the academic resources provided, Shelton said. The only difference is that kids enroll in Program Schools if they are regularly zoned to attend there, whereas participants at ELL Centers may be bused from other areas.
MNPS parent Cesar Muedas, former chair of Hispanic parent organization COPLA, said parents in Hispanic communities are divided as to whether they would prefer their children to be educated in ELL or in general education classes, due in part to inconsistencies between schools.
For Metro’s ELL programs, the state is leaving Shelton in charge — and giving her a promotion. The state plan gives Shelton the title of executive director, rather than coordinator, and elevates the entire ELL office to the same level as those for special education and gifted education.

DOE accountability chief Connie Smith said last week that Shelton does “a beautiful job.”

“I think it’s one of the best ELL programs in the state and in the nation,” Smith said last week while updating on the reorganization to members of Mayor Karl Dean’s Advisory Council on Special Education.

Language learners called "primary reason" Nashville misses NCLB benchmarks, Memphis program is "exceptional"

From the Commercial Appeal:
The education budget hearings were the focus of some good news for Memphis City Schools. The system was held up by the governor and education officials as a model for how to effectively teach non-English speakers. Failures by English language learners, or ELL, to achieve federally mandated benchmarks are the primary reason why the Metro Nashville Public Schools are in their second year of oversight by the state.

"Memphis City Schools has an exceptional ELL program," Asst. State Education Commissioner Connie Smith said. "We've taken Nashville school officials down there, and to Shelby County Schools too, to show them how they are doing it."

Poor, disabled and Hispanics in general are also missing benchmarks

Another Nashville City Paper article from July 2008 details a few areas in which Nashville missed its No Child Left Behind benchmarks:
• Proficiency in language arts for students with limited English proficiency, grades kindergarten through eight;
• Proficiency in math for three groups of high school students: economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency;
• Proficiency in language arts for four groups of high school students: economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, students with limited English proficiency, and Hispanics.
Photo by Derek Baird. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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