Moffat County School Board updated on ELL program

Also at the meeting

In other action, the school board:

• Approved, 5-0, improvement plans.

• Approved, 5-0, the first reading of Policy 3541.1 regarding student transportation.

• Tabled, 5-0, a first reading of Policy 3541.6 regarding vehicle replacement.

• Approved, 5-0, the second reading of Policy 4331 regarding the salary schedule.

• Approved, 5-0, the second reading of Policy 5230 regarding school admissions.

• Approved, 5-0, to certify the mill levy for 2010 at 30.345 mils.

Bill Ronis, the English Language Learner coordinator for the Moffat County School District, said his objective is simple.

“We want them to speak English,” Ronis said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Ronis addressed the Moffat County School Board during its Tuesday meeting.

Ronis said recent test results indicated the district’s ELL students were lagging.

“But, we were a lot closer,” he said. “The ELL kids did make growth, but not enough to make the state standard.”

However, Ronis said the district’s own data shows marked improvement.

Part of that steady growth, Ronis said, is due to a new approach to teaching ELL students.

“We used to have paraprofessionals that could speak Spanish, and they would pull all the Spanish-speaking kids out of class,” Ronis said. “They would pull them out during literacy, during math, and so on.

“It was crazy. They weren’t getting the interventions that I thought was necessary. So, we changed that model.”

Ronis said the new approach leaves ELL students in classes with English-speaking peers led by English-speaking teachers.

“What I learned through my master’s (program) and all the research I’ve read, is an ELL student does better in a language-rich environment in the classroom with their peers,” he said.

Ronis said the shift has shown results. To demonstrate the progress, Ronis explained his system for categorizing data.

“Part of my job is to assess the English Language Learners’ ability,” Ronis said. “We label them Not English Proficient, or NEP, Limited English Proficient, or LEP, or FEP, which is Fluent English Proficient, and they get out of the system from there.”

That system of graduating fluent speakers out of the data, shows a steady reduction of ELL students over five years.

For instance, more than 30 ELL students are enrolled in kindergarten this year. The numbers drop to less than 20 in first grade, less than 15 in third-grade and less than five in third grade.

Ronis said that demonstrates how effective the new system is.

“Researchers say it takes up to two years to become conversationally fluent in English,” he said. “And, it takes five to seven years to become academically fluent.

“I look at the data, and I see that our district is getting kids academically fluent in about four years. That’s a lot better than five to seven.”

Ronis also said the numbers of ELLs enrolling in kindergarten is going down year after year.

“We have a high level of ELLs that come in kindergarten, but that’s getting to be less and less because a lot of kids are going into preschool and those (teachers) in preschool are really getting those kids ready for kindergarten,” Ronis said.

“Assessing the kids this year, there were no kids at all who couldn’t speak some English. I attribute that to preschool. And, a lot of the parents have gone through our school system, so their kids are more bilingual.”

Ronis said he was optimistic about meeting state standards soon.

“We have a lot of successes, and it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

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