The English Learner program at Woodward Elementary has nearly quadrupled in the last five years, and recently, the program held it’s first Family Night to engage with parents and promote community.
Alexa Ross, the supervisor of the EL program at Woodward, said Thursday the program is for any student who has a primary or home language other than English.
“So for a lot of kids that means there’s another language spoken at home,” Ross said. “For some kids that means they speak another language other than English, but the idea is to support them academically especially with academic language and understanding what’s going on in the classroom.”
Ross said the program is different for every student and depends on the student’s individual needs. Ross said the program has students who have never spoken, heard, read or listened to English, but also has students who are almost ready to have no English support at all.
Ross said for students who are just learning English, they do activities like practice new vocabulary or teach them new words.
“We really work on reading, writing and speaking in every lesson,” Ross said.
Ross said when she started at the EL program five years ago, there were 23 students in the program at Woodward. The district reported on Friday that the number of EL students at Woodward for the 2018-2019 school year is 86.
“Our challenges are time and numbers,” Ross said.
When Ross started, she was one of two EL teachers and said the district has added two more to accommodate the growth in the program.
“Time with students is still limited. The amount of support we’d like to give doesn’t always match up with what we are able to give schedule-wise with the number of students we need to support.”
Ross said EL students spend most of their day in their normal classrooms, and a newcomer to English might get a one-on-one lesson for a short time once a day, while more advanced students only need support a few times a week.
Students leave the program, Ross added, when they pass a test of reading, listening, writing and speaking, but she isn’t focused just on getting students to pass the test.
“My end goal is for the student to be as ready as possible to be successful in the classroom without support,” Ross said. “That might be in one year and that might be in a lot of years. For me the test isn’t about the score, it is about readiness to be without support.”
Woodward held EL Family Night on Aug. 30, which invited students and their families to come to the school, ask questions, and learn more about the program.
“We are inviting families in to connect families to each other because sometimes our communities are a little bit segmented, and we want to make it more of a community here,” Ross said. “We want to bring families into the school and make them feel more comfortable with the school and asking questions. We are going to be talking about the program and the test students have to take.”
Ross said family night was also about connecting families to various resources and to the school, and she is very thankful for the community around the EL program.
“It’s diverse. It’s growing,” Ross said. “We have amazing families that we work with and such supportive parents. We are really luck to have the community we have.”