Riverside, California 2021-10-10 07:30:06 –
Six months ago, 16-year-old Hondurans Jeffrey Flores arrived in Fort Worth with his family without knowing English, but knew he would be the first to work in a new country.
“It’s important for me to learn English so that I can do a good job,” Flores said in Spanish.
Flores is one of about 1 million Texas students enrolled in English as a second language class, and about 20% of the state’s 5.4 million public school students. He and his two brothers attend the International New Comers Academy in the Fort Worth Independent School District. This academy is new to the country and is designed for students who need to learn English.
Students like Flores and his brother are not alone in their journey. According to the 2020 census, more people of color, especially Hispanics, come to Texas each year, and nearly two million more Hispanics call Texas their hometown in the last decade. Overall, Color Texas accounted for 95% of the state’s population growth.
Therefore, teaching non-English-speaking children is more important than ever.
But the pandemic threatens what was originally a vulnerable area of education. A recent pre-pandemic study by Rice University suggests that Texas is exacerbated by teaching English to students, which impacts both their academic success and their potential lifetime income. ..
Throughout the state, researchers have found an increasing number of English learners who have failed to become fluent in the language after five years of ESL classes. The survey tracked students enrolled in grade 1 between 2000 and 2015 to see if they would become proficient by the time they reached grade 5 (basically whether they would graduate from ESL). Those who did not were called “long-term English learners.”
For several years, the number of long-term English learners has been stable. But it has started to rise since 2008. By the 2014-15 academic year, nearly 7 out of 10 students who started their first year as English learners at a public school in Texas were unable to master within five years.
According to researcher Lizzie Cassiola, children need to be fluent in English by the fifth grade.
“Early, the study did not reclassify and found that children who are more likely to start middle school as an English learner are much more likely to drop out and much more likely to stay in high school. It’s shown. It’s much less likely that you’ll graduate on time, “Casiola said.
Researcher Daniel Potter said he has not identified the exact reason for the significant increase in students unable to graduate from ESL classes, but said factors include lack of funding, teacher shortages, and student residence. rice field.
“I don’t know at this point if you’re going to identify the silver bullet,” Potter said. “This is a multifaceted issue. That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.”
But, again, the path to progress is complicated by the school interruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Potter and Cassiola do not yet know the full extent of the pandemic’s impact on English learners, but they do know that it has not improved things.
“The school could have been one of the few spaces where those students were exposed to the majority environment in English, and COVID completely evaporated that space,” Potter said. ..
Cassiola said second graders starting this fall may find it easy to catch up with lost learning, but it may be difficult for older people in the process of reclassification.
It is a well-known fact that the uncertainties created by the transition to virtual learning and pandemics have affected students, creating skill gaps, especially for poor and colored students.
Faiha Al-Atrash, parent coordinator of the International Newcomers Academy, said last year was a major challenge for school children, as face-to-face learning is essential for students unfamiliar with the country and learning languages.
“The teacher is talking to them, they can see their reaction [and] Make sure they really understand, “Al-Atrash said.
The teacher encountered some problems with virtual learning, such as students not logging on to their computer, logged in but not paying attention. The distractions caused by the pandemic have hurt students’ ability to learn and retain information, she said. Parents of ESL students also cannot help their children because they do not understand the language. This used to be a problem, but the pandemic was even worse, especially if parents couldn’t navigate the technology.
Flores’ father, Jorge Flores Gutierrez, said in Spanish that he could not help his son with his homework. Participating in class is the best way to learn a language, as your son can practice speaking with others.
Lotus Hoey, an ESL teacher at Pershing Middle School in Houston, said returning to face-to-face classes this fall is the most difficult for her English learners. They haven’t been in contact for over a year, and it’s clear that the lack of structure impaired their English-speaking skills.
“They don’t have stamina because they’re wearing pajamas and learning in bed,” Hoy said.
Hoy said she and her colleagues were only trying to go slowly with the children so they could catch up.
Ovidia Molina, president of the Texas Teachers’ Association, said problems with proficiency within that five-year period could be tracked before the pandemic.
As an 11-year ESL teacher, she felt the pressure to pass these children’s tests rather than giving them thoughtful instructions to help them succeed.
“I taught grades 7 and 8, my 7th and 8th grades were at the 1st and 2nd grade levels,” she said. “There is no way to move them from 1st and 2nd grade levels to 7th grade levels.”
Molina states that the ESL program requires more funding, smaller classroom sizes, and goals that should not be contingent on passing the test.
Earlier this year, Texas legislators passed Senate Bill 560. The bill requires educators to come up with more strategic plans to improve bilingual education by exploring ways to increase the number of bilingual teachers and bilingual programs. There is a better way to identify the students who need to enroll.
David Feigen, Policy Associate for Texans Care For Children, said bilingual programs in which students learn in both their native language and English need to be increased as students participating in these programs tend to be more academically successful. I said there is. Only one in five English learners is enrolled in such a program.
Before the pandemic, only one in twelve bilingual students was ready for college by the time he graduated, Fagen said. If this law doesn’t spread, pandemics can make things worse.
Fagen said providing quality education to these students would help not only the students, but also the state as a bilingual workforce to represent a valuable part of society.
When the next session comes, legislators need to have a plan and a timeline to do what the law intends to do. Fagen said it is essential for Texas to hire, retain, and grow bilingual teachers in order for things to go well.
“Texas is a bilingual state,” he said. “We are a state that welcomes immigrants from different backgrounds.”
Andy Canales, Executive Director of Latinos for Education, Texas, says more bilingual teachers are in urgent need. Canales said that more color teachers will improve the learning of ESL students. He also pointed out that the pandemic revealed how economic inequality plays a major role in learning success.
He said that many English learners live in economically disadvantaged areas and may not have access to after-school programs and other learning opportunities that others have.
“As a society, we need to understand how to give the most vulnerable students access to affluence and learning opportunities,” Canales said.
Disclosure: Rice University, Texas Care for Children, and Texas State Teachers Association are financial backers of the Texas Tribune, a non-profit, non-partisan news organization partially funded by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. .. Financial supporters play no role in tribune journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
This article was originally published in the Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/10/08/texas-students-esl/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-backed, nonpartisan newsroom that informs and engages Texas people about state politics and policy. For more information, please visit texastribune.org.
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