Delaware News

School district's programs lend hand to English learners

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Enrollment of students who are English Language Learners is slightly up this year in the Delaware City School District.

"ELL" is the Ohio Department of Education's term that describes students still learning English, formerly referred to as English as a Second Language students.

The district currently has 59 ELL students, up from 54 students last year. Spanish speakers make up the highest percentage of the district's ELL students.

Over the past few years, the district also has had students who speak Mandarin, Somali and various African dialects, district leaders said.

The district has two full-time specialists who work with the students to ensure they are following the curriculum. They also provide consulting for teachers in order to ensure the students are receiving an education that works for them.

The highest percentage of ELL students are at Woodward Elementary School, which has a more-structured ELL program. According to district Program and Curriculum Director Amy Piacentino, parents are given the option of enrolling their ELL students in Woodward so the students get all the help that they need.

"The specialists float around in the schools to consult with the teachers," Piacentino said. "We try to make sure the students have access to the regular curriculum as much as possible and avoid having to pull them out of the classroom."

The language barrier tends to be more difficult as the age of the student rises, Piacentino said, but she said she is amazed how much students learn in a short amount of time.

Translation services also are abundant in the district and in the community, and they rely on a number of sources to assist with breaking through the language barrier.

"We have phones that provide translation services; we have help from Ohio Wesleyan University staff and students; and we have a network of people in the community who we can call upon if we need assistance translating," she said.

The Woodward Family Resource Center, 200 S. Washington St., also is a huge aid for the families -- and anyone in the community who is learning English, Piacentino said, not just parents with students attending school.

The center provides free tax preparation, screening for government benefits, support groups, community computers, Hispanic services, family fun nights and more.

Piacentino said having students from different cultures is an advantage in the classroom.

"Diversity in cultures brings a greater richness to the classroom," she said. "We absolutely look forward to incorporating cultural diversity in the classroom -- and honestly, we tend to learn more from them than they learn from us."

She said students are growing socially as well as academically, and some things transcend all cultures.

"I was speaking with a student who is ELL at Hayes and she said that fashion and music are very much the same," Piacentino said. "She was listening to the same music that her fellow classmates were listening to. However, I wasn't listening to that music, so I was the odd man out," she said laughingly.

Piacentino said district leaders continue to look at the programs provided for ELL students and are constantly endeavoring to improve.

"We don't pretend to do everything right," she said. "We are continuing to ask questions and make sure we are working to make things better."

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