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English Learners, Mostly Hispanic, on Rise in Local Schools

By Josh Mitchell

Corinth Today News Editor

The number of students who are not proficient in the English language continues to increase in local school districts, officials say.

Most of these students are Hispanic, and the goal is to help them develop English skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking, Corinth and Alcorn school district officials say.

The Corinth School District has many more English Learners (EL), as they are called, than the Alcorn School District.

The Corinth School District has 150 such students while the Alcorn School District has 25. However, both districts have seen an increase in students who lack the needed English language skills.

Hollie Butler, who is the EL coordinator for the Corinth School District, said when she started with the district about five years ago there were around 80 such students, and now that is getting close to doubling.

Likewise, the Alcorn School District had about 11 of the students a few years ago and now the number has more than doubled to 25.

With the increases, school officials are looking for ways to keep providing these students with the support they need.

This week, school district officials will attend an EL conference in Oxford to develop strategies to further help the students become proficient in English.

The Alcorn School District alone has at least 15 staff and administrators attending the conference, said Brian Phelps, federal programs director.

Corinth EL students receive interventions from certified teachers who help the children develop English language skills, said Butler.

The Alcorn School District also offers several programs to help EL students, including after-school programs for the elementary children.

Classroom teachers also provide additional accommodations to meet those students’ needs.

The students have language service plans customized for their needs since the various EL students come into the districts with different levels of English ability. Moreover, some students may come into the school system at an early age while others may not enroll until they are in high school.

In the spring, the EL students take a test to gauge their abilities in the four areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking. They must score proficient in reading and writing and overall for the other two categories to exit the EL program.

Once they exit, they are monitored for four years during which time their grades are reviewed periodically, and there is also teacher feedback. If the students are not excelling they can be put back into the EL program if they do not score high enough on a state screening.

The Corinth School District has EL students in kindergarten through 12th grade. But most of them — 93 — are in the elementary school. There are 37 at Corinth Middle School and 20 at the high school.

Most of the EL students in the Alcorn School District are also at the elementary level.

The Mississippi Department of Education recommends that EL students exit the program within five years, but school officials stressed that the time line can vary based on the individual backgrounds of the students and the amount of instruction they come to the district with.

The statewide accountability system that assigns school districts grades based on a formula also now factors in the proficiency of EL students, Phelps said.

Statewide, there are about 12,100 EL students, and the EL population is “growing rapidly,” according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

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