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October 8, 2003, Extra Credit
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October 8, 2003
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Des Moines Schools Work To Improve Program For English Language Learners

Following is an excerpt from an article in today’s Des Moines Register:

“The [Des Moines school] district changed teaching methods this year to provide the growing number of students enrolled in ELL classes, which has nearly doubled since 1996, with the same standard curriculum, said district spokesman Vinh Nguyen.

“Before, ELL teachers used their own lesson plans and ideas to teach. Now, all instructors in the district are teaching the same lessons. The change should make switching schools mid-year an easier adjustment, said Nguyen.

“The books combine learning English words and traditional academic information in the same lessons.

“‘There wasn’t anything comprehensive like this before,’ [teacher Nicole Castillo-Waller] explained. ‘It’s important because we need to understand that there’s so much we’re lacking in ELL. Now they’re learning words as well as academic content (in group classes) so they are prepared to go back into the regular classroom the rest of the day.’

“Castillo-Waller hopes the new curriculum will have a positive effect on ELL student testing since guidelines from the federal No Child Left Behind Act now require nearly all students to be evaluated by state standardized tests.

“The new set of books include a test-taking instructional designed to help ELL students recognize different test and question formats. Even if a student isn’t proficient in English, at least knowing how to take a test should help ELL students’ test performance, Castillo-Waller said.

“After launching a successful ELL pilot program at Lovejoy Elementary School last year that provided voluntary ELL training to all teachers, the federal program is now offered at McKinley Elementary School. Also, both Hoyt Middle School and Wallace Elementary School are using a similar, separate grant to pay for training this year.

“The programs give teachers formal instruction to incorporate ELL strategies in the regular classroom. The grant also provides free English classes for parents of students, said Joan Looker, an ELL staff development instructor.

“‘The purpose is to implement training not only to ELL teachers, but also to regular teachers,’ Nguyen said. ‘All teachers need to have strategies and skills to know what to do with each child when the ELL teacher is not there.’”

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Last Modified: 03/05/2008