Equity and ESL

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, July 5, 2017
West Liberty’s Brenda Arthur Miller gave an Equity Team Report and English as a Second Language (ESL) report for a final time Monday, May 19, for the school board.

Arthur-Miller, Dual Language Director and Vice Principal for the West Liberty School District, will be leaving her posts to become the next high school principal, replacing retiree Jim Hamilton.

However, she had a lot of information to unload on the school board.

To begin, Iowa mandates that districts analyze for discrepancies among subgroups (gender, race, ESL, disability and socioeconomic status). For WLCSD, that task falls to the Equity Team.

According to employee trend data, a higher percentage of staff and teachers at WLCSD are both female and white, especially in the Early Learning Center and Elementary School.

While not uncommon, the Equity Team is looking into ways to encourage the incoming teacher population from colleges to better reflect the school district.

“[We’d like to] encourage colleges that we are a diverse population and would like our teachers and our student teachers to reflect our population,” said Arthur-Miller.

To shift gears, activity participation from students remains equal among boys and girls, though there is less participation from students with low SES or English Language Learners (ELL).

Activities include sports and fine arts. Specifically, sports such as golf, volleyball and softball have lower numbers for English Language Learners.

The Equity Team attributes low SES and ELL turnout in volleyball and softball to the considerable investment years before high school it takes to succeed.

“Also, softball and baseball, just summer sports in general, we struggle to get members,” added Arthur-Miller. “Softball in particular.”

There has been a push by Activities Director James Laughlin to have coaches encourage students to participate in multiple sports.

They’d like to set up an activities fair during Back-to-School night next year just to spread information to students about activities they just don’t know a lot about.

When it comes to high school enrollment, Arthur-Miller noted their was nothing out of the norm with what they’ve seen for previous years.

There’s a higher percentage of white males in Agriculture and Industrial Tech course as well as Computer and Businesses courses. Meanwhile, theres a higher percentage of women and Hispanics in Family and Consumer Sciences.

The Equity Team would like the teachers to examine wording in the course descriptions to see if there’s any subtle bias, as well as continue to encourage all students to participate.

They’d also like to see the district higher a new Agriculture teacher that is a woman. Longtime agriculture teacher Dick Brand retired at the end of the previous school year.

The Equity Team found that a majority of suspensions in 2015/16 were attributed to while males with low socioeconomic status (SES). However, the numbers weren’t high enough to cause a concern.

They did find a lower number of Hispanic and English Language Learner (ELL) students were participating in the Gifted and Talented program.

“Jackie Henderson is very aware of that and started looking at it year ago, and actually has changed how she helps students qualify for Gifted and Talented,” said Arthur-Miller.

TAG Director Henderson has evened out qualifications between assessments and teacher recommendations, allowing numbers to be more reflective of the overall student population.

Next, Brenda Arthur-Miller focused her attention on WLCSD’s English as a Second Language (ESL) Program, and how it faired over the previous year.

The ESL Program is an instructional program for students whose dominant language is not English. Its purpose is to increase English language proficiency.

According to Arthur-Miller there are currently 305 ESL student in grades K-12. There were 11 new comers this year, nine of which were at the high school.

First grade had the most ESL students at 49, followed by 39 in kindergarten. There’s an average of 23 kids per grad level, with the lowest numbers in the high school.

In order to qualify for the ESL program a student goes through two major steps. Step one, guardians fill out a home language survey when the student enters the district.

On the survey its asked what the home’s primary language is, as well as what language the student spoke first and what language he/she speaks most frequently.

“The state says if there’s language other than english on this form you have to consider them for testing for ESL,” said Arthur-Miller

That leads to the second step, testing. Students are asked to perform a series of commands and prompts in English and their ability understand and perfume the task is evaluated.

“We did have 31 student who, on their home language survey, indicated another language than english that were tested but did not qualify,” said Arthur-Miller. “It’s not just that if your language is something other than english than your automatically in ESL, we do testing.”

The ultimate goal for the ESL program is to exit its students, meaning the student is fully capable of understanding and comprehending English.

In order to do so, a student must be proficient in reading and math on Iowa Assessments and on the English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA) in the same year.

However, Authur-Miller hinted that the state might remove the need for students to be proficient on Iowa Assessments, leaving it up to just ELPA.

The program exited 17 students, the year before 18 students were exited. However, there seems to be a lack of students leaving the program in high school.

This is a problem said Arthur-Miller, one that may have to do with ELPA.

“I would say of the 61 kids at the high school half of them have been here for enough years that we would expect that they would have exited,” she said.

At recent state conference for ESL, she discovered that many districts are having trouble exiting kids from the program in high school due to ELPA. The state is putting together a task force to look at the assessment.

However, there is good news for West Liberty, high school ELPA scores have at least gone up the past two years.

“Of the 52 kids that were here last that are here this year, 24 of them showed growth in one or more of the four domains,” she added. “So close to half of them showed growth.”
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