APS Working to Overcome Language Barriers

Posted at: 09/10/2013 6:35 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's a sign of a changing student population.

40 percent of the students in the Austin school district are non-white.

But there's another statistic that might come as a bigger surprise:

"As of a couple of weeks ago we actually had 51 languages represented in the Austin schools," school district curriculum director John Alberts told us.  “That's not necessarily the language spoken by the student, but it would be the primary language of communication at home."

Many of those students are proficient in English, but others aren’t. And it's one of the factors contributing to the achievement gap.

"The difference between the advantaged population and the population that would be perceived as not having the same advantages," curriculum director John Alberts explained.

When the state of Minnesota was granted an exemption from the federal no child left behind program, it implemented a new plan for monitoring the achievement gap. It compares the performance of white students and their non-white counterparts, those who receive free and reduced price lunch compared those who don't, and ...

"English language students versus their non-English counterparts," Alberts explained.

And it's changing the way schools educate.

"There's levels of support. If you are born in the united states you're exposed to English all your life you are going to need a different level of support than a student who maybe just arrived from a different country who speaks no English" said Sumner elementary school principal Sheila Berger.

“That's where we do things with our integration revenue from the state in the form of success coaches” curriculum director John Alberts explained. “We also offer some after-school programs for students including homework help."

“Some students, depending on how great their needs are, might get some support from an English language learner instructor" added Sumner principal Sheila Berger.

And it seems to be working.

"Last year we exited I think about 150 students from an English language program because they scored proficient in language" John Alberts told us.

The state will issue its next report on the "achievement gap" on October first