Austin Schools Working to End Language Barrier

Posted at: 11/06/2013 7:01 PM
Updated at: 11/21/2013 4:53 PM

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's a sign of the changing times: students in the Austin school district now speak more than 50 different "home languages".

But their proficiency in English varies widely.

Now, the Austin school district is winning high marks for efforts to level that playing field.

"Just imagine spending 8 hours in the classroom without knowledge of what the teacher tried to say," said Sumner elementary school success coach Enrique Camarena-Corzo.

Educators call it AMAO ... that's short for Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives.

"It's a part of the No Child Left Behind Act that deals specifically with English learners and how they are progressing in the development of their English skills," said Austin school district E-L coordinator Lori Henry.

And school districts are evaluated in three areas: "Progress towards proficiency in English, those student reaching proficiency in English, and our overall educational achievement in reading and math with our English learners," Lori Henry explained.

And this year, the Austin school district surpassed those objectives in all three areas for the first time since 2007.

"We have undertaken a great deal of professional development with all of our staff," EL coordinator Lori Henry told us.

“One of the successes is the school system has the EL teachers to help them, to improve their English," success coach Enrique Camarena-Corzo said.

The Austin school district now has about 700 English learners. That’s about 15 percent of the district’s total student population.

"If they are not learning the language how can they get a college degree to be a success in life?," Enrique Camarena-Corzo asked.

“We have increased the rigor of our instruction,” Lori Henry explained, “so we're not only working on language development within that kind of language we need for interaction, we're working on academic language, more specifically."

I's a skill that comes more easily to children ... especially when they’re immersed inEnglish.

"A year before, he didn't speak none of that language. Now he speaks completely, he can read, he can write. That's amazing," said success coach Enrique Camarena-Corzo.

“The goal is that our English learners have the same opportunities to interact with grade-level curriculum and standards as all of the students in our district," added EL coordinator Lori Henry.