MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Properly educating students who are learning English as a second language is proving to be a significant challenge for Montgomery County schools.
Students who don’t speak English as their primary language make up nearly one-quarter of the student population.
Adequate funding and training for teachers don’t exist, causing caseloads be twice the size they should, The Montgomery Advertiser reported .
Educators are scrambling to improve instruction and support, the newspaper reported.
Montgomery Public Schools is starting a new instructional model in some schools geared toward English Learning students, but meant to help the entire population.
“In public education, we receive a lot of unfunded mandates,” whether it is a federal or state mandate, Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Ann Roy Moore said.
Regardless, “They are our kids once they are in our classrooms. We are doing what we have to do for any students who come into the system,” she said.
In Montgomery, some schools saw rapid growth in students in the program in recent years. Within the past decade, Goodwyn Middle went from three English language students to 69.
Statewide, a coalition focused on increasing awareness has been formed, and Alabama lawmakers approved an increase in funding.
With more than 25,000 English language students throughout Alabama, several other school districts are serving student populations that are greater than 10%.
In Russellville City Schools, about 20% of nearly 2,500 students participate in the district’s English as a Second Language Program.
“We are underfunded, understaffed, under-resourced and teachers don’t have the professional development they need,” Superintendent Heath Grimes said.