Manassas expands language program

As the number of English as a Second Language students in city schools continues to rise, Manassas school officials began making changes over the summer to accommodate students.

School officials made it a goal in their strategic plan to restructure the ESL program over the summer.

Since changes were made, students receive ESL instruction at their neighborhood school versus being transported to another school that offers the program. Prior to the change, Weems Elementary School was the only school where students did not leave to take ESL classes last year, said Tony Lodovico, director of special education, who is working with ESL teachers at each school.

Each school’s ESL teachers are meeting to address the needs of ESL students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

All students took language proficiency tests in the fall, measuring ability to speak, read and write English. Based on those test scores, the child was placed in different levels of ESL instruction either in or out of regular instruction classes at their neighborhood school.

Beginning-level students speak little or no English and have at least two hours of instruction out of their regular instruction. Instruction includes focusing on teaching the children to speak English.

“We’re trying to teach the kids skills and content as we teach them English,” Lodovico said.

Intermediate-level students have at least one hour of service either in out of their regular classes.

Students consult with a teacher on a regular basis in the advanced program.

In the beginning, they work on understanding how to speak English. By the end of the level or at intermediate and advanced levels, students work on grammar, spelling, vocabulary and writing.

Metz’s ESL population has grown by almost half its number during the 2000-01 school year. This year, seven percent or 117 of about 1,500 students, are in ESL classes. ESL class size does not exceed 15 to 16 students at Metz.

Mary Jane Boynton came to the United States from Mexico a year ago. As ESL coordinator at Metz Middle School, she is teaching ESL students on a daily basis. While students in her class worked on a writing assignment Tuesday, she explained how she has seen their progress.

For those children who may speak a primary language over English, they do not have the same descriptive words or vocabulary to express how they feel. The different levels of ESL instruction allow students to first speak, then learn how to read and write their thoughts in English versus their primary language, Boynton said.

Four students began speaking Spanish to each other after turning in their English writing assignment on their way out from her classroom.

“They’re very smart. They’ll walk into a room and know who to speak English to and who to speak Spanish to,” Boynton said.

Staff writer Jennifer Brennan can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 123.

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