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Central Oregon schools fall short on ESL goals

By Mackenzie Wilson
Published On: Oct 02 2012 08:33:45 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Mackenzie Wilson reports as results from Oregon English Language Proficiency Assessments show many districts failing to make the grade.

BEND, Ore. -

Oregon school districts produced mixed results on tests showing whether the nearly 60,000 students who speak English as a second language are making adequate progress.

Districts must hit three targets to receive a passing grade on the report. Only 19 of the state's 197 districts accomplished the feat while 102 failed. The remaining 76 districts either have no English language learners or too few to be rated.

Rob Saxton, the new deputy superintendent of public instruction, called the results "simply unacceptable."

More than 150 languages besides English are spoken by Oregon children and their families. Spanish is the most common, followed by Russian, Vietnamese and Chinese.

Most of these students attend school in or near Portland and Salem, but many are also here in Central Oregon

Teachers at Bear Creek Elementary in Bend have a few different ways of talking with their students. Their dual immersion program is a huge hit -- parents can start their kids in Spanish the same day they start kindergarten.

But it's the progress of students who need to learn English that worries school officials around the state.

The program is dubbed ELL for English Language Learners, or students whose first language is not English.

Parents of every student in Bend-La Pine Schools fill out a language survey.

"That helps us to know whether we need to provide them with additional support in English along with all of their other normal classes," Dana Arntson, director of federal programs for Bend-La Pine Schools, said Tuesday.

Depending on their age, students in the program spend 30 minutes to one full period in special classes.

Every year, ELL students are given a state-mandated test - the English Learning Proficiency Assessment.

Bend La Pine Schools fell short in several target points of the test, but came the closest to passing out of the 33 districts in Oregon serving the largest chunk of ELL students.

"It tells me that I think our teachers are really hitting the mark," Arntson said. "But we strive to serve every single student, and we're going to continue to strive to improve our program so that we can offer the best possible program to all students."

A little more about the different parts of the test: Schools are rated on whether the students move up one level on the English language proficiency scale each year, Bend-La Pine fell less than a percentage point short of passing this goal.

Another tier of the test is whether a student exits the program and how quickly. Bend-La Pine Schools passed one part of this but failed another. Last, and most controversial, students must pass the same OAKS state exam as their peers whose first language is English.

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