Sergio Cedillo, Riley Mitas, and Nicholas Nelson
Education inequality is a national controversy. The study will examine the education and the increasing presence of Hispanics’ in elementary schools in Omaha. Racial regions in Omaha, determine the type of education the students will receive. Omaha represents just a small portion of the difficulties that the United States currently faces. This study will analyze different elementary schools in the OPS’s Hispanic population and their academic performance. These articles will compare the resources provided at each school to further help incoming Spanish heritage speakers accommodate to different challenges they face when adopting a new language and learning method.
The research began by analyzing nine elementary schools; all of which were in the Omaha Public School district. These various elementary schools included Miller Park, Rose Hill, Saratoga, Pawnee, Spring Lake Magnet, Walnut, Castelar, Gateway, and Gomez Heritage Elementary. The information was gathered from the Enrollment and Achievement School Data Books from the schools’ web pages from the 2015 – 2016 School year.
Introduction into findings
The data was coded by developing 5 main concepts that supported one another. The usage of Length of Time in the Program, Program Results, School Transparency, Communication, Measurement Process, and Learning Environment seemed to be present in most of the scholarly articles. While some concepts weren’t commonly present, the table below shows our common concepts.
Table 1. Concept table used to support the argument of the six concepts.
Some elementary schools, provide programs for English language learners, most schools either had English as Second Language also known as ESL, or the Dual Language program. Table 2 represents the information of the nine elementary schools gathered from Enrollment and Achievement School Data Books of the 2015 – 2016 School year. They show the school’s percent of Hispanics enrolled in school, the percentage of students in the English language learner’s programs meeting or exceeding in both the NeSA reading and writing portions; as well as the percentage of the school in the English language learning program.
Table 2. Representation of Information found from school websites.
Findings and Analyzing
Type of Program
The study finds that more than one program is available to students who are English language learners. Some schools provided what is called a Dual Language Program. It is when 50 percent of the time the students are learning course materials in Spanish and the other 50 percent of the time they are instructed in English to maintain proficiency in both languages. Omaha Public Schools Dual Language Program is one of the few programs in the country, it serves more than 1200 students in seven schools, K – 12. Students develop all four language domains in both languages; speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Dual Language students are held to equal expectations in English and Spanish, while strict language separation is maintained.
Elementary schools in the Omaha Public area with the dual language program have a similar daily plan. In the morning, they lecture in English, where they have “Reading” Literacy Block and Math. In the afternoon, they lecture in Spanish, where they have “Writing” Literacy Block, as well have Science and Social Studies. Many advantages come from these courses like students become bilingual and have a marketable skill, and students don’t have to wait until middle or high school to study a second language. Spring Lake Magnet, Castelar, and Gomez Heritage Elementary are some of the schools in the Omaha School district that offer a dual language program.
Another program well known is English as a Second Language or otherwise known as ESL, through this instruction students are taken out of their classrooms for a period of time throughout the week, where they review writing, reading, and speaking skills in English, while having trained instructors that can communicate with them in their native language as well. Elementary schools in the Omaha Public Schools district that offer an ESL program are Miller Park, Rose Hill, Saratoga, Pawnee, Spring Lake Magnet, Walnut, Castelar, Gateway, and Gomez Heritage Elementary. Some schools as listed above offer both Dual Language and ESL instruction.
As stated by Romilia Domínguez, “The level of proficiency in one language influences the level of proficiency in the other language.” Over the years, a dramatic increase of Spanish speaking students in U.S. schools has increased. It is stated that 78% of English language learners in Grades K-12 speak Spanish. Two different formats have been created to measure and instruct English learning students, one being the use of English for every single subject of the study. Another being the incorporation of Spanish to increase both their fluency in both Spanish and English. This comes to show that whether students are provided with Dual Language or an ESL program, with detailed instruction they are going to improve. Students are capable of learning English whether they are provided with an additional resource, just a student not enrolled in the program is most likely to learn the language at a slower pace and not the proper way.
Percentage of Hispanics in Schools/NESA
The number of Hispanic students enrolled in schools within the United States has increased significantly. Keeping this in mind the need for resources for those students to excel academically has also increased. In the study, the elementary schools analyzed had a wide range enrollment of Hispanics in its schools from 10 – 89 percent. Along with this, the percent of English language learners in programs was also varying from 3.6 – 60.1 percent.
Subsequently, NeSA scores were also collected to see the programs academic excellence, considering both the reading and writing portions of the test. For the NeSA-Reading portion, students in the English learning program from Saratoga had a score of 0% meeting or exceeding the standards, being the lowest on the list. With Spring Lake Magnet Elementary having the highest in their English language learning program in the reading portion at 69% of students meeting or exceeding the standards. In the NeSA writing portion, the ELL students from Miller Park elementary had a 100% of them meeting and exceeding the standards. Unfortunately, Gateway Elementary came in last with 47% of its ELL students meeting or exceeding the standards. It also compares each school’s English language learners NeSA scores with the schools’ average test results, to compare the performance of each.
The researchers added the percentage of Hispanics in schools and their NeSA scores because it shows that it’s necessary to monitor the student’s academic progress to make sure that the program is meeting the student’s needs. With the rapid increase of Hispanic students in Omaha elementary schools, it has become difficult to monitor and meet every student needs to assist them to perform to their maximum potential. By organizing and comparing the data in both the reading and writing portions of the NeSA, both the schools and state can make sure that schools are being provided what they need. Figure 1, compares the data collected and puts into perspective the performance of the English language learning programs and the overall school’s academic performance in the NeSA test, provided by the state.
Figure 1. Chart comparing ELL Students vs. Schools Average NeSA Scores
Program Entrance Process
The Language Assessment Scales test is used to qualify a student for the English language learner program available at their elementary school whether it be ESL or Dual Language, in the Omaha school district. This two portion test consists of one part being in Spanish and the other in English, it provides information of the student’s ability to orally communicate and perform in four different regions being: phonemic, lexical, syntactic, and pragmatic. These regions depict student’s emphasis on most difficult sounds and words; they also look at pictures to identify and reading sentences to connect both the story and picture together.
If the student scores a 1 or a 2 they automatically qualify for the program if they receive a 3 or higher they are ineligible for the program. Afterward, parents meet with school staff to sign paperwork to have a student enrolled in the program. As well as, discuss benefit so of the program and further ways parents can assist both the program professionals and student succeed. Other information collected during the study from the Omaha Public Schools about entering the dual language program was, that kindergartners automatically qualify if an older sibling is in the program. Newcomers, however, are automatically placed into the dual language program.
Conducting an exam to see where the student academically stands is an appropriate way to determine the acceptance of the student into the English language learner program. It also helps program professionals determine areas of weakness that can be addressed while the child is in the program. Making sure that the student is placed within the same region of students that need assistance in a region to improve their reading, writing, and speaking English skills is essential.
The Omaha elementary schools receive funding for their English language learner program based on the number of students in the program. Unfortunately, budget amounts were not disclosed by the schools. However, researchers were provided with the information that the money given to fund the programs is used to pay for paraprofessionals and materials, along with other things. It is evident that some information must be kept confidential sometimes making it difficult to compare the impact of funding on a program’s success.
The learning environment is independently planned based on each school’s and student’s needs. Teachers plan instruction so that the knowledge that the students will receive can be learned effectively. Teachers are trained in various strategies for language learning, using visuals to better interact with the students, as well as technology. The students are instructed by these professionals in ESL for example for several times a week. In dual language, however, it’ll be in a class where they learn both in English and Spanish. Some students are pulled out of leveled literacy instruction during their classes reading time, to have more of a one on one experience. These classes are kept in small groups were as regular classrooms have a larger number of students.
Where and how the student is instructed has an enormous impact on their learning. Spanish-speaking children across the nation acquire more skill based instructions through just practice on worksheets, rather than on hands practice like implementing it into their everyday lives because of these students is rarely asked to think critically. It is important that when educating, children are supplied with strategies where they will be able to use them on different subjects.
Gomez Heritage Elementary school’s ESL instructor, Melissa Wolken, provided that “The school communicates with Spanish-speaking parents in many ways. We have a bilingual liaison, as well as several other bilingual staff, including myself.” On many schools’ websites, program information was provided in both Spanish and English or provided with a number to contact for further questions not answered in the translations.
Maintaining contact with the parents of children within these English language learner programs is important. Having the parent know what the student must work on at home can help the student progress faster academically. The language barrier can sometimes be a big problem not allowing these parents to assist their children, but if the schools can provide translators it helps the parents know what to do. Even if it’s just telling their child to read, write, or do their homework helps. Communication is most key to help the students’ progress faster through any English language learning program.
Examining data put forth, allowed researchers to conclude that Omaha Elementary schools are being equipped with programs to further assist Spanish-speaking students to excel. Work still must be done, to make sure that every single school is communicating with parents, and instructing students to learn strategies that will remain useful throughout their educational career, allowing them to excel in whatever they do. Giving the opportunity to all students that need this instruction is the goal. After examining both scholarly articles and secondary sources, these observations have been made.
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