This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
Millions of students in American schools today are recent immigrants or children of immigrants. About ninety-percent of their families come from countries where English is not spoken. To succeed in school, the students need help to learn English. Many take part in a program called English for Speakers of Other Languages or ESOL (EE-sol).
For example, Glebe Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, has almost three-hundred students. More than twenty-five percent of these children study ESOL. Most of the children’s families are from Central and South America. Others are from Russia, the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and East Asia. Students at the school have families from more than twenty-five countries.
Some of these students recently helped VOA celebrate its sixtieth anniversary of broadcasting. They made birthday pictures and messages that are being shown at VOA headquarters in Washington, D.C. For example, Damaris Gaitan (Dah- MAHR-ees Guy-TAN) drew a round world to show that VOA broadcasts internationally. Damaris is in the fourth year of studies at Glebe Elementary School. Her family came here from El Salvador.
Pat Nomina (NAHM-in-ah) teaches ESOL at Glebe Elementary School. Mizz Nomina uses several teaching methods. For example, she develops study guides about subjects like the seasons, science, history and the weather. Mizz Nomina says her students enjoy singing songs with English words. She says songs that repeat words are especially helpful. Students, parents and educators have praised the school’s ESOL program.
However, education experts say many other American schools are not helping immigrant children who do not speak English well. They say not enough teachers are trained to work with these students. Schools may fail to check on their progress. Children may lose interest because they cannot understand what they hear and read.
A new group formed by the federal government may improve this situation. Thirteen experts serve on this National Literacy Panel. They will examine research about teaching English to young speakers of other languages. Educators hope the experts’ work will help develop better ways to help immigrant children.
This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.