February School Committee Notes: Additional ELL Staff Needed
by Joe Walsh
Ms Rebecca Fredericks, director of Braintree Public School’s English Language Learners program (ELL) explained the department’s need for a larger staff while appearing before the School Committee Monday.
“ Staffing is our priority for certain,” said Fredericks. “ To meet the needs of our current population according to the state guidelines, we would need 22.5 ELL teachers presently in the system; we presently have 7.5.”
Fredericks noted that it is not feasible to completely reduce this discrepancy by next year, “It’s not realistic to hire fifteen ELL teachers for next year”
Instead Fredericks requested 3.5 additional ELL teachers throughout the system, .6 at Liberty and Morrison, .4 at Hollis and Flaherty, .5 at South and 1 at the Monatiquot Kindergarten Center opening next year. The need for additional staffing is due to an increase in Braintree’s ELL population in recent years, and Fredericks says she expects it to keep growing. The greatest need is at the elementary level, where the population continues to grow. Fredericks stressed that if appropriate education is given to a student at the elementary level, they will require less help down the road.
Braintree currently has about 200 ELL and former ELL students in the system, having recently exceeded the state’s threshold of a “relatively small” program to a “mid-size” program.
Braintree’s ELL program teaches children from over thirty countries that speak about twenty languages.
Fredericks explained Braintree’s current ELL system to the Committee, “ In the early 2000’s there was a ballot question about what English Language Education should look like in the state of Massachusetts. When that ballot question passed that led to sheltered English immersion which basically means when students who don’t speak English arrive here they join the same classes as everyone else, so they are learning content in English immediately… in addition to that they get English Language Education and that’s what these English teachers provide.” Fredericks also described the effect these programs have on students, “ It is difficult when you come here as a fifteen year old and you don’t speak the language at all, and you have the intellectual capability to do things at a fifteen year old level but your language is at a kindergarten level… English Language development is not just in academic language, but also in social language, as well as background and culture that these students might not bring with them.”
Mayor Joseph Sullivan stated his support for the program, “ This is an important discussion to have because it’s the reality of the classroom today, and our requirement is to educate every student that comes through the door.”