About four years ago, Daviess County Public Schools rolled out a program to meet the needs of students who were coming into an English speaking school for the first time. Since then, the Newcomer program, and its tiered systems of support, has helped in the education of the 600 English language learners across the district.
The Newcomer program is in place at Apollo High School and College View Middle School.
Once students go through the Newcomer program, they enter into what Apollo instructional coach and English teacher Christina King called the “sheltered program.” The sheltered program is for students who have been acclimated to the environment in an English-speaking school, but who still need levels of support.
Jana Beth Francis, DCPS assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said some students enter the Newcomer program and finish earlier, depending on how quickly they pick up a second language. This also depends on how much formal schooling they had in their native language.
Francis called these programs “intensive interventions,” meaning students will spend some of their time receiving intense instruction in English language acquisition.
“One year in an English-speaking school does not make you ready to walk into a sophomore English class,” Francis said, which is why they have the sheltered program to provide more structured support.
Students in the sheltered programs are taught core content, like English, social studies, math and science. They are taught the same content as their English-speaking peers, but some of it might be different to meet their needs.
For example, King said, they might have an alternate version of “Romeo and Juliet” or “Dracula.”
“So the difficulty level isn’t high, but we are still able to talk with them about the content, so they are ready to take their high-stakes tests and are still learning the same standards are their same-age peers,” she said.
Most teachers aren’t trained to teach non-English-speaking students. At the high school level especially, they are trained in their content areas, King said, which is why these programs are so important for non-English speaking populations.
“As our world has changed, we end up getting more and more students that don’t speak English,” she said. “When you look at best practices for helping someone learn a language, you can’t let their academics fall behind.”
King has seen students go through these programs and can attest to their effectiveness. She remembers one student, in particular, as being timid and shy upon first entering AHS. Now, that student participates in a team sport and is able to have conversations with students and adults without anxiety, which is a big step, she said.
She also said the English-speaking students have been taking it upon themselves to assist their non-English-speaking peers as well, and all students have taken pride in the diversity at the school.
“I love the diversity,” King said. “I’m glad we are the hub. I think it’s good for all our students.”
For the first time this year, she said, the school will host a Global Fest to celebrate the school’s diversity. From 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 18 in the commons area at Apollo, students who represent the diverse population of students will be sharing with the public about their nationalities and backgrounds. Area students will also be sharing information about their cultural heritage at the event as well.
Chelsea Vandiver, AHS Spanish teacher, said Global Fest is an opportunity to bring people together and to celebrate diversity.
“Students will have the opportunity to share their culture or heritage, or to share about a place where they have traveled or would like to travel, while also learning about other cultures,” Vandiver said.
For more information about Global Fest contact Vandiver at Chelsea.firstname.lastname@example.org or 270-852-7100.
The event is free and open to the public.
Bobbie Hayse, email@example.com, 270-691-7315