July 17, 2011

Article: English Language Learners in Crete, Nebraska

From http://www.omaha.com/article/20110706/NEWS01/707069937

Language a barrier on test scores
By Joe Dejka
July 6, 2011

When parents descended on the Crete Public Schools for parent-teacher conferences last school year, 22 Spanish translators hired by the district were there to greet them.

“It's incredibly important,” Superintendent Kyle McGowan said. “We don't want language to be a barrier.”

Breaking down the language barrier is one facet of the small Nebraska district's approach to raising Hispanic achievement as its minority population grows sharply, largely drawn by employment at a local meatpacking plant.

A new government report suggests that Crete is on the right track.

The report reveals the language barrier as a key reason why the nation's Hispanic students continue to score lower than their white peers on national math and reading tests.

An achievement gap has persisted relatively unchanged over the past two decades nationally.

At the same time, both whites and Hispanics have improved their scores steadily, if slightly, according to the report from the U.S. Department of Education.

McGowan said his district has chosen to confront the language challenges rather than make excuses.

“We could say, ‘Gee, we have too many parents not speaking English, how can we have parent-teacher conferences?' Or we could go out and get 22 translators,” he said. “We could complain about kids coming to kindergarten and not speaking English, or we can serve 186 children in early childhood programs.”

Read the full article at http://www.omaha.com/article/20110706/NEWS01/707069937

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