The following is the third of four questions we asked the 10 School Committee candidates who are running against each other in a primary on Sept. 20.
All School Committee candidates were provided the same questions via email. All answered our questions.
Answers have not been modified except where minor typographical errors were made. There have been no alterations that affect meaning.
Candidate answers are presented in alphabetical order by last name.
The presence of an asterisk (*) indicates a candidate is an incumbent.
What is your vision for the future of ELL programs in Salem Public Schools? What do you think of the current English Language Learners program?
"Our district has made an investment with a new ELL director, Jaana Thorarensen, who just started in July. A change has already been made to cluster ELL newcomers by grade and by school in order to make sure that the students get optimal hours of service in a more efficient and concentrated way. A grant has been used to offer a summer program so that students can receive additional time in learning. I learned that the performance gap for ELL will continue to be evident because the children are acquiring the English language and MCAS content. When the students are proficient they move out of ELL programs as new students are coming in. The dual language learner program at Bowditch also presently falls under ELL. It seems that the intention of this program is not fully being implemented and should be reviewed."
Nate Bryant *
"I have mixed feelings about ELL programs. On the one hand; I think that having students enrolled in ELL programs for extended periods of time may have a negative impact on their long-term progression. On the other hand; many students need these programs in order to make adequate progress. My vision for ELL programs is that they should be designed with a focus on preparing students to function in a society where English is the first language. If we do not do that, I think it will have a negative impact over the long term."
"My main vision for the future of the ELL programs in the Salem Public Schools is putting the dual language program at the Bowditch School back on its intended track. This approach, at its origin, was the most innovative program among North Shore school districts. In recent years, however, the program has become quite diluted and teaching at the school has become mostly in English. The return to the dual language program teaching is now a high priority. Secondly, I feel that the current ELL programs are not efficient enough in giving our ELL students proficiency in English Language Learning. The current estimate is that proficiency is not reached for six (6) to eight (8) years; far in excess of the goals of an initiative adopted by a vote of the citizens of the Commonwealth. Although Salem has a diverse and quite migrant school population, I do believe this process can be accomplished much more quickly. The inefficiency of the process has let to unacceptable MCAS results in the ELL sub-group. With greater efficiency in the ELL program, I believe these MCAS results can be turned around."
"My vision for the English Language Learners program would be this. Offer more time to the students in an enviroment outside of the regular classroom ELL time.The faster a student learns to be proficient at the English language, the better that student is going to feel about themselves. And the less time and money is going to have to be spent getting this done."
"My vision for English Language Learner programs is two-part. First is that the programs remain highly flexible to adjust to the needs of the student population. Second is that we move students into standard English classes as quickly as reasonable. There has been great success at the college level with content-based language courses and I see promise in this for younger students. The need for ELL programs is something that I expect will vary with time, as groups of foreign language speakers become more established in our community, as older brothers and sisters speak English at home with younger siblings, and as parents become more comfortable with English and spend time with English-speaking friends. Salem's Newcomers Program is designed for students who are new to English. It gives them what they need to get off to a good start in our schools. Also, Salem has begun to group students who are new to English by grade level. This avoids the painful situation of a single non-English speaker in a classroom in a school that may not have all the resources needed to help."
"Salem has a rich and diverse population so much so that my daughter's school holds an international night to celebrate the many different cultures present here in the city. The ELL program is one that is very necessary to help ensure that all students from our diverse population are able to fully embrace the education that we offer. The current program is solid and stable and needs to be kept in tact during the difficult financial times we are faced with and I would go so far as to say that this program is, if possible, worthy of more investment. Doing so will offer more resources to those students that need them and may help to increase MCAS scores by helping students to have a better understanding of the material presented to them."
"The English Language Learners program has helped countless students who are learning the English language. I trust that the current system in place has been generally successful. However, there is still a disconnect with students learning the language. My vision is a program with the same set up similar that exists today, but to alter the curriculum and bring down the language barrier to help ELL students have fair and equal opportunities."
"English language learners program is important to (a) broaden global communications (b) increase accessibility to job market (c) improve ability to do business on global scale (d) to get most out of World Wide Web 95% of W.W.W. is in English (e) and give your child the best start in life. Add more teachers who speak more than one language."
"There are positive community efforts underway led by the district to meet with parents of English Language Learners (ELL). There should be a greater emphasis on communicating classroom and district goals to all parents. Any parent with a clear understanding of classroom objectives can support school expectations at home. Parents of ELL students are especially isolated from accessing Salem’s academic culture and communication to parents because their own English language skills may be at or below the level of their ELL students. Finding ways to include all parents helps everyone. Students from any language backgrounds who do not have a parent at home holding them accountable to high standards for their work at school is going to present a challenge. I would further engage community enrichment providers such as the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club to enhance programs they offer to students by intentionally aligning with classroom goals."