Gov. John Carney recently visited North Georgetown Elementary and unveiled a strategic plan to address the educational needs of Delaware’s increasing population of students who do not speak English as a first language.
“Our challenge is to come up with a state plan to meet these students where they are and take it forward to increase literacy and graduation rates,” he said.
The plan, which he said will be accomplished through a mixture of school district funding, referendums and state funds, if available, is intended to provide more support for English Language Learners and recognize their unique educational needs as a priority.
In the last 20 years, the number of students who do not speak English when they start school has increased by 433 percent, said Carney.
“The changing demographics of Delaware require us to think differently about how we provide learning opportunities for our students, particularly our English learners,” he said.
According to Principal Heather Cramer, a mandated focus on the education of ELL students is welcome news at her school, since a majority of the students do not speak English when they start at North Georgetown.
“In 2011, we had 713 students, total, and 311 were English language learners,” Cramer said. “Now, we have 805 students going to North Georgetown and 521 of them are English language learners.”
While 61 percent of those students speak Spanish as their first language, she said many other students speak languages such as Haitian or Creole at home and do not yet speak English.
Olinda Coverdale, an English as a Second Language teacher at Cape Henlopen School District, said she hopes this plan will help many of the ELL students at Cape High, who need additional support with content in classes and grade levels they were placed in, mostly due to age as opposed to ability or prior education.
“Hopefully this will make them realize we can do better and we should do better for these students, but we need funds,” Coverdale said. “Support of the school district is good, but we would like to see some specific funding.”