Riverhead BOE: New ESL requirements; security budget increases

Caption:  District ESL director Liz Scaduto and Assistant Superintendent David Wicks discussed new state regulations for students who need instruction in English Tuesday
ESL director Liz Scaduto and assistant superintendent David Wicks discussing new state regulations for students who need instruction in English at Tuesday’s school board meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Riverhead School District officials are bracing for a large influx of students requiring English instruction next fall, along with a new set of state regulations.

Liz Scaduto — the district’s director for World Languages, Bilingual Programs, and English as a Second Language — and David Wicks, assistant superintendent for instruction and curriculum, gave a presentation about the district’s ESL population at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

During the 2001-02 school year, there were  223 ESL students and five ESL teachers, Ms. Scaduto said.

She said the number of English language learners, which are students who aren’t proficient in English, has increased over the years: 378 in 2006-07; 684 in 2013; 815 in 2014 and 970 in the current school year.

The district now has 17 ESL teachers and five bilingual teachers, which are teachers who teach two languages as opposed to just English.

• See related story: Phillips Avenue kindergartners taking classes in English & Spanish

The state is requiring bilingual education when there are 20 ESL students with the same native language in a grade, Mr. Wicks said.

He said the district needs additional ESL teachers in order to meet the new state regulations. He said the district goal is “for all of our students to be multi-lingual.”

Hispanic students now make up about 39 percent of the district’s enrollment, Mr. Wicks added.

“What’s important here is not to imply that all of our Spanish students are ESL students or that all of our ESL students are Hispanic,” he said. “But the majority of the increase we see in our ESL population coincides with the increase in the Hispanic population. It’s to the point where, at the high school alone, we’re bordering on 200 new [ESL] students this year.”

Ms. Scaduto said the high school experienced an increase of about 60 English language learners this school year.

The new state regulations requires districts to estimate the number of English language learners they expect in September each year.

The state is also changing the name from “English Language Learners” to “English as a New Language.”

And the new regulations also seek to integrate the English instruction more with the content of the classes they are taking.

“ESL in the past has been a pull-out program, meaning the kids were pulled from the classroom to learn English,” Ms. Scaduto said.

Now, the content of the subjects they are learning will be at the student’s grade level, and will be taught either by a teacher who is also certified in ESL or by an ESL and a regular teacher in the same classroom, she said.

ESL teachers traditionally do not have to know a second language in order to teach English.

“The goal behind this is so that the kids exit the program better prepared to meet grade level academic work and so that’s what’s guiding the state in making this decision,” Ms. Scaduto said.

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