http://mv-voice.com/print/story/print/2008/05/16/a-medal-for-english-learners


Mountain View Voice

News - May 16, 2008

A medal for English learners

District holds ceremony for students passing battery of language tests

by Casey Weiss

Dozens of students, walking proudly across the stage, were cheered by parents, teachers and administrators Monday for one of the most important accomplishments in their educational careers: becoming proficient users of the English language.

These Mountain View Whisman School District students, 165 in all, were reclassified this week as being proficient in English after years of studying the language.

The students, representing all six elementary schools and both middle schools, received a certificate of reclassification and a medal from trustees and district administrators at Castro Elementary School on Monday evening. Being proficient for these non-native English speakers means they can now complete the appropriate grade level work.

"Kids, I am so proud of you," Superintendent Maurice Ghysels said during the ceremony. "My heart is gushing."

To be reclassified, the students scored advanced or early advanced on the California English Language Development Test last fall, passed both the California Standard Test and a writing assessment, and were recommended by their teachers. The number of students reclassified jumped 50 percent this year, with only 115 passing in 2007-08.

"This is about our strong community," Ghysels said. "It is an honor and privilege to be your superintendent."

There are still 1,963 students in the district who need to be reclassified as English proficient or fluent, according to Judy Crates, director of English language development. It normally takes six years for a student to be reclassified, and usually is more difficult for older students.

"Students who come to us in fourth to eighth grade may not be reclassified until high school," Crates said.

With Latinos making up more than 40 percent of the district's student population, administrators and teachers have made English language development one of their benchmarks. Although the majority of students reclassified were Spanish speakers, the students came from around the world, speaking 19 different languages, including Bengali, Farsi and Serbo-Croatian.

Crates said English language programs, parent participation and the students' hard work all contributed to the increase in reclassified students.

"This is a very special night because it is good news," she told the hundreds of audience members, switching between English and Spanish. "We celebrate the success of our students."

Now that these students are proficient in English, most of them will no longer receive specialized help, and will spend most of their time in the regular classroom setting. Crates said the district has high standards for its students.

"They are in regular classrooms and the expectations for them are the same as students who are native speakers," she said. "Our English speakers do very well."

MANY TONGUES:

Following is a list of the native languages spoken by those students who received a medal and certificate on Monday:

Bengali

Cantonese

Farsi

Filipino

French

German

Hindi

Japanese

Korean

Mandarin

Pashto

Portuguese

Punjabi

Russian

Serbo-Croatian

Spanish

Thai

Turkish

Vietnamese

E-mail Casey Weiss at cweiss@mv-voice.com

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