Local News

Bridging Language Barrier Strains Wake Schools

Posted August 28, 2007

— Students who don't speak English account for part of the enrollment growth in Wake County schools, putting pressure on the school district's English-as-Second-Language program.

More than 7,000 students are enrolled in the district's ESL program, which is offered at almost all public schools in the county. A quarter of the ESL students don't speak a word of English, officials said.

"For those who come here with limited schooling or are completely unschooled, it's very, very difficult to catch up," said Carol Dukes, who teaches students from 20 different countries in an ESL class at Raleigh's Broughton High School.

The students spend about 45 minutes to an hour a day with ESL teachers like Dukes. The rest of the time is spent in traditional classrooms.

"Many of those students will drop out. It's just so much of a struggle to learn the basics," she said.

The district's ESL program has been growing by about 10 percent a year, director Tim Hart said. Regular classroom time helps students absorb English and adapt, he said.

"They are having to learn English, and yet they've got to learn the regular curriculum also," he said.

Regulations under the federal No Child Left Behind program also require the ESL students to take the same end-of-grade and end-of-course tests as other students.

"People say it's almost like shooting at a moving target with these students," Hart said.

Dukes said she would like to see a different school for those who don't have the language skills and background to thrive in regular classes.

"These students need to be in a special environment with ESL teachers who can help them," she said.

Hart said such a school is in the planning stages. Also, ESL programs will be added next year at Enloe High School and Brooks Elementary School, the only two schools in the district that don't offer the instruction, he said.


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  • the alliance Aug 30, 2007

    I imagine if I moved to Mexico, it would put a strain on their MSL program as well. And fill up their schools.

  • Harrison Bergeron Aug 29, 2007

    "Math and music do NOT depend on English - and Mexican schools are light years ahead of US ones when it comes to math and science. The kids coming in are not ignorant - they just don't speak much English." - Fragment Four

    Ha Ha Ha!! While US students may have poor math/science standing in international comparisons compared to a handful of other countries, Mexico usually rounds out the bottom of any of the lists I've seen (PISA, TIMSS, etc).

    And speaking of the ignorance of illegals, a significant percentage of illegals are not only uneducated, but they are functionally illiterate in their native Spanish.

  • dianadarling Aug 29, 2007

    Lets see 7000 students equals about 10 elementary schools! Open your checkbook wake county residents.

  • NC is my home Aug 29, 2007

    This should not be a problem. First, if a child's parents are illegally in this country, deport them. We don't need to have the extra cost and problems. Secondly, for those children whose parents are here legally (they should be speaking English at home), the parents should pay for any extra required subjects like English. Afterall when they moved to American, they knew we speak English. When I was in school, subjects like: music, drama, etc. were paid for by my parents because our school didn't have these subjects available. (But of course we had a full sports program!) Until a child can speak the language adequately, he should not be put with the regular classes to slow them down, while the teacher has to accomodate special needs. If special ed kids aren't allowed in normal classes, then other students not meeting the standards should be held back until they can learn on the same level. Anyone moving to another country, doesn't expect everything to change to accomodate him.

  • haggis basher Aug 29, 2007

    If we are legally obliged to educate these kids the they should have to go to English only lessons until they can read and write in english to their grade level. Then they can enter the school system proper at whatever grade their proficency in math and science allow.
    If we are not obliged to educate them them we shouldn't. There Parents are resonsible for them being here, its their responsibility not that of those of us who are here legally (and pay more than enough taxes to pay for my kids!)

  • NCGal Aug 29, 2007

    FragmentFour, first why are illegal aliens-any illegal aliens-in our foster program? Why aren't they repatriated to their home countries when located?

    If what you say is correct, why do so many articles about illegal alien families say one of the things that they're here for is a better education for their children?

    Scratching my head on this one.

  • dlb800 Aug 29, 2007

    If Mexican schools are so far ahead than US schools, then fine, send the Mexican kids back to Mexico. I think all illegal
    aliens should be sent home.. it's too bad Congress isn't listening.

  • Timbo Aug 29, 2007

    If they don't have social security numbers, report them to immigration.

  • FragmentFour Aug 29, 2007

    As a foster parent to approximately 25 Mexican-born kids over the past 15 years, I can vouch for one thing - having to listen to the home-grown students in the public schools is the fastest way to trash up the English these kids are trying to learn.

    Math and music do NOT depend on English - and Mexican schools are light years ahead of US ones when it comes to math and science. The kids coming in are not ignorant - they just don't speak much English. Then again... neither do the non-Mexican ones when it comes to public schools, so what's the big deal?

    If more of the Noerh Carolina kids were put through ESL classes, THEIR English would improve, too.

  • -info- Aug 28, 2007

    "A recent study found that dual language programs represent an additional expense of $290 to $879 per pupil depending on the size of the class.2 In addition, because these children of illegal aliens come from families that are most often living in poverty, there is also a major expenditure for them on supplemental feeding programs in the schools. Those ancillary expenditures have not been included in the calculations in this report."
    I know for a fact, if you are illegal in Mexico, school is a joke and no-one educationally or in business is going to offer you English unless you are spending big bucks at their resorts.........