Schools offer new English acquisition program

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A shift in how Littleton Public Schools teaches kids who are learning English is going smoothly, say administrators.

Rather than pulling students out of regular classrooms to focus on language acquisition, LPS is piloting co-teaching at two of its schools. Under that model at Field Elementary and Goddard Middle School, a second teacher comes into a classroom to work on English acquisition.

“With our old pull-out model, students were spending lots of time in transition,” said Andrea Scott, an English-language acquisition teacher at Field. “They were leaving during tier-one instruction, not finishing the tasks in the classroom and then coming back into the classroom as lost little lambs, trying to catch up with what they missed. Now instruction feels more seamless. Students are a part of the magic that happens in the classroom.”

This year, Field has 45 students who are not proficient in English, 114 with limited proficiency and 2o who are fluent but not quite ready to exit the program. It has five full-time ELA teachers.

Across the district, there are 830 English learners who speak about 50 different native languages. There are ELA programs in place at Centennial, East and Field elementaries; Goddard and Newton middle schools; and Littleton High School.

Mandy Leensvaart, the district’s ELA specialist, told the board that all incoming students are tested, and those who could benefit are offered spots in those schools.

“But some parents really want their child to be in the neighborhood and be in that community, and we support that choice, as well,” she said. There are about 195 of those kids scattered throughout the district, served by two specialists.

Leensvaart said the ELA program also has a new emphasis on teaching academic language and requiring proficiency not just in English, but also in the subject being taught.

“English-language instruction should not stand alone, but be anchored in content,” she wrote in her memo to the board. She likened it to a little girl in a wheelchair waiting in the snow to get into school while the maintenance worker shovels the steps. If he had shoveled the ramp first, all the kids could get in; instead, he made one wait.

“Co-teaching opens the door for our EL students to access the grade-level curriculum,” said Crystal Reid, ELA teacher at Field. “It eliminates the disconnect."