English language learners are experiencing a paradox: ELL students learn English but have difficulty using it in school subjects. In Utah, students are maintaining proficciency in English class, but having trouble using it in their regular subjects.
According to José Enriquez, Utah Office of Education coordinator of federal Title III funds, the struggle is all too familiar. “I am an English learner, so I know the struggles it is to finally become proficient and take it to cognitive academic language abilities,” he said. Title III funds are awarded based on the number of English learners within a particular district and to implement language instruction that is based on scientific research.
“We are struggling to meet our students’ needs,” he said.
Utah will receive more than $3.7 million in Title III funds this year.
In a report to the legislative Education Interim Committee on Wednesday, Enriquez said more can be done to teach kids and their teachers how to best learn and use English.
In the last year, Utah implemented a new master planfor teaching English learners, and the state office routinely assesses whether students are meeting achievement objectives related to that plan.
One of the annual measurable achievement objectives is progression. Local education agencies must show annual increases in the number or percentage of students making progress in learning English. Utah is surpassing its goals in this regard by 25 percent, Enriquez said.
Utah students are also exceeding proficiency objectives by 37 percent.
But progress and proficiency must be applied in both language arts classes and math classes, and that is where Utah is lagging behind.
Enriquez said seven of the 30 local education agencies are not meeting application requirements and kids aren’t passing year-end examinations in English. The same districts are falling flat for two consecutive years, and one, which wasn’t mentioned specifically, has failed to meet the application objective for four years.