Many districts are seeing English Language Learner programs grow despite lack of funding.

Soft SkillsThe Newcomer Program in Peekskill, NY is just one local program that has experienced increased demand and phenomenal success. Yunior De La Rosa is an example of that success.

De La Rosa and his family had come from the Dominican Republic.  He entered seventh-grade classes where mostly English was spoken.  He could barely keep up.

Now, after two years, with the help of the language acquisition program as part of the Newcomer Program, he translates Spanish to English for his peers.  He is also an honor student and will graduate in two years.

“In this program, I learned English so fast,” he said. “I got surprised how I learned so fast.”

Last year, Peekskill’s English Language Learner population was 21 percent of the total district enrollment.  This was an increase of seven percent over five years.  The dropout rate also increased during that time.  Once the Newcomer Program started, the dropout rate decreased for the first time in six years.

“Three years ago, we planned with the vision of this as a priority,” said schools Superintendent David Fine. “If we can’t create that structure where they can feel comfortable enough and then grow and transition up through the other classes, then they’re just going to fall through the cracks.”

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