Dr. T. M. Nichols, Superintendent/CEO of Cuyahoga Falls City Schools
With a newly-restructured English Language Learner (ELL) program, the Cuyahoga Falls City School District continues to strive to meet the needs of the community’s increasingly diverse population.
In 2013-2014, Cuyahoga Falls enrollment consisted of 60 ELL students in grades K-5 who were spread across the district’s six elementary schools and the four teachers in the program were being asked to instruct not only elementary students, but middle school and high school students as well. However, due to travel time and the need to provide service at the multiple schools, some students were receiving as little as 15 minutes of ESL instruction per week. This instructional dilemma needed to be addressed.
Beginning in 2014-2015, the district created two international schools at DeWitt Elementary and Price Elementary. All elementary-aged ELL students attended one of these two schools to allow for the provision more intensive instruction to these students. As a result, elementary students received up to 90 minutes per day of intensive English language instruction differentiated to meet their specific language needs. That instruction was a byproduct of this development of a consolidated ELL program in the elementary schools.
Throughout the 2014-2015 school year, members of the Cuyahoga Falls City School District’s transportation department, along with CFHS students proficient in English and their native language, worked with elementary school-aged students in the English Language Learner program to teach them bus safety and etiquette.
Beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, the K-5 ELL population grew to include 111 students and included 199 students across the district. As a result, the middle school ELL program is housed at Bolich Middle School. Each day, middle school ELL students are provided with specialized curricula tailored to meet the needs of a variety of English proficiency levels.
Additionally, ELL students at Cuyahoga Falls High School have the opportunity to obtain foreign language credits when taking their ESL classes at CFHS.
As the need continues to grow, additional modifications to the ELL program – which teaches students the reading, writing, listening and speaking skills necessary to achieve success in both academics and society – will include a welcome event at the start of the school year. At the event, teachers and interpreters will be available at CFHS to provide vital information and answer questions about school and community services. Families will have the chance to complete necessary forms, ensuring students and parents feel prepared, according to Courtney Marcucci, the ELL coordinator in Cuyahoga Falls.
One of the new events in the program will be quarterly family literacy nights, which will engage families in learning together through reading and writing activities and games. The program is growing so rapidly that we will add an additional teacher for another K-5 site as we look toward the 2016-2017 school year.
The district is now home to students who speak more than 25 languages and has more than twice the number of eligible students than the 2012-2013 school year.