Diversity at Glenbard schools may mean more bilingual classes

Glenbard East in Lombard for years has held the greatest number of students with limited English skills in Glenbard High School District 87.

And while that’s still true, the district is now seeing a rise in the number of students who need special assistance at other schools as well: particularly Glenbard North in Carol Stream and Glenbard West in Glen Ellyn.

That likely will translate into expansion of English as a Second Language and bilingual programs offered at both buildings, District 87 Director of Special Services John Moss said.

Demographic data reported this fall in the state school report card shows a continuing rise in diversity within the district.

While the greatest number of students needing language assistance speak Spanish, that’s closely trailed by the numerous Indian languages and dialects, he said.

Because Glenbard East has had more than 100 students who need help with English skills, the school’s been able to create specialized classes – like bilingual American History.

“With 120 students, you can do more creative programming,” he said.

The ideas that have worked at the Lombard high school are likely to be tried at both Glenbard West and North, in some form, over the next few years.

At East, there are between 125 and 130 English as a Second Language students, while the number is around 85 at Glenbard North, 45 at Glenbard West and 20 at Glenbard South.

“If you have 50 kids who don’t speak English in your school, that’s significant,” Moss said.

Students who have difficulty speaking and understanding the language in which classes are taught are at greater risk of leaving school before graduation. So the type of data released in the report cards, numbers of low-income students as well as the number of dropouts, helps educators determine how many students might wind up in that “at-risk” category.

Glenbard East again shows the highest numbers, with 13.6 percent of all students qualifying as low-income, 49 students who qualify as truants because of the amount of time they’ve missed school and a student mobility rate of 9 percent. That means 9 percent of the entire student population moved in or out of the school during the 1999-2000 school year, when data was collected.

All of those factors create challenges for students at Glenbard East, Moss said.

“Many of these remedial programs are designed to encourage children to stay in our schools,” he explained. “We often can’t force them to come to school.”

He said the district is looking at the “school within a school” concept, where smaller learning environments are created to give students more personalized attention, and to help them feel they belong to the school.

“We are really looking at assisting them in fitting in,” Moss said.

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