Learning a language

Funds target HISD students with poor English knowledge

Several thousand students with limited English skills throughout southwest Houston will benefit from more than $ 6 million in grants recently issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

“We will be implementing these new grants next year,” said Nancy Nichols, southwest district director of grant development and implementation for the Houston Independent School District. “They are for schools with large numbers of limited-English-proficient students.”

Recipients of the three-to-five-year grants are Bellaire High School, Long Middle School and Herod, Benavidez, Rodriguez and Braeburn elementaries. At some schools, the grants have already been initiated.

The Title 7 grants are awarded to each school for either three or five years. Comprehensive grants are awarded to schools with a 25 percent or higher limited-English-proficient (LEP) population and are issued for five years, averaging $ 250,000 each year, or $ 1.25 million total.

Three-year program development and implementation grants are generally about $ 150,000 a year or $ 450,000 total. The PDI grant is designed for schools with smaller numbers of LEP students.

“As the name implies, they (educators) are looking to develop something new,” Nichols said.

HISD has been participating in the bilingual and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) grant process for more than 10 years, said Nichols, a former principal at Herod Elementary, a multilingual schools which was recently awarded one PDI grant.

Herod will receive about $ 450,000 for its English-as-a-second-language and dual language programs. At Herod, about 20 different languages are represented in the student population, said Nichols

At Bellaire, the thrust of a grant totaling $ 450,000 is to reinforce the school’s ESL program to minimize the dropout rate.

Dropout rates among ESL students are among the highest of all sub-populations at the school, said Sandi Starr, Bellaire High School ESL teacher.

The grant promotes language development in academic classes and offers professional development for sheltered teachers, those who teach regular classes like math and science specifically to LEP students. A third component promotes literacy and English for parents and begins in January.

Long Middle School, which feeds into Bellaire High School, has received a comprehensive grant totaling $ 1.5 million.

Ninety percent of Long’s students receive free or reduced lunches. About 80 percent are ESL students, a figure reflecting the diverse Gulfton neighborhood that it serves.

“Eighty percent of our kids were born somewhere else,” said Principal Clyde Huff.

“Before you can chart a course and have a mission, you have to decide who you are,” he explained. “We are very much a school that has to deal with literacy issues.”

The “Media Literacy” grant evaluates what students see and how they reproduce what they see. Media literacy involves the entire student body in understanding, using and producing media to promote language skills, said Nichols.

The three-pronged process can be applied to all subject areas.

“Whatever we endeavor to do – core curriculum, electives, etcetera – we must answer questions about literacy,” Huff said.

The process might begin with students gathering news from their native countries and interpreting it in English. Methodology allows for different interpretations of world events.

“What they have in common with teens across the world is a fascination with media,” Nichols said. “It’s a perfect way to find a common language for the children.”

Students might study the reporting of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by collecting dialogue from around the world.

The social studies teacher might have a discussion of how it was represented in the media in different countries, she added.

“Media literacy is a perfect way to find a common language for the children,” Nichols said.

Long also received a $ 35,000-a-year, three-year pilot grant for teacher training.

Rodriguez Elementary, named after the late KHOU channel 11 newscaster Sylvan Rodriguez, is implementing a $ 1.25 million comprehensive grant to educate students to speak and read in Spanish and English. The emphasis of the content is on science and math, said Nichols.

“Sylvan Rodriguez was particularly interested in the space program,” Nichols said.

Braeburn Elementary has been awarded a $ 1.25 million comprehensive grant which includes a component for serving gifted-and-talented LEP students. In addition, Benavidez Elementary is being funded by a $ 1.25 million comprehensive grant for LEP students.

Comments are closed.