Penn Manor bilingual education faulted

District doesn't meet state regulations

State Department of Education regulations requiring higher education levels for students who don’t use English as their main language are going to catch up with Penn Manor School District.

That’s what Ellen Griffis, curriculum and instruction assistant for the district, told the school board at its April 1 meeting.

Griffis told the board Penn Manor is out of compliance with the state’s bilingual education regulations. “But it’s not as bad as it might seem,” she said. “This is like special education. We have no choice but to comply. Most districts are where we are now.” Griffis said schools across the state would be monitored for compliance with state English As A Second Language (ESL) regulations this spring and into next school year.

Specifically, the state is double-checking ESL teacher certifications and the amount of instruction ESL students are receiving. The new requirements insist that ESL teachers be certified with Instructional I or II certificates. Also, three hours of weekly instruction are required for ESL students.

Currently, when a student whose primary language is not English enrolls in Penn Manor school district, the student’s parents fill out a survey identifying what language is used at home. Three part-time teachers provide half an hour per day — 2 hours per week — of ESL training. The goal is to get the child to communicate in English as quickly as possible.

ESL numbers are rising in Penn Manor, Griffis said. ESL student numbers grew from 12 to 19 in the 2001-2002 school year. By comparison, Manheim Township School District has four full-time ESL teachers, while Lampeter-Strasburg has no ESL teachers, Griffis said.

Currently, Penn Manor’s ESL teachers act as aides, rather than full-fledged teachers, Griffis said.

They are paid accordingly — $12 per hour, rather than the $28 per hour teachers with Instruction I or II certificates are supposed to get.

Griffis noted that she was having difficulty finding certified teachers willing to teach for $12 per hour when they could be substituting for $100 per day, or doing homebound instruction for $28 per hour.

To solve the compliance problem, Griffis suggested that Penn Manor up the pay level of ESL teachers to $28 per hour, so they are working at Instruction I or II certificate levels.

The board voted to consider this pay increase at its April 8 meeting.

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