Brashier Middle College Charter High School News....written and created by students, for students

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Can You Understand This?

Students+can+know+multiple+languages+but+there+is+a+difference+in+knowing+and+being+proficient+%28Courtesy+of+Pixabay%29.
Students can know multiple languages but there is a difference in knowing and being proficient (Courtesy of Pixabay).

Students can know multiple languages but there is a difference in knowing and being proficient (Courtesy of Pixabay).

Students can know multiple languages but there is a difference in knowing and being proficient (Courtesy of Pixabay).

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This school year, a major change has been implemented in our school due to the new school district Brashier Middle College Charter High School is part of.

“When we were first founded, the charter school district was receiving only the state portion of funding. Schools in the charter district were being founded on about $2,000 per student, and you just can’t really run a school with a building on that much money. In recent years, we have been active in trying to get other funding for them, so that they would have a full amount of money per student. Actually, at this point, there is more money per student in the Charter District now than there was in Greenville County, so that was one motivation. And the other: our hope is, by being chartered through a district that only focuses on charter schools” informs BMC principal Mike Sinclair.

This year also introduced a new survey that students are required to turn in. The Home Language survey narrows down students that may know another language. However, there may be some students that would rather not go through the hassle of taking an assessment that tests English proficiency.

“Most of these students are already proficient in English, they often just take the test because it is required of them to do so, and they do not really take the test very seriously. Of course, this is always a tendency for any student on any test given, but that’s why I also think that the English course the student is currently taking should be included in the factors that determine what type of assistance he or she may need,” says junior Chelsea Evangelista.

A couple of concerns from some of the paperwork sent home in the beginning of the year arose when the Home Language Survey came in asking what languages were spoken at home and what was the first language one learned. Students that could speak other languages wondered what exactly this survey was for.

“The intent of [the Home Language Survey] is that, if you receive a form from a student that indicates another language is their primary language, you know to follow up with that family. What you may find is that that student, even if there is another language present, has been raised in an English speaking environment and has no problems. But you may find a student that didn’t know that they’d qualify for help. If we don’t get a form, then we just default to English, but the goal would be that we have a high percentage reporting…to make sure we can demonstrate that we’ve done our effort to get the information back from students,” says Sinclair.

However, some bilingual students have had experience with elementary or middle schools that have altered their schedule to take a specific test that was made to see their proficiency level in English

“My experience with the English Learning Programs has been with me since I was in elementary school and didn’t stop until my 7th grade year. I already knew English, so I never really understood why I had to take a test proving that I knew the language. Yes, I grew up speaking Spanish, but I spoke and wrote in English at school and everywhere else but home… That’s why those tests did not accurately measure how well I could speak, read, and write English,” shares junior Allie Rojas.

The program benefits students all over the country that do not speak English well and may need extra help or accommodations in their learning environment.

“If it’s a student that has never been identified, you would use the placement test. [It] scales students from one to nine, and a six is intermediate/proficient, so a six and above… wouldn’t qualify for any help. Below a six, it could be extra study time, it could be making sure the student has notes, [or] it could be any other kind of accommodation to help with that. It depends on what the student needs and how low they are. In this school, our lowest score of ESL [English as a second language]/ESOL [English for speakers of other languages] students is about 4.6 getting towards 6,” says Sinclair.

The other concern is that the ESOL/ESL testing may give a failing score to a student who is actually proficient, yet can’t obtain the right score to pass for multiple reasons that may not involve language barriers.

“The tests do not help the students see the results in how fluent they are in English. Instead, it tests the students’ testing skills within the language. It’s different when one speaks English to another person who understands the language fluently,” expresses junior Alejandro Escobar.

Despite the many complaints, the tests are made for the school to use as a guide to help steer a student’s future towards success.

“We have really tried to push that the last two years, and you can see our ACT scores are going up. All of those college readiness [assessments] are going up because our students are able to look at those tests and interpret. I believe that also would play into the ESOL because students…might not understand every word, but [are] able to look for key things and make some meaning out of it. So what we would hope is that we would see those ESOL scores going up, as well, because we’re teaching strategies to help overcome a language barrier,” explains Sinclair.

Even students that have taken this program at Brashier see the pros of a program that may help other students that actually need it.

I think they prove useful to most. Especially to those who cannot speak English and desire to learn it for whatever the reason may be. Programs have helped me realize that learning multiple languages is important when you are younger,” says Escobar.

The programs set up for speakers of English as a second language at Brashier are not as intensive for the students because most of the students are exposed to English every day. On the other hand, other schools have to help students that don’t know anything about the English language or culture for that matter.

“A parent can [override the ELL program] but…the ESL program that we use here isn’t very intrusive. It’s not pulling students out of class; it’s not having a separate class for them…If we were to survey everybody in the school, they would be shocked to know that we have 24 students that qualify for some level of help in our school. We try not to put that stigma out or make it a big label for those students,” informs Sinclair.

Brashier differs from programs that might not be dedicated for every student individually because of the lottery system that’s in place and the smaller student population, leading to a smaller list of students with needs. This allows more attention on each student’s case and plan moving from the point at which Brashier might take them.

“You could graduate and never test out of ESL programs. That doesn’t hold you back…When you graduate high school, you still have an active special-ed plan, IEP plan, just like an ESL student could graduate with an active plan. If that student went to a college or university, they would then take it from there. You can take your paperwork and see if they would give the student support…The expectation is that some students will never test out. You would hope they would, but you’re just going to have some students that’ll still need that support moving forward,” says Sinclair.

If a student feels the ESL programs are not for him or her, they are not required to participate unless their test scores and academics are going downhill. Brashier tries to help everyone to reach the common goal of being victorious in the future with a better understanding of either language, comprehension, or maybe just academic growth overall.

“That’s why I think it’s important for students to at least take the assessment every year, so that we can try to predict where that student is going to end up. Not necessarily are they going to test out or not, but are we seeing a growth,” says Sinclair.

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Brashier Middle College Charter High School News....written and created by students, for students
Can You Understand This?