Columbus City Schools ESL Program; Columbus, OH
Serving Refugees in the Columbus City Schools, Columbus OH
The objective of the ESL program of Columbus City Schools is to provide the academic and social services required by students whose English language skills create a barrier to educational success. In the 1990’s, Columbus became a major refugee resettlement site for Somali families and later Somali Bantus. Because so many of these children had not received a formal education before coming to the U.S., the ESL program began to focus on building social and academic skills along with English language acquisition.
The school utilizes district textbooks and resources as often as possible, supplemented by material specifically created for second language students. Specific titles are available upon request for programs wishing additional information.
The Columbus City Schools has approximately 50,000 students, with 5,000 of those students living in homes where English is not the primary language. The language minority population is extremely diverse, representing almost 100 countries. The program began in the late 1970’s with a small number of Vietnamese refugees. Today, the largest minority groups are the Latinos (about 30%), the Somalis (about 30%), and those from various West African countries (20%) The newest refugee groups are from Iraq, Nepal, and Burma. Columbus directly resettles about 500 refugees a year and is also a major destination city for secondary migrants.
The ESL department is primarily funded by the school district, supplemented by Title I and Title III funds and a Refugee School Impact Grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The ESL program has one administrator, four resource teachers, 105 ESL and content area teachers, and 100 bilingual paraprofessionals. There are also a number of support personnel including secretaries, the intake center staff, a nurse who works in the intake center, a bilingual family services staff of five, and a data analyst. All teachers are trained to work with culturally diverse students and have state licensure in a content area as well as TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) methodology.
An annual review is held at the end of each school year to decide what policies and practices have been successful and which need revision or elimination. We are also periodically reviewed by the Office of Civil Rights, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education.
Program effectiveness is evaluated by a combination of various types of data: the amount of progress our students make on the state English language development test (about 10% progress per year), the number of students who are performing well on state assessments (which varies from school to school), and the number of students who exit the program each year (around 10%). Graduation rates are difficult to determine, but are probably around 60%. For some refugee groups this number is probably even lower, because of the difficulty of making up for the years of lost education.
Kenneth T. Woodard
The ESL Department began providing services to Columbus City School students in 1977. The newcomer program, Columbus Global Academy, opened its doors in 1999 and is still operating as of September 2011.