Supporting English Language Learners

Students Receiving ELL Services Continues to Expand

The number of students who are identified as English Language Learners (ELL) in the Grant Wood AEA service area continues to expand.

Lynn Tiemann, GWAEA speech-language pathologist/ELL consultant explained,

ELL teacher Lynn Tiemann

“There has been an increase in the number of immigrants and refugees within our AEA." Identified ELL students include both children born within the United States to immigrants/refugees and students who are immigrants/refugees.

The number of students identified as ELLs in the state was greater than 26,000 based on student count information in the Fall of 2014. The number for the same time period in GWAEA exceeds 2,300 students.

The rate of increase for ELLs in the GWAEA service area is faster than the statewide increase. In 1991, there were 300 ELL students. Last year, there were more than 2,300 students identified in the Grant Wood AEA service area. Urban districts such as Iowa City, Linn-Mar, College Community, and Cedar Rapids continue to see increased numbers of ELL students along with smaller districts.

Only seven districts in the Grant Woods AEA service area do not have ELL identified at this time. “The bulk of students are in the elementary level,” Tiemann continued. “Students who enter ELL services in kindergarten will usually exit by 5th or 6th grade.” Some students do not develop proficiency as quickly due to a variety of factors. “We also have a group of students with little or no English surface at the high school level. The population is smaller at the high school level.”

Tiemann added that in most of Iowa, the largest percent of the ELL population is Spanish speaking. “Ours is less than 50% Spanish speaking in the Grant Wood AEA service area. Iowa City schools have over 50 languages. Cedar Rapids schools have 31 languages. Very few districts are now serving exclusively Spanish speaking families. We’ve had a very diverse population for a long time”.

The U.S. Department of Education and Iowa Department of Education have recently shared guidance on requirements for districts to meet the educational needs of students identified as ELL. Tiemann explained, “Every district has to develop a plan that outlines how to support ELL students.

Accredited nonpublic schools received the same requirement during the past year and a half.”

Tiemann explained that area ELL teachers go out of their way to help make parents feel welcome and try to bridge the communication gap. “College Community offers a separate PTO to support ELL families. Monticello offers English language lessons for parents through a partnership with Kirkwood Community College. Other districts have added a liaison to support parent meetings to help bridge that gap. Every district has its own way of supporting families.”

Communication with parents can be a challenge for districts. The state subscribes to TransAct.com that supports districts with school documents that have been translated into up to 23 languages. GWAEA maintains a list of vetted interpreters.

For information about Grant Wood AEA’s ELL services, contact Lynn Tiemann at ltiemann@gwaea.org