In the tri-county area, there are approximately 122 students in local schools who speak English as their second language.
These students come from various backgrounds and take classes alongside English-first students, but receive assistance from staff in various ways.
The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has programs specifically for English learners. Local districts use these programs
and also fine tune their own services based on needs.
“Fenton is so lucky to have this diverse group of students,” said Courtney Szucs, executive director of special services for Fenton Area Public Schools (FAPS.)
FAPS has 45 English learner (EL) students, the most in the area. Szucs said 10 languages are represented in the group.
Students are first assessed for their English proficiency to determine if they’re eligible for language assistance services. The level of assistance is based on their proficiency and how they’re doing in school.
An EL facilitator is available during the day to help students, and they’re continually monitored while in school. English learners take the WIDA Assessment (formerly World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment) to determine what services they’ll need in the next year, or if they’re instead ready to leave the EL program.
There are 36 students in Holly Area Schools (HAS) who speak English as a second language. “Most of our English Language Learners come from Spanish-speaking families,” said HAS Superintendent Scott Roper. “We also have students who speak Hmong, Albanian, Arabic and German as their first languages.”
Staff collaborates for best results in helping students. “This could involve individualized instruction in language arts, math, reading and other core subjects,” said Roper, who added that English language learners have the option to take quizzes and tests separately, giving them more time to understand the content.
Lake Fenton Community Schools has 23 English learners total, and Linden Community Schools currently has 18 students who qualify for language support.
“Our students come to us in a variety of ways,” Szucs said. “Many have family who were already in the area and have come to join them from their home countries … Some of our students were adopted from other countries and others moved with their families to the area for work.”