After two years of planning, the Davis County School District has an outline for educating all of its students who have trouble speaking English.
Kathryn Davis, administrator of student programs for the district, said that while the district has had a program in place for years to educate students whose primary language is not English, many students were slipping through the cracks."Many of the youngsters have pretty good spoken English," Davis said. "Some people might assume that they are fluent when, in fact, that youngster might only be really proficient in speaking.
"We have to look at academic language skills, not just social language."
An audit in 1994 by the Office of Civil Rights informed the district that they weren't educating all of their limited English proficiency students.
The district has approximately 3,000 students whose primary language in their home is not English, according to Davis. Of those, almost 1,500 speak Spanish. The rest of the students speak any one of 51 other languages.
That presents some unique problems for the district.
"How do you build programs for multiple language groups?" Davis said. "When you have one child here who speaks Lao and one who speaks one form of Russian, what are you going to do?"
The district thinks the answer is something called sheltered English instruction.
With this type of instruction, Davis said, "you don't teach selected minutiae. You learn to cluster categories of information and use lots of repetition."
The focus is on vocabulary.
A teacher could be presenting a geography lesson, for example, and teaching the concept of country. Using visual materials such as maps, the teacher would say the word "country" in different sentences while pointing to countries on the maps.
"It's good old-fashioned instruction that has been focused on concept, repetition and the use of visual materials to communicate the concept," Davis said.
"It works for all kids. It's really good instruction technique for kids who speak English, and those who are learning it," she said.
The trick for the district, Davis said, is to identify all of the students whose primary home language was other than English.
"We've launched a big effort to see that we detect all of our students that have a different language in the home," Davis said.
Once the identification process is complete, the district will test the students on their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.
The test will yield a letter designation for the student that would tell the district where the student is with English language skills.
Students could range from being fully bilingual to being totally English deficient.
The district has had a program to teach limited English proficiency students. The program used what are known as English as a Second Language, or ESL, centers.
The ESL centers, which were placed in certain at-risk schools, will continue to educate limited English proficiency students.
In 1994 the Office of Civil Rights investigated the San Juan School District because of civil rights complaints. The office decided to review certain other districts in Utah. Besides Davis, the office reviewed Ogden, Washington, Duchesne, Jordan and Granite.