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Davis toils for ESL certifications

Funds may be lost unless 360 teachers certify

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Davis School District is closer to meeting the demands of a federal agency that contends it has failed to provide adequate instruction for students who do not speak English proficiently.

At their last meeting, the State Board of Education approved the expansion of the district's own ESL, or English as a second language, endorsement program.

Davis has been under review by the Office of Civil Rights since 1995. The agency has told the district that in order to meet the needs of more than 600 students speaking at least 52 different languages, it must have a minimum of 360 teachers with this training certification.

"We had been trying . . . for five years," said Ginger Rhode, ESL professional training coordinator for the Davis School District. "We were told we had until March 1 to be in compliance, or all of the district's federal money, not just ESL money, could be in jeopardy.

"But at the time, we had only 32 ESL-endorsed teachers, about 40 who were in our pilot program and a few others in university programs," Rhode said.

Rhode said many Davis teachers started their certification but became discouraged and dropped out.

"The University of Utah's program took three years, going twice a week," she said. "Weber State University's program took two years. (University certification) exceeds by quite a bit what the state's requirements are for an ESL endorsement."

So the district went back to the drawing board and designed a program that would train Davis teachers more quickly and efficiently.

"This is a program sponsored by the district," said Ron Stanfield, coordinator for educator licensing at the State Office of Education. "It's in-house, with support backup and expertise right there in the school and district follow-up."

Now, 384 teachers are enrolled in classes that operate at eight different sites within the district. If teachers take classes through the summer, they can be certified in seven months.

"They've put together a program that really makes sense and meets the standards," Stanfield said.

State school board members gladly endorsed the expansion of the program.

"This program was developed in direct response to the questions from the OCR," said chairwoman Jill Kennedy. "We're pleased to see the district responding in this way."

The civil rights office will review the district's efforts later in the year.

"They'll be back," said Stanfield. "But I think at this point it will be in a helping nature, trying to see this program really come together."


E-MAIL: mtitze@desnews.com