New York School District Trying to Meet Demand for ESL Classes

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Communities and school districts all over New York are being inundated with non-English speaking students who crossed over the US-Mexico border into the United States and are living with their families already in the country. As a result, there has been an increased demand for ESL teachers throughout the region and it is becoming more and more difficult to find enough of them to accommodate the numbers.

Through the first seven months of this year there have been more than 4,000 children who have crossed the border into the US from Mexico and Central America and are now living in the country while they await their immigration hearing.

The Riverhead Central School District in New York has been hit particularly hard with large numbers of migrant children and so far there are have been only two additional ESL educator positions created to meet the growing demand.

The district’s school had more than 90 ESL students enroll over the summer which created a need for two additional teachers. When the school year began in 2013 there were just over 700 ESL students in the entire district with 66 more enrolling throughout the course of the academic year.

As a comparison, the year before that, the entire district had fewer than 400 ESL students with 11 teachers leading ESL classes. There are currently 875 students enrolled in the program and district officials are hoping to have at least 15 teachers to accommodate them but it has thus far been a challenging endeavor to meet staffing needs.

According to district officials, the schools ideally want ESL teachers who are willing and able to perform clerical and support tasks as well as teaching the ESL classes, which they believe will make it easier for students and their families to establish and maintain communication with administrators.