Hamilton School District’s ESL Programs Forge Ahead Despite Hurdles

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

Hamilton School District in Ohio understands it’s always difficult to start at a new school, especially if that school happens to be in a different country where an unfamiliar language is spoken. Walking into a mandatory testing session immediately upon entering the school only compounds the already overwhelming experience. Rather than ignore these certain realities, Hamilton School District utilizes this knowledge to better accommodate its growing number of ESL students.

Created in 1995, the Hamilton School District’s ESL program now provides education for more than 600 ESL students from over 15 language backgrounds. According to the program’s ESL Coordinator, Corbin Moore, each student’s customized learning plan depends on three factors: degree of English language proficiency, literacy requirements, and teacher evaluations.

According to the Hamilton School District, the ESL program is dedicated to ensuring each student is provided with a wide-range of services such as sheltered content courses (7-12), progress assessments, and classroom support. Classroom support relies heavily upon the program’s committed staff members, which includes Moore, a district translator, 16 ESL teachers, and four language support employees.

Despite its best efforts, the ESL program still struggles to overcome several obstacles. For instance, although 95% of the ESL students speak Spanish, the other 5% speak a variety of distinct languages like Punjabi, French, Hindu, Pohnpeian, Lakota, and Tagalog. In addition, teachers must also tackle issues that arise as a result of learning gaps, students’ transient lifestyles, and language barriers between teachers and foreign speaking parents.

Angela Holland, an ESL teacher in the Hamilton School District, also claims that her ESL students must meet Common Core standards as well as English proficiency standards, which creates an even more challenging circumstance.

Fortunately the ESL program has build strong partnerships with local leaders such as Miami University Teachers Education Department and Global 2 Local Translation Services, a professional translation agency, to go to for support and resources.