Program helps break barriers

Published 4:31 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Winning the spelling bee is a great feat, but winning the spelling bee in a second language may be next to impossible for many people.

However, Krupa Patel, a third grader at Greenville Elementary School, did just that when she won the Butler County Spelling Bee.

Patel is one of 19 students in the English Learner Program in Butler County that works to help students learn the English language.

“The English Learner Program is the way our schools and teachers serve limited-English proficient students in Pre-K through 12th grade who enroll in the Butler County School System,” Federal Programs Director Amy Bryan said.

The School System received $1,526 this year for the EL program and each school qualifies for Title I funding, which can also serve the EL program, Bryan said.

“We have purchased electronic translators, Rosetta Stone computer-based language learning instruction and grade-specific test-prep materials for all 19 students,” Bryan said.

The students prepare for an annual test called the ACCESS for English learners that shows how each student is doing in learning the language.

“They’re screened and it gives us an idea about how they should be tested,” said Cindy Wilson, assistant principal at W. O. Parmer Elementary and system test coordinator. “Our EL students who reach a 4.8 proficiency level actually test out of the program and go into a monitoring phase.”

In the monitoring phase, students to no longer take the annual test but instructors in the program still keep an eye on each student.

Patel’s father, Kalpesh Patel, gave nothing but high praises to the Butler County School System.

“She started with the Bright Beginnings, and when she started, she could not understand somebody speaking (English), because normally back home we are speaking our language,” Kalpesh said. “Step by step she started to learn how to speak in English and pronunciations.”

Originally born in Canada, Krupa has spoken her parents’ native language of Gujaradi at home and English at school.

“You get to learn more about English and you get to learn more about your own culture and other cultures,” Krupa said.

Along with the computer programs, students, teachers, tutors and counselors work with the students to help prepare them for the ACCESS test.

“All the teachers and all the management are really cooperative with the students and parents,” Kalpesh said. “After six months, you can see much improvement. I have one other daughter and she is Bright Beginnings right now. When she started, she understood only to eat and go to the bathroom. After six months, she can talk with the teachers and she understands the English language better.”

Wilson is happy to see the program expanding and see the children learning how to communicate.

“Two years ago, when I ordered this test, I only had to order seven,” Wilson said. “This year, I ordered 19. The students act as liaison between their parents and us, because they have to speak to their parents for us and speak to us for their parents. These are some amazing children.”