I wish to address a series of mistruths and inaccuracies embedded in the article, “Elementary Schools Stressed by ELL Rise” which appeared in last week’s Townsman.
First and foremost, that title was misleading as it implied that Andover’s English Language Learners, (ELL) are a burden upon the school system. In reality, our ELL student’s native languages, cultures, traditions and ways of thinking enrich everyone’s learning and in the shrinking world we all live in, culturally inclusive classrooms benefit all students.
Andover should be proud that it has school cultures in place across the district that continually celebrate and value these students and view them as assets to the school community.
Clearly, the article was not adequately fact-checked, as it stated that out of the 402 students enrolled at Sanborn Elementary this year, 127 of them were ELL students. That simply is not true. Sanborn, according to the latest data the school’s tracking software, has 38 ELLs. For the record, High Plain Elementary has the highest incidence of ELLs across the district with 52 students currently identified and receiving services.
Additionally, the statement that the spike in non-English speaking students was used to justify the hiring of five classroom teachers at the elementary level was disingenuous in nature.
The data from the fiscal year 2017 school budget book is clear. The projected elementary enrollment next year was expected to increase by less than 5 percent and the district’s response was to hire five teachers. At the same time, ELL enrollment was projected to increase by 20.5 percent and the district’s response was to eliminate 3.0 new full-time ELL teachers from the budget and restructure the ELL program at the elementary level.
In response, the AEA filed a demand to bargain over the impacts of that restructuring. To date, one preliminary negotiating session has been held, but no core decisions have been agreed to regarding how ELL services will be delivered during the 2016-17 school year.
Moving forward, I hope that we can all start speaking a common language regarding Andover’s Ell students. Doing so would be in their best interests.
Andover Education Association (teachers’ union) Vice-President
56 Maple Ave., North Andover