Students to get more English at Kings Beach Elementary |

Students to get more English at Kings Beach Elementary

Kings Beach Elementary School is making room in the school day this year so Spanish speakers can learn more English.

School officials said they hope the effort to provide more intensive language instruction will improve student test scores and help the school break free from its “program improvement” status under the No Child Left Behind Act.

“Because of our program improvement status, we need to provide academic intervention,” said the school’s principal, Eileen Fahrner. “Our native Spanish speakers have 30 minutes of language development (each day), but it isn’t enough and our test scores are showing that.”

Kings Beach Elementary has been labeled as a program improvement school since the spring of 2005, when it failed to meet the act’s goals. North Lake Tahoe Middle School is also on program improvement.

To kick things up a notch, teachers and staff at Kings Beach Elementary pooled their resources and plucked a few extra minutes away from non-core classes such as physical education and music in order to add an extra 30 minutes of small group language study to each school day.

“They need to be with their primary teacher, but then have intense level-appropriate breakout sessions,” Fahrner said.

So now, all of the available teacher aides, the librarian, the P.E. teacher, the music teacher, parent volunteers and other teachers willing to put in the time, will take on a daily group of eight to 10 English learners for extra time spent reading, writing and speaking.

There are five different language levels, Fahrner said, and students will be placed in a group specific to their level.

Meanwhile, proficient English learners and native speakers will instead receive 30 minutes of science, a core subject on which students are being short-changed, said Fahrner.

“Because we’re in program improvement, we have mandated reading and math time, but not for science. There’s just no time,” said Jean Wernette, a third-grade teacher who be teaching the science breakout sessions. “With the new program there is science and social studies for the advanced speakers.”

The push to better language acquisition among students at Kings Beach Elementary is a move that’s being applauded by the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and the Education Matters team because it is in line with goals set forth by both groups.

The district is in the process of developing its strategic plan, which includes goals to close the achievement gap between students. And through a number of community forums linked to the Education Matters project, further developing second language programs also was realized as a priority among parents and educators.

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