HSSD ESOL Program Offerings & Resources

HSSD ESOL Program Offerings & Resources
Posted on 02/14/2019
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English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Programs are available at all public schools in Arkansas, and HSSD is committed to maintaining ESOL resources and assistance of the highest caliber to students and families. Student diversity is one of the most important pieces of the identity and culture at  HSSD. We are proudly providing an educational foundation to the most diverse student population in Garland County, where 11 languages are spoken among HSSD families. The HSSD ESOL Program is a district-level department that oversees the offering of standards-based curriculum that is inclusive for all learners, social development in a new culture, family outreach, and the opportunity for full English language acquisition by students who are native speakers of other languages or English Learners (ELs).

How does the ESOL Program work to address needs of each EL family in the district? ESOL facilitators are available at each HSSD school, and are specifically trained to ensure that all English Learners are properly identified and helped. The facilitator makes certain that students and families have access to multiple platforms of assistance, depending on the level of language needs. ESOL Family Outreach events are hosted at each school after hours. Family outreach events address parent concerns, cultural norms and barriers, social rules, and day-to-day expectations of students at each school.  At the elementary level, professional counselors equip parents with tools to support their children and themselves during the difficult transition process into a new culture. ESOL Facilitators speak to teachers and students about the importance of being sensitive to the needs of EL students, so that the experience of all HSSD classrooms fosters friendliness and acceptance of all types of learners and speakers. All HSSD elementary teachers receive ESOL best practices as part of their training, and know how to identify challenges and support the needs of EL students as they learn.

All HSSD campuses are Google Schools, so ESOL students and families immediately have free access to multiple platforms for the translation of any language. Students and families may choose to access platforms via mobile devices, or through a district-provided Chromebook computer.  ESOL Technology nights are hosted to specifically address how to work within the Google Classroom email and translation platforms, Home Access Center, the HSSD website, and other avenues of communication with the district.

For EL students that enroll at the secondary level, the same offerings are available, but with additional support and focus on language acquisition. Full acquisition of a second language means that students develop the ability to fully process the system of another language. This includes well rounded understanding of cultural influence, nonverbal cues, and the ability to engage in dialogue. EL students attend specialized English Language Development classes to begin building social and cultural understanding of the English language and culture, and build a capacity to meet rigorous academic language demands. The HSSD also employs a District Translator/Interpreter and Family Liaison, who provides an additional layer of personalized attention and service to first time families, to leadership during situations of severe challenge or crisis, and to student groups in general on an as-needed basis.

“When we can involve the whole family in the ESOL process, we are most successful in ensuring student success,” says HSSD ESOL Coordinator Melissa Bratton. “We work to provide every opportunity to build a strong relationship with our English Learner students and families from the beginning of their time with us, so that they are comfortable asking questions, and growing within the program. Our hope is to offer the very same academic, extracurricular, athletic, and community experiences to our EL students as to all other learners and speakers at the district.”

Student interns at Hot Springs World Class High School (HWSCHS) receive volunteer hours for providing support to EL students. This has proven especially successful because teenagers do well learning from other people their own age. Students in the HSWCHS EAST program frequently tackle real world language challenges, including a recent project focused on a new app that addresses phrasing and colloquial Spanish for speakers from across Mexico and Latin America. The HSWCHS also administers biliteracy testing, which ensures official recognition is provided through a Seal of Biliteracy Award to students who become proficient in multiple languages.

ESOL programs across the U.S. are constantly challenged to build deeper cultural awareness, improve language tools for translating and interpreting, and identify best practices for engaging families in the learning process. The HSSD is no different. There are always ways that resources and assistance can be improved. With standards/requirements from the Arkansas Department of Education,  a committed staff group across HSSD campuses, and a professional team of dedicated ESOL leaders, HSSD will continue to be a district that is “a place for everyone.”

With questions, concerns, or suggestions for better ESOL tools, resources, and partners/events, contact HSSD District ESOL Coordinator Melissa Bratton at brattonm@hssd.net

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