“We have to work harder to get the same result:' How Russellville teachers discuss educating English language learners

Teachers are helping students stay on track in Russellville

RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - More than one-fourth of Russellville City School students are learning English for the first time.

Teachers are making sure education for these students stays on track through the pandemic.

“We have to work harder to get the same result because you know so many of our students, for them this is a second language,” said Russellville Elementary Principal, Christy Ezzell.

Russellville city schools has the highest rate of English language (EL) learners in Alabama at 26 percent.

At Russellville Elementary there are 224 EL students.

“Many of them speak Mayan languages. So for example, the first language is a Mayan language, the second language may be Spanish so it’s English being the third language that they need to learn so addition to the language there is also academics,” said EL teacher Monica Farris.

The new Alabama literacy act requires a student to score above the 25th percentile on state-approved reading assessments. Students who don’t score high enough can be held back.

However, the law also says schools can make good cause exemptions.

“I plan to do that simply because of the number of ELs we have in our district. There would be a lot of students we have shown in the past that are moving through our system and they are learning to speak English and learning to read but it takes a little bit of time when you’re coming from a different language,” said Superintendent Health Grimes.

Despite the language barriers, students are excelling.

The district’s overall state report card score is an 89 compared to the statewide average of 84.

“They ask questions. They hit those high-level speaking skills, it’s absolutely unbelievable so I am actually really excited to see when the test comes around and we are actually able to provide those accommodations because we are going to be able to see how they do,” said Farris.

There will also be more accommodations for EL students during this year’s state test.

Some of the new accommodations include:

  • Stacked Spanish (new)
  • Read aloud Spanish (new)
  • Read aloud English (new)
  • Extended time (new)
  • Use of dictionary
  • Use of translated directions

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