Educators from both local school districts are spearheading a state-wide organization designed to improve the education experience for English language learners. By collaborating and developing partnerships with state-run agencies, administrators from Owensboro and Daviess County Public Schools formed the Kentucky Coalition for English Learners (KYC-EL).
OPS Chief Academic Officer Matthew Constant and DCPS Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Jana Beth Francis formed the KYC-EL after seeing increased numbers of immigrant students. Their main goal with the coalition is to educate teachers on how to best teach these children, who are often just learning the English language.
This new organization’s first conference was held June 10 and 11 at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville. Constant said the event drew 250 educators from all across the state. The feedback he and Francis received was very encouraging, he said.
“The majority of those who showed up were general education teachers. A wide majority asked us to make it an annual event, so we’re already planning for a second conference,” Constant said. “We want to make a positive difference in how we deliver these services. We want to show progress.”
Constant said two important things came out of the conference.
“The general education teachers — those teachers are in the classroom more than the EL teachers. They said they wanted more information on this,” Constant said. “Secondly, now we want to begin preparing teachers for this event from [the college level]. We want to start reaching out to post secondary partners to see which instructors have courses relating to EL. If a new teacher comes to us and asks, ‘What options can I pursue?’ we want to provide that information.”
This coalition and conference is partially funded through one of KYC-EL’s partners, the Kentucky Office of Refugees (KOR).
The state’s accountability system focuses on state-wide testing scores, Constant said, and EL students are expected to perform just as well as those whose primary language is English. The coalition will strive to bridge language-barrier gaps by giving teachers more EL resources to use in the classroom.
“We will probably do more virtual work–webinars and things like that to share our practices,” Constant said. “Even though the Federal government has tightened the number of immigrants coming into the United States, we are seeing more secondary immigrants here–relatives of those already here who’ve been told Owensboro is a good place to live and learn. We want to get these students acclimated.”