New Britain City Journal

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Among Student Changes More Language Learning

Changes will be taking place across the school system in order to help student scores on tests and learn the English language.

Superintendent of Schools Kelt Cooper announced sweeping changes to the schools Monday night starting with how English language learners are taught.

After looking at CMT/CAPT scores showing New Britain to be at the bottom in the state, Cooper said that students, primarily Hispanic, need to start learning English in Kindergarten rather than immersing them into classes where they don’t understand the language.

“I think we have a lot to do,” said Cooper. “It’s not going to be a lot of fun.”

There are about 1,500 students that are not proficient in English. Cooper planned a change in methodology for these students.

The ESL department was renamed to the Department of English Language Acquisitions and World Language.

“The function is to have students acquire English as rapidly as possible so they have a fighting chance in the academic content area as early as they can,” said Cooper. “Second English language learners sit mutely during instruction because they cannot understand English construction because it’s over their head.”

He said 50 percent of students last year did not make a step forward to learn the language. Students now will get up to 4 hours of English immersion rather than 2 one-half hour classes. It will begin as early as Kindergarten.

“The earlier it is the more that is gathered up in time and is sticking,” said Cooper. “We need to get the whole system healthy. Otherwise we are just putting out fires.”

He said students should not continue in programs that fail to show results. Cooper will look at school programs and eliminate those that are not moving students forward.

“You have the stuff (books) there. It is methodology,” said Cooper. “It is about how to instruct. You don’t need gadgets.”

Students will be in groups and will move up as they learn more.

“The only way you get stronger is to progressively push the students,” Cooper added.

Other changes included the elimination of Kaizen Thursdays. Instead an early dismissal will take place once a month on the third Wednesday of the month.

Elementary, Middle and High School will have quarterly report cards rather than trimester report cards. And new more simplified reports cards are being developed.

Several positions were changed at the schools.

There will be four new assistant principals at Chamberlain, Lincoln, Smith and Vance School added. Behavior Support Assistant positions were eliminated.

Two Administrative positions in the Central Office were also eliminated.