Since I work in a highly urban, diverse population, it's no question that we have a large refugee and immigrant population attending our schools. Our students speak over 75 different languages, from those as common as Chinese, French, and Russian, to the lesser known Karen, Dinga, Oromo, and Mai Mai. There are certain buildings within the district that house the English as a Second Language, English Language Learners, or Limited English Proficiency (whichever you prefer) populations, where they not only receive assistance learning English and learning in their own language, but also social services and family supports.
One of our ESL buildings closed at the end of last school year, so the students were divided up between existing buildings where their needs could be met. My building, which is not an ESL building, took a lot of the students, all of them English language speakers. Except for one. M is a refugee student from Africa, and in addition to be an English Language Learner, he is also very learning disabled. He came over as part of the 15:1 class that we absorbed from the closed building.
Right away, I knew that we could not meet M's needs in the building as we have no ESL staff. I started emailing and called my principal, people in the Multilingual Education department, special education supervisors, and anyone who would listen. My principal emailed her supervisors about it and got no response. No one gave me an answer about what to do with M. I heard that there was no 15:1 at his grade level at any ESL buildings, that we needed to change his special education placement so he could get into a building with ESL, that we had to get an ESL teacher to come in to instruct him. Lots of no real help.
When we began our state review, I brought the concern up to the supervisor who came in. She started contacting many of the same people, including the head of the ESL program. It seemed like she would take care of it and find a placement for him, along with finding placements for all the other kiddos who were leaving us. Incorrect. M is still hanging out in our building, struggling with not only English, but in all academic areas. He's also been excessively absent from school, and due to the language barrier and the transient nature of many of our refugee families, his family is very difficult to get in touch with.
For all the kids that I was able to appropriately place this year, move into more suitable classrooms, and qualify for much needed services, I feel like I let M down. I have no experience working with families like M's, so it's tough for me to know where to start, aside from emailing all the game-makers to try and get this kiddo where he needs to be. Hopefully, next year if he's still here, there will be a 15:1 at his grade level in an ESL building that he can be moved to.
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