Sunday, June 25, 2017 This Week's Paper


The Washington State Board of Education awarded three Tacoma elementary schools – Northeast Tacoma, Point Defiance and Sheridan – with the state’s first-ever English Language Acquisition Award.

The TPS schools, three of 42 statewide, were recognized for their English Language Learners (ELLs) making the greatest progress toward the goal of becoming proficient in English, which is a stepping stone to academic achievement and career-and college-readiness.

“We work hard to understand the needs of our non-English-speaking students, and we offer them lessons that match their English abilities while maintaining respect for their native language and heritage,” said Minh-Anh Hodge, ELL department director. “This award reinforces the district’s commitment to rigorous ELL staff training and the strides they have made in engaging and supporting students on their path to learning the English language.”

ELL students are the fastest growing subgroup in Washington classrooms. TPS is no different. As of March 2014, the district teaches 2,564 ELL students, an increase of 138 from last year. Among this group of ELLs, 766 are newly enrolled. During the 2012-13 school year, 594 ELLs met state-established English proficiency criteria and exited the program.

Of TPS’ nearly 29,000 students, 8.8 percent of them are in ELL programs, which are taught at 22 elementary schools, four middle schools and all five comprehensive high schools. Sheridan Elementary enrolls 196 ELL students, which represents 38 percent of the total school population, the largest in the district.

Here’s a breakdown of the native languages spoken by TPS ELL students in 2014: Arabic: (75), Cambodian (210), Korean (21), Laotian (12), Moldavian (27), Russian (150), Samoan (133), Spanish (1,353), Tagalog (36), Ukrainian (58), Vietnamese (335), other (154). 

ELL students were assessed on the Washington English Language Proficiency Assessment (WELPA) in nearly 1,700 schools across the state. The award recognizes approximately the top five percent of elementary, middle and high schools (who have assessed 20 or more students) based on the school’s median point gain on the 2012-13 WELPA. Award-winning schools must also have met 2012-13 Annual Measurable Achievement Objective (AMAO) 1 and AMAO 2 federal accountability targets. There are two award categories based on the number of students who took the WELPA, small programs (20 to 99 students) and large programs (100 plus students).