Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Students who arrive in Idaho districts and have limited English language skills are provided assistance with learning English. In most districts across the state, the majority of Limited English students are of Hispanic/Latino ethnicity. In Boise, Meridian, and Twin Falls, significant numbers of Limited English students come to the district as refugees, from various parts of the world.

Limited English students are classified into three categories:

LEP 1 - First year in an English-speaking school - these students are exempted from state Reading tests, but take the state math test. In 2013-14, Boise has 255 LEP 1 students No other district has more than 100.

LEP - Limited English students. These students take all state tests, and are considered a subgroup at the school and district level. Typically, LEP students may take 5 to 7 years to learn the spoken and written English language, and from 7 to 11 years if they are not literate in their own spoken/written first language.

LEPX 1 and 2 - Students who have been exited from the Limited English program for 1 or 2 years, but are monitored for the 2-year period.

Following is a chart showing the Idaho school districts with the largest numbers of Limited English students.

Boise and Meridian have the largest numbers of Limited English students in the state. However, they are also the two largest districts in Idaho. Here are the districts with over 1000 or more students that have the highest percentage of Limited English students.

Almost 20% of students in the American Falls (eastern Idaho) district are Limited English Proficient. Two districts in South Central Idaho,Wendell (18%) and Jerome (15%) have the second and third highest percentages of LEP students, followed by the Caldwell District at 14%. Note that all of the districts in the chart are in southern and eastern Idaho. Northern Idaho districts have very few LEP students. Moscow, Lewiston, Coeur d'Alene, Sandpoint, Lakeland, and Post Falls, with over 30,000 total students, have fewer than 100 LEP students combined. Boise has 5.4% LEP students; Meridian has 2..6%.

In Boise, the population of Limited English students represents four ethnicity categories; White, Black/African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino. White LEP students' countries of origin are typically in the Middle East. Here's how the ethnicity of Boise LEP students plays out:

Boise's LEP population has grown significantly since the mid-1980's when 40 Kurdish students arrived at Franklin Elementary School. The District's LEP population exceeded 2200 in 2012, but changes in the state's exiting criteria and some decrease in numbers since then have yielded the current LEP number of 1668.

Limited English students typically do not perform well on statewide achievement tests. For example, in 2012-13, just 37% of LEP students were proficient on the Idaho Standards Achievement Reading Test. However, students who had met the criteria for exiting the program, our LEPX students, did much better: Eighty-five percent (85%) of LEPX students met the mark for proficiency, showing that, once the language barrier is overcome, students can meet the achievement marks set by the state.

In the elementary grades, most Limited English students attend one of ten schools. Most Boise LEP students live within the boundaries of one of the ten. They are: Grace Jordan (24% LEP), Garfield (15%), Horizon (18%), Jefferson (20%), Koelsch (11%), Lowell (12%), Morley Nelson (15%), Taft (22%), White Pine (15%), and Whittier (24%).

Sixty-five (65) native languages are spoken by Limited English students in the Boise District. The most common is Spanish (42%), followed by Arabic (10%), Swahili (6%), Karen and Somali (5%), and Nepali (4%). Languages spoken at the various elementary schools can very greatly. For example, at Whittier School, the most prevalent native language is Spanish (74% of LEP students), and ten different native languages are spoken by the LEP students. At Taft. the native language among 25% of LEP students is Swahili, and 19 native languages are spoken.

In junior high, Hillside hosts the Bridge program for new to the country students, who are allowed to stay in the program for up to two years. Hillside's student population features 14% Limited English students (82 students), 13 of whom are LEP 1. South's LEP student population is 6.9% of the total, Farimont 6.8%, and North 3.7%. East, West, Les Bois and Riverglen have fewer than 3% LEP students.

Borah is the senior high Bridge counterpart to Hillside; 11% of Borah's student body (170 students) are Limited English students. Forty three of those students are in LEP 1 status. Boise and Capital each have about 4% Limited English students. Timberline has just over 1% LEP students.

The Limited English population has brought substantial diversity to Boise's schools, and students have enjoyed opportunities to learn more about countries and customs from around the world. As LEP students have learned the spoken and written English language, many are enrolling in the District's AVID program, and pursuing Accelerated and Advanced Placement opportunities.