Sulphur Springs Independent School District is submitting to Texas Education Agency an “expedited waiver” for Early Childhood Learning Center, where six kindergarten classes exceed the 22-to-1 student/teacher ratio set for elementary classes.
According to SSISD Director of Elementary Education Betty Lawson, the application asks that ECLC be allowed to have four general education kindergarten classrooms which exceed the ratio by one student each as well as two bilingual education kindergarten classes that exceed the ratio by three students in one class and four students in the other.
The district cites unanticipated growth of the kindergarten class, which has stabilized, and inability of the district to find a highly qualified teacher to reduce class size in the bilingual classes as reasons for the requested exception to the rule.
Lawson noted that a teacher had been approved previously to fill the bilingual education slot, but that teacher has since moved to Frisco. However, steps are being taken to ensure students needs are met, she explained to school trustees at this week’s school board meeting.
Another certified teacher who is bilingual but is not certified to teach bilingual education has been hired as a paraprofessional at ECLC to assist in bilingual classes. She is working on obtaining the certification needed to teach bilingual education, Lawson said. As soon as she passes the exam, she will become employed as a bilingual teacher, which will balance the classes and lower the student-teacher ratio.
In the meantime, other Title I and state compliant aides will assist in the other four general education classes which are over the ratio.
Lawson and SSISD ESL/Bilingual Director Shelley Wright-Patterson also reported that the district served 386 English language learners, 329 of them through the bilingual and ESL programs.
Of the 132 students from kindergarten through second grade scored using the Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System, 55 percent tested at the beginning level, 21 percent intermediate, 16 percent advanced and 8 percent advanced high. Of the 226 students in grades three to 12 tested, 12 percent performed at the intermediate level, 21 advanced and 59 advanced high. These students were rated based on listening, speaking, reading and writing criteria. Students at the advanced high proficiency level in all four areas require only minimal second language acquisition support and are comparable to native English speaking peers at their grade level. This shows that as the students get older, their knowledge and skills are growing, with more bilingual and ESL student rated at grade level with their native English speaking peers, according to Wright-Patterson.
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