State report identifies ELL deficiencies

WOBURN - School administrators at its recent meeting downplayed a report recently released by state education officials that identified a series of deficiencies in the district's English Language Learner's (ELL) program.

Amongst other findings, the report, the result of a 2006 visit to the Woburn school district, concludes that the city does not provide adequate materials, resources, and support to students enrolled in ELL offerings.

ELL provides English immersion courses for non-native speakers.

The goal of the program is for students to gain a sufficient grasp of the language, so that they can be integrated into the general education program.

The state also concluded that the district needs to prove that it has a proper system to allow ELL pupils to shift into the general education program, that students have equal access to all academic offerings, that annual assessments are conducted that measure student progress, and that parents are properly notified of their child's activities.

According to Supt. Dr. Carl Batchelder and Asst. Supt. Mark Donovan, who discussed the findings with the School Committee at its recent meeting, many of the issues detailed by state officials have since been addressed.

"What happened in our case, because there was such a lag between the visit and the draft report, is that we had time to implement some of the activities," said Donovan.

"In general, we feel very good with where we are," Batchelder added.

The Dept. of Education (DOE) report, made public on Jan. 7, outlined the results of a 2006 evaluation of the district's compliance with state and federal guidelines for special education, civil rights, English language education, nutrition, and Title 1 programs.

A five-member DOE review team conducted the study in June of 2006 as part of the state agency's coordinated program review of Woburn, which occurs every six years.

The city must provide the state with an action plan that describes how the district will address the issues identified by the study team and prove within one year that the school system is in compliance with state and federal regulations.

The DOE team found issues in 14 of the 18 legal standards reviewed during its study of Woburn's ELL program. However, the coordinated review report concluded that the city has a significantly higher rate of compliance for Civil Rights, Special Education, and Title 1 offerings.

Of the 152 legal standards for those programs studied during the site visit, the DOE team requested a district response for just 22 items, many of which related to technical matters.

"Given the first draft and the volume of items we had to respond to, it's been narrowed significantly," said Batchelder of the report.

"We look at this as a way to improve the district. We're not perfect," Donovan chimed-in.

© 2000 Woburn Daily Times Inc.