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Newcomers program helps English Learner families make a positive transition to UCS
Newcomers program helps English Learner families make a positive transition to UCS
Posted on 10/28/2021
Teacher with student
It is the best of all worlds for families with students enrolled in the district’s Newcomers program. 

The Newcomers - students who have lived less than two years in the United States and test at a beginning English proficiency level – are receiving half-day of EL instruction, half-day with their grade level classmates with support, and a community liaison who works with the family to ease the transition to their new school. 

“This is a need we have recognized for a while now, and with the number of immigrants expected to rise, we knew we needed to begin putting appropriate supports in place for our families,” said Laura Crouter, the K-12 English Learner Coordinator. 
 
It is the direct and constant support offered to families in English and their native languages that is key to successfully moving students quickly from the program into their grade level classrooms, particularly as they learn English and understand the importance of school involvement, routines and policies.  
 
“It makes the families more comfortable,” said Newcomers Community Liaison Nasma Elias. “When they first arrive and everything is in English, it is very confusing and they can get lost. But this program gives them a chance to express themselves and talk.”

The Newcomers program opened this year with approximately 40 students at West Utica in grades 1-6. 

Students receive a half-day of intense English language development with other students in the Newcomers program, taught by an ESL endorsed teacher.  In addition to developing their writing and verbal communication skills, students also learn about some of the cultural aspects of American schools.

Students then spend the remainder of their day in a general education classroom with grade level peers, learning math, social studies, science and participating in media center, music, art and physical education.   

“This also gives them opportunities to socialize and interact with native English peers,” Crouter said.  

She said most students spend an academic year in the program.

Newcomers have been receiving English support in their neighborhood schools for the last ten years.  Bringing the program under one roof has allowed the district to maximize EL supports to both students and families.

“The purpose of this program is to expedite the students' transition into U.S. schools, so they can be successful with grade level curriculum and all other aspects of our school system as quickly as possible,” Crouter said.