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English development teachers in Colorado feel overwhelmed amid influx of students new to the country

This school year has been overwhelming for teachers like Joel Mollman.

As an English language development teacher at Hamilton Middle School in Denver, Mollman has had to take on more work to keep up with the growing number of students who need help learning English.

In previous years, for example, his school might have only received three students a month who needed to be screened for English fluency. This year, he screens at least three new students each week — a process that takes one to two hours per student.

“It could quickly take up two of my mornings where I could be in classrooms,” Mollman said.

Across Colorado, English language development teachers describe similar scenarios. As many schools have experienced an influx of new students with limited English skills all year, their roles have been changing.

Traditionally, these teachers are tasked with screening new students, teaching English as a second language, administering English fluency tests, and coaching other classroom teachers. Now they must also support many students who are new to the country in much larger classes than typical.

As of the end of February, seven of Colorado’s school districts — Denver, Aurora, Cherry Creek, Greeley, Adams 12, Jeffco and Mapleton — told Chalkbeat they had enrolled more than 5,600 students new to the country after October count.

Some schools, in particular ones where there haven’t traditionally been large numbers of English learners, have relied on their English language development teachers to be the main support for children new to the country. Some of the teachers describe helping students and their families navigate a new country, and even taking in a child whose family was living in a car, during a bout of chickenpox.

Read the full report from our partners at Chalkbeat Colorado.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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