The Iowa Department of Education announced Friday that the Des Moines Public Schools will partner with the Diocese of Des Moines to pilot a comprehensive language and literacy development framework for English Language Learners at two public schools (Carver Elementary and Hiatt Middle School) and six nonpublic schools (Christ the King, St. Anthony, Holy Family, St. Theresa, St. Augustin, and Holy Trinity). The project will serve English Language Learners in a variety of ways, from one-on-one instruction to the general education setting, and will include professional development training for teachers. The project will emphasize intensive vocabulary instruction using a variety of classroom activities, as well as providing regular, structured opportunities to develop written language skills.
The partnership is the result of a grant from the state legislature to three school districts including Des Moines Public Schools.
The number of Iowa students participating in English Language Learner programs has more than doubled since 2000, according to the Iowa Department of Education. A total of 25,275 English Language Learners enrolled in Iowa’s public and nonpublic schools during the 2013-14 school year. English Language Learners make up about 5 percent of Iowa’s total school enrollment.
Iowa also faces a significant gap in reading achievement between students who do and do not speak English as their native language, the department said. About 42 percent of English Language Learners in fourth grade were proficient on the state reading test during the 2013-14 school year, compared to 78 percent of native English speakers.