Bear Creek High School recognized for work with multilingual students

ESL program has 140 students

Posted 11/6/18

Getting an education comes with many challenges for students who walk through the hallways of Colorado schools. Some students have learning disabilities, while others may deal with family issues at …

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Bear Creek High School recognized for work with multilingual students

ESL program has 140 students

Posted

Getting an education comes with many challenges for students who walk through the hallways of Colorado schools. Some students have learning disabilities, while others may deal with family issues at home that create another hoop for students to jump through as they try to obtain a high school degree.

Aside from those issues, there is another problem that dwells on some Colorado students — they can’t fully speak English. According to A+ Colorado, a nonprofit organization that is committed to making sure that every Colorado student has access to an “excellent education,” Colorado schools had over 128,000 English-learning students in Colorado. These “emerging” students are children who speak a language other than English and are learning English through services in public schools, according to the nonprofit.

That statistic, as well as other details about how emerging multilingual students are performing in Colorado schools was released in a report by A+ Colorado at the library of Bear Creek High School in Lakewood. A+ Colorado decided to release its report at the school, because Bear Creek’s emerging multilingual students have displayed some of the highest academic achievement levels in the state in recent years. The school’s emerging multilingual students had a graduation rate of 94.7 percent in the 2016-17 school year, according to Catherine Baldwin-Johnson, Jeffco’s director of dual language programs.

Prasanga Barakoti credited the school’s English as a Second Language services (ESL) for helping him improve his English. Barakoti, a sophomore at Bear Creek High School, first arrived to the United States from Nepal in 2012. He said he kept to himself, because his English was poor. In front of a packed room at A+ Colorado’s report release, Barakoti spoke as if English was his first language as he boasted about Bear Creek High School’s ESL program.

“I didn’t want to communicate with people, because they would often make fun of me, and my language. After I came to high school, I started to be more social, and ESL has given me a chance to really show who I am,” Barakoti said.

The high school’s ESL program offers foundational English classes for beginning and emerging English learners, literacy classes to help students with academic reading and writing and “sheltered” English classes for advanced learners. Students in sheltered English classes work off the same curriculum as regular English classes, but sheltered classes are more tailored toward multilingual students.

Bear Creek High School is also known for working with content area teachers to build support for English language learners. Jereimiah Quinonez, an ESL teacher and chair of the ESL department, said the program is more than just helping students learn English – it’s about helping them prepare for college.

“When (students) come in, there is a lot of insecurity surrounding so many things culturally, linguistically and just being away from home. From the time they arrive, to the time they leave, it’s incredible to see the transformation,” Quinonez said. “When you see them become young adults who are confident to now embrace a new culture, language and be successful beyond high school, for me is the greatest reward — to see how much growth they have as individuals.

Bear Creek High School’s ESL program has 140 students. Many of the high school’s students come from Bear Creek K-8, the top ranking Colorado elementary school in 2018 for English language proficiency growth, according to A+ Colorado.

Jason Glass, superintendent for Jeffco Public Schools, said the school district is proud of Bear Creek High School’s ESL program.

“It happens because of talented professional educators. It happens because of dedicated and hardworking and passionate students,” Glass said. “It comes from supportive families who make education a priority in their children’s lives. It comes from a team of support professionals and administrators at the school who clear the way for quality instruction to happen, and it takes a community who cares about and values education. It takes all of those things coming together for these kinds of results to emerge.”

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