Shortage of ESL Teachers in Watertown Schools

Print More

By Charlie Breitrose

One in ten students in the Watertown Public Schools are in English as a Second Language classes, but more than half are not getting the ESL (now known as English Language Learner) instruction that is required by state law.The students are in all five Watertown schools, and they come in speaking one of 27 different languages, said ESL Program Director Allison Levit said during a School Committee Budget and Finance Subcommittee meeting. Students who know the least amount of English are supposed to get 150 minutes a day of ESL instruction. That amount drops to 60-120 minutes for mid-level students and 30 minutes for those close to moving into a regular classroom full time, Levit said.

A couple years ago Watertown Middle School received an award for its ESL program, but now the system is struggling. Levit, who is in her second year as director, asked for more staff last year, and did not receive any more instructors. The same thing happened with her predecessor.

The biggest problem is at the elementary schools.

“The elementary level has a staffing crisis,” Levit said.

Typically elementary school students are pulled out of their classes for 40 minutes a day, Levit said. While there are needs at the middle and high schools, Levit said she would focus resources at the elementary level. She would like to add 1.5 teachers at Hosmer School, a .5 position at Cunniff School and increase the amount of instruction at the district’s preschool.

4 thoughts on “Shortage of ESL Teachers in Watertown Schools

  1. Why not have the parents of the non-speaking English children pay for the cost of teaching their child a new language. My English speaking kids don’t have the opportunity at school to learn a new language in elementary school. I feel that providing these non-English speaking kids the same education as everyone else is enough. Let the parents of non-speaking English children figure it out themselves. Maybe the parents could learn to speak English too, there’s plenty of free programs for adults to learn out there.

    • The district is mandated by the state to educate non-English speaking children. Watertown school officials have studied adding foreign language at the elementary level. I think the budget has held it back.

    • I think state law says they don’t have to pay. Most sevices in public schools are free, and ones with fees have financial aid for those who can’t afford it.

  2. The schools may have to supply it but where does it say the parents don’t have to help pay for the service. 27 different languages! How in the world is the school system going to be able to manage that? I would like to see additional funding that benefits all the students not just those who moved here without bothering to learn the language of their new country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *