Return to Headlines

Bilingual students sharpen English in summer school


Students attending summer school at Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy are trying to bring their reading up to grade level while also mastering a new language.
Nearly 40 students who were in the second and third grades during the 2013-14 school year have been taking part in a summer session for children studying English as a second language. 

About 50 other ESL students have been participating in an enrichment program for sixth through 12th grades. Both programs run through Friday, July 11.

The Newcomers Academy helps refugees and other immigrants adjust to a new language and customs. Alejandra Ceja, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, visited the school last week and said it could serve as a model for the nation.
But the summer students come from a number of bilingual CMSD schools. Bilingual summer school teacher Eileen Spada’s third-graders are from Puerto Rico and countries that include Iraq, Iran, Senegal, Argentina, Tanzania and Mexico.

The class recently went on a neighborhood walk, toured downtown on Lolley the Trolley and traveled to the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Hale Farm and Village.

They identified sights through proper and common nouns and compared and contrasted urban and rural settings. The students also logged an inventory of their finds that they used to create charts and graphs.

Spada’s techniques include having students clap to syllables as they pronounce words and use gestures for recognition, for example, turning an imaginary key that they associate with KeyBank.

Spada, who teaches at Walton PreK-8 School during the school year, said her students made big strides during their summer classes but not without a lot of hard work. They are wrapping up by taking the Northwest Evaluation Association exam and the Ohio Achievement Assessment, both of which can help them comply with a state requirement that they read at a third-grade level.

The summer program also attracted students whose families came to Cleveland from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Liberia, Myanmar, Burundi, Nepal, Santo Domingo, El Salvador, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Colombia and the Congo.