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The Future Of English Language Learning In Clark County


Sonya Horsford, Senior Resident Scholar of Education, Lincy Institute

Sylvia Lazos, Professor, UNLV Boyd Law School

BY MARIE ANDRUSEWICZ -- A  recent Lincy Institute report criticized Clark County's success in teaching English to immigrant students. Among the findings -- “Low expectations and perceptions of students as deficient are pervasive throughout schools visited."

But the audit itself, despite its discouraging assessment, represents progress, according to Sonya Horsford, Senior Resident Scholar of Eduction at the Lincy Institute.

“I think the first important step is to really define and state the problem we had,” says Horsford.  According to the report, Nevada is ranked first in the country for having the “highest growth rate of Limited English Proficient individuals.”

She says next steps in addressing Nevada’s problem with lagging English Language Learners is to provide adequately trained ELL specialists, support to teachers that are already in the classroom, and to make sure that parents and community leaders are a part of that process.

Support comes from

The passage of Senate Bill 504 is a critical step in solving this problem, says Sylvia Lazos, Professor at the UNLV School of Law, and an expert in bilingual education.

Lazos says that one important provision of SB 504 is that it forces the state to be transparent about the education gap.

“I can tell you as a critical friend of CCSD it has been extremely difficult to identify the scope of the gap and what exactly is happening with this achievement data, so it’s quite a milestone to have the Lincy report,” says Lazos.

She says SB 504 also channels funding into English Language Learners programs.

“I don’t think we should call (ELL) a problem or that we’re dragging down scores with ELL kids. These kids are our kids and what’s happening in Clark County Schools is happening in many schools throughout the country.”

Finally, she says, the bill allows for the creation of an English Mastery Council, 15 members from teachers of higher education, teachers, and “critical friends” from the public.

“I foresee a seismic change in how we think about ELL teaching. Within the next five years we won’t be having this conversation. If we do things right, we will now have a new playing field, a reset button,” says Lazos.