Second language learners lack necessary support

Anna Boland and Ankith Hiremath

Dulaney students learning English as a second language find themselves caught between two less-than-ideal options: they can either attend Parkville High, an unfamiliar school with a specialized language program, or stay at Dulaney, their home school that lacks sufficient resources to support them.

While English for Speakers of Other Languages programs exist at select locations in Baltimore County, Dulaney is not one of them. ESOL students zoned for Dulaney are thus enrolled at Parkville High, the closest of the ESOL schools.

English teacher Alicia Drechsler has noticed an increasing number of students opting out of the Parkville option and choosing to attend Dulaney instead.

“It increases their travel time, and a lot of those kids are working, so that’s just out of the question for them. I have also heard from former Parkville students that there are some gang issues,” Drechsler said.

Parents of ESOL students also prefer their children to be fully immersed in an English-speaking environment. Sophomore and ESOL student Samantha Urena shared why her mother sent her to Dulaney.

“One of [my mom’s] friends told her that if I didn’t have ESOL anymore and tried to push myself to learn English on my own, then I would do better,” Urena said.

Without an official program to help them, ESOL students have difficulty adapting to the coursework of their classes and often lag behind other students academically. Drechsler noted that ESOL students make up a disproportionate percentage of those who fail her class.

“I had 15 kids that failed last year. Ten of them were ESOL kids. If they made up 60 percent of my students, then that number would make sense. But they probably only make up 10 percent of my students every year,” Drechsler said.

Teachers must find a balance between catering to the needs of ESOL students while also keeping the rest of their students on track.

“We’re accountable to doing our best to pass whoever comes to this school, no matter what baggage they bring with them,” English teacher Britta Schaffmeyer said. “That’s public school. We teach who is here. But by having students for whom this environment isn’t the right place, that puts the onus on us as teachers.”