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NJHS numbers illustrate EL gains

Most would agree it is an impressive accomplishment when a student is inducted into the National Junior Honor Society; on top of that, this year almost half of the inductees who qualified at Russellville were at one point English Language Learners.

Of the 44 students who were recently inducted into the NJHS at Russellville Middle School, 43 percent were in an EL program at one point in their time in school.

“I really wish people understood the type of work that goes in at Russellville City Schools to help these students succeed because these types of numbers are things you do not see at many other places,” said RCS Superintendent Heath Grimes. “We are extremely proud of our students and the hard work they put in, but we are also very proud of our teachers and the hard work it takes on their end.”

Grimes said one third of new students at RCS have limited or no formal education, so the only exposure students have to the English language is at school.

Almost half of RCS students are from a Hispanic background, with 708 students currently in an EL program.

At West Elementary School, 37 percent of students are English Language Learners. That figure is 39 percent at Russellville Elementary School, 24 percent at Russellville Middle School and 10 percent at Russellville High School.

“We have a lot of students come to us at a young age speaking little to no English, and it is our job to keep them academically at the same place as the rest of our students while overcoming a language barrier,” Grimes said.

Grimes said a lot of instruction for ELL students is focused reading instruction, with a focus on early literacy.

“All kindergartners are trying to learn the letters of the alphabet and what different sounds letters make when we put them together,” Grimes said. “Our EL students are learning this the same way our other students are, just in a language they aren’t used to.”

Grimes said it says a lot about the EL program at Russellville and the teachers that students are able to overcome language barriers and excel academically.

“We work so hard to make sure all of our students have everything they need to do well,” Grimes said. “To me, this is a testament of how hard the school system works and the time put in.”