Educating the growing number of non-English speaking students

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BRADENTON,  FL---692,000 Hispanic students make up nearly a quarter of all elementary and high school students in Florida.  Here on the suncoast, there is a similar scene and sometimes a language barrier.   And, that divide can pose a challenge for our local educators.

"Many of the Hispanics in this area, come from Mexico or Central America and they are just now trying to learn the language.  So some times they face struggles like having to take the F-CAT and not even knowing how to speak the language," said Mario Menboza the principal at Lakeland Elementary.

Classrooms all over the Suncoast are experiencing the same problem. About 10% of Manatee County's 45,000 students don't speak English and that number is expected to grow.  The situation has left school officials with the challenge of keeping those children from falling behind.

"ESOL students have to same curriculum as their English speaking counterparts. And, we don't teach bilingually in our district so students are afforded accommodation by the teacher," said Manatee County School District ESOL and immigrant student coordinator, Kate Hoffman.

Hoffman, says those accommodations could include everything from using pictures to communicate or the teacher having bilingual dictionaries handy. In some cases paraprofessionals and  English for Speakers of Other Languages instructors, also called ESOL, are hired.

"We have to train teacher so that if they're in an elementary, middle, and high school, teaching Language Arts, English, or Reading they are ESOL endorsed or certified so they are prepared with stratigies to help the students," added Hoffman.

And while initiatives like the ESOL program has helped students get moving in the right direction many are worried about standardized tests like the Common Core.

"The test focus more on reading or find more detail in the text which is an added difficulty for a student who isn't reading in English at all yet," said Hoffman.

District officials that’s why they are currrently incireasing training for teachers at every school on strategies to overcome those language barriers.  In additional school officials say having bilingual staff can make things a lot easier.

"I speak Spanish and I have several staff members who speak Spanish as well, so are always able to do some translations," said Menboza.

In addition to ESOL program and paraprofessionals, Manatee County School District officials say they have budgeted money of hire translators.