State data shows signs of recovery for English learners in CMS, more staff being hired

More than 25,000 students in CMS are EL students who collectively speak more than 200 languages.
Since the onset of the pandemic, CMS has added extra support to its English-Learners department.
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 6:43 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools staff are adding more staff to support English Learners.

More than 25,000 students in CMS are EL students who collectively speak more than 200 languages.

The district’s English Learners or “EL” program supports language acquisition, maintaining students’ home language identity, and rigorous instruction.

After CMS released the 2020-2021 statewide testing data, the district announced plans to use federal COVID funding to hire 40 bilingual family advocates. In the year since CMS has hired 21 employees and is still working to hire more than 30 EL teachers.

On September 1, NCDPI released the 2021-2022 stateside testing data.

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According to the data, EL students soared in grade three math with a 19.6% increase and made about a 4.2% increase in grade 3 reading.

Nadja Trez is the executive director of Learning & Language Acquisition for CMS she says the increase in reading and math scores is a sign of hope in contrast to the 2020-2021 data but says there is more work to be done.

“We are not there yet because we are just catching up,” Trez said. “We did not exceed the pre-pandemic [scores]. We have a lot of work to do but I am so glad to see we are not stagnant where we were.”

Nancy Gonzalez and her family immigrated from El Salvador four years ago. She has two sons in the EL program, one who is in fifth grade and another who is in eleventh grade.

Gonzalez only speaks Spanish and says virtual learning was a challenge for her children and her.

“The online learning was more challenging and difficult for my [my children],” Gonzales said.

She says both of them have performed well in math, science, ELA, and social studies since physically being in the classroom since the 2021-2022 school year.

Nora Hernandez and her family immigrated from Honduras two years ago. She has two children in the EL program, one in kindergarten and the other in fourth grade. Hernandez says these staff members have helped her better understand her children’s classwork.

“Parents feel more welcome to ask for the progress in every stage and every quarter about the progress of their children,” Hernandez said.

Since last school year, Hernandez says her oldest daughter is more confident in reading

Both women say they’re hoping their confidence in their English speaking continues to grow too.

“She would like to see the attainment in the academic language and to reach a higher level, the proficiency, and to get very good grades,” Gonzales’ translator answered.

CMS is still in the process of hiring bilingual family advocates and EL teachers. The district also has a 24/7 language assistance line and plans to launch the PACE global high school for students next fall at E.E. Waddell.