Northborough English Learner program accommodates 21 languages


By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer

Northborough Southborough Public Schools icon

Northborough – There are 21 different languages spoken by students in the Northborough Public K-8 schools. Director of English Learners and Equity Rhoda Webb presented on the English Learner Education program at the Jan. 6 Northborough School Committee meeting.

An English Learner (EL) is a student whose first language is not English and is not able to perform ordinary classroom work in English.


District diversity

Currently, Northborough K-8 schools have 107 ELs, a steady incline from 32 students in 2004. Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic are the three most prevalent languages in the District for these students. 

All families complete a home language survey. When another language other than English is the first language at home, the English Language Development teachers set up a family interview. This is the first step to building a relationship with the families. 

“We truly get to know the uniqueness of every family,” said Webb. “This information is shared with the classroom teacher and all teachers working with that student. It’s important to get to know the students really well.”

A language proficiency screening is state mandated and helps to assess the level of language proficiency. A two-component program model is used for instruction.


The family and school partnership is strong

“We always want our families to deeply understand how their children are doing at school, and we also want to hear from our families how the children are doing at home,” said Webb. 

Translation services are provided to assist families with communication. It’s also a growth area recommended for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.

School Committee member Kelly Guenette commended the District for accommodating translations of electronic communications for the EL families so it’s not another obstacle for them.

“It shows the diversity of the District and where we have come in the past 15 years and where we are going,” she said.

School Committee Chair Keith Lebel was pleased to hear that the District has a good understanding of “the fine line of sorting out English language learning and the subset of children who also have other educational needs that go beyond just learning English as a second language.”

In a typical school year, an international night is held. Webb said it needs to be expanded because there are so many families. 

“It is a wonderful opportunity to see… the whole family come together and just enjoy each other coming from such diverse backgrounds,” she said.

“We are all so grateful to have them enrich our lives as educators in our District,” said Webb.




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