English-Language Learners in Portable Classrooms

By Mary Ann Zehr — March 05, 2009 1 min read
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A complaint filed with the office for civil rights of the U.S. Department of Education questions if it’s good for ELLs who are newcomers and attending a middle school in Utah to be separated from other students and taught in a newcomer program, according to an article published this week in The Salt Lake City Tribune.

Interestingly, the article also gives the following information about Michael Clara, the person who filed the complaint: “He’s specifically concerned about the school’s decision to house newcomers outside the main building in portable classrooms.”

Let me attest to the fact that in my visits to classes for ELLs over the last nine years, I have noticed that a lot of English-language learners are taught in portable classrooms across this country (I acknowledge this is anecdotal information). While I suppose portable classrooms are a good way to provide classroom space while a school district is waiting to build permanent classrooms, I can’t think of any good reason why ELLs should be assigned to those classrooms in any greater proportion than other students. It doesn’t seem fair.

It will be interesting to see if the office for civil rights picks up on this issue. And if you are a teacher of ELLs who has been assigned to a portable classroom, you might want to slip this article into your superintendent’s mailbox with the part about portable classrooms highlighted.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.