In this week’s Arkansas Times, we profile our 21st class of Academic All-Stars, 20 Arkansas high school seniors with undeniably remarkable scholastic achievements. Let’s add a note of recognition for another group of high schoolers who’ve accomplished impressive things: Students in the English as a Second Language program at Hall High.
A teacher passes on word that ten Hall students won awards at a statewide art competition sponsored by the Arkansas Young Artists’ Association last week, six of whom are ESL. Also, out of ten AYAA senior scholarships given statewide, five went to Hall students, all of whom are ESL. Four Hall students will be attending Governor’s School this summer, and all are ESL or classified as “language minority students.” Many more are attending Boys State or Girls State. (Their names are listed below.)
Hall is a mess in many ways. It is among the Little Rock School District’s six academically distressed campuses, the existence of which provided the impetus for the state Education Department takeover of the LRSD in January. The percentage of Hall students scoring proficient or advanced on math and literacy tests has dropped from about 42 percent to 37 percent from 2012 to 2014, according to state data. Changes are clearly needed.
But the fact of a struggling school doesn’t mean that it is categorically failing all of its students, as illustrated by these and other accomplishments by ESL kids at Hall who’ve had the deck stacked against them since day one in high school. There are reasons behind the predominately low scores at Hall, chief among them being poverty (77 percent of its student body is considered low-income) and the fact that a full 16 percent of its students are classified as having limited English proficiency.
In contrast, 49 percent of students at Parkview are considered low-income and 6 percent have limited English proficiency. At Central, the figures are 42 percent and 3 percent. (The latest demographic and academic information on those three LRSD high schools are here: Hall, Parkview, Central.)
Hall is considered the LRSD’s “Newcomer Center” for secondary school students, meaning all of the district’s high school students who speak a native language other than English have the option of attending Hall. The school has an intensive ESL program, which includes classes dedicated to teaching non-native English speakers math and literacy skills in specialized classrooms. Parents, students and teachers have consistently cited the Newcomers Center as being essential to the success of students who’d otherwise be left far behind.
2015 AYAA Senior Scholarship Winners: Esteban Vargas, Luis Saldana, Agustin Gutierrez, Jackie Mata, and Leidy Rodriguez
2015 AYAA Individual Awards:
Leidy Rodriguez (ESL student)- 4th place Sculpture Abstract, Honorable Mention On Site Sculpture (Luis went to Arkansas Governor’s School last summer for ART)
Luis Saldana (ESL student) – 4th place Oil Paint Realistic, 1st place Oil Paint Expressive
Agustin Gutierrez (ESL student) – 3rd place Mixed Media 2D Expressive (Agustine went to Arkansas Governor’s School last summer for ART)
Gabriel Del Carmen (LMS student) – Honorable Mention Watercolor Expressive
Lorene Dominguez (ESL student) – 3rd Place Sculpture Abstract
Madison Brown – Honorable Mention Charcoal Expressive
Maria Bueno (ESL student) – Honorable Mention Digital Imaging
Saira Castillo (ESL student) – 3rd place Crafts
Elizabeth Gonzalez (LMS student) – 3rd place First Year Mixed Media, Honorable Mention First Year Pencil/ Graphite
Jack Crocker – 4th place On Site Sculpture
Governor’s School acceptance: Rafael Del Carmen, Diana Guevara, Alondra Rodriguez, and Cecilia Tenorio
Girls State: Carolina Balderas (ESL), Erica Braswell, Tabatha Estrada, Gabrielle Gillespie, Diana Guevara (LMS), Alexis Harris, Rosa Martinez(ESL), Daja McCline, Alondra Rodriguez (ESL), and Cecilia Tenorio (ESL)
Boys State: Dayton Artis, J’quan Brammer, Jaylon Brooks, Kaylon Brooks, Gabriel Del Carmen (LMS), Rafael Del Carmen (ESL), Aquintiss Miller, Jaykumar “Jay” Modi (ESL), Gerardo Ramirez (ESL), and Jamar Shaw