Eds: This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story.
Goshen schools now have the highest percentage of Hispanics
JULIE CROTHERS BEER, The Goshen News
Publishable Editors Notes:
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by The Goshen News.
GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) — At 51.36 percent for the current school year, Goshen Community Schools has not only one of the largest percentage of Hispanic students in the area but the state.
Without the growing number of Hispanic students, Goshen schools would look like a very different place, English Language Director Tom Good said.
Not only would the corporation's enrollment be affected, but Goshen schools would be a less diverse experience for students, Good said.
"I don't think students would be as well prepared to live in the global village that our society has become," Good said. "Many of our graduates don't stay in Goshen, so to experience that diversity is a benefit to them as they go out into different areas of the country or the world."
The school corporation also has the seventh largest number of Hispanic students in the state, with 3,372 students enrolled this year.
According to state data, the number of Hispanic students has continued to grow each of the past five years, with nearly 600 more Hispanic students enrolled this year compared to in 2011.
While Goshen schools does not have the largest number of Hispanic students among area school corporations — Elkhart Community Schools has approximately 4,000 compared to Goshen's roughly 3,300 — it does have the highest percentage, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education.
As of the 2014-15 school year, the most current state data available, Goshen schools' student body consisted of 50.1 percent Hispanic students.
West Noble School Corporation is next in terms of the percentage of Hispanic students, with 48.86 percent reported to the state in 2015. Concord Community Schools' student body is 30.9 percent and Elkhart schools has 30.5 percent, according to state data.
It's only been in recent years that Goshen school leaders have seen the crossover in students from majority white to majority Hispanic, Good said.
During the 2011-12 school year, Goshen schools was about 48 percent white and 45 percent Hispanic. The following year, the percentages of white and Hispanic students were a near even match at about 47 percent each, Good said.
"Then in the 2013-14 school year, it crossed over. Forty-eight percent of our students were Hispanic and 44 percent were white," he said.
Since then, the percentage of Hispanic students has continue to climb.
This year, Goshen schools has 3,372 Hispanic students and 2,752 white students. The corporation also has 145 black students, 81 Asian students, 13 American Indian students, one student identified as Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander and 206 multiracial students, a term that means a mix of ethnicities.
For the most part, Hispanic children entering the school corporation are no longer immigrants, but rather have been born and raised in Goshen, Good explained.
"It used to be we had students coming in across all grade levels who didn't speak English," he said. "We still have small numbers of students where that is the case, but we're finding that right now we need the most support in kindergarten."
As Goshen schools' registrar, Stella Garcia is the first face families see as they consider enrolling their children in the school corporation. She greets students of all ethnicities, ranging in grade levels from kindergarteners to high school seniors.
"Our goal is to make joining this school system as family friend and as easy as possible," she said. And when it comes to helping Hispanic families enroll their children, there are many helpful options in place, she added.
About three years ago, the school corporation added a corporate translator to ensure that all forms of communication were being shared in both English and Spanish.
"The newsletters and announcements go out in Spanish or English, depending on which language the parent has asked us to send those in," Garcia said. "It's something that we always want to take into consideration."
Parent liaisons, staff members in each school who are bilingual and can help parents communicate with teachers and the building administrators, are one of Goshen schools' greatest assets, Garcia said.
"If they need to, they can be a personal translator for our parents, especially when they have questions about homework or teachers or different events at the school," she said.
While Spanish isn't the only non-English language spoken by Goshen students, it's certainly the most prevalent, she added.
Contrary to what some might think, the percentage of Hispanic students who aren't fluent in English is only a little more than half, Good said.
"A lot of the time, we're finding that students have one parent and sometimes both who are bilingual," Good said. "Other parents might know enough English to get by at their work or the grocery store, but might not speak 'formal English' and we'll work with students on that. But there has been a shift away from children who come in not speaking any English at all."
When Good joined the school corporation in 1998, there were just a handful of staff members tasked with helping students learn English and translating for parents.
Today, Goshen schools employs approximately 64 bilingual staff members who serve in a variety of roles.
Some are co-teaching, sharing classroom time with English-speaking teachers to help provide more one-on-one attention. Others work as parent liaisons, opening the lines of communication between Spanish-speaking families.
Each elementary school building has a bilingual kindergarten paraprofessional and the middle and high school have "collaborators" — staff members who have four-year college degrees who can provide additional support for students in a variety of subjects, but who are not necessarily teachers.
"One of the biggest things is building that relationship with students," Good said. "We need people in place who can help these students be successful. Success breeds success."
Source: The Goshen News, http://bit.ly/1GtBaAO
Information from: The Goshen News, http://www.goshennews.com
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