Columbus schools’ immigrant program has too few teachers, state says

A surging immigrant population has pushed Columbus City Schools’ main program for students with
limited English skills over capacity, with too many students per teacher, a state Department of
Education report says.

As of last week, the district had assigned 825 students to its Columbus Global Academy in the
former Linmoor Middle School.

District spokesman Jeff Warner said the 96,000-square-foot building in the South Linden
neighborhood is not over its permitted capacity. The district lists its optimum capacity at about
850, and its maximum capacity at around 1,300.

Still, there are too many students for the school’s staff, and the district plans to correct
that by next school year, Warner said.

“It’s still a very fast-growing population,” he said of non-English-speaking students. “We take
this very seriously.”

District chief academic officer Alesia Gillison said the district’s goal is to reduce Global’s
class sizes — now as high as 36 students to a teacher — to 20-to-1.

Prompted by the state inspector’s critical assessment, the district quit assigning new
non-English-speaking students there in December, diverting them to East High School and other
schools. And the district has announced a plan to reduce the enrollment at Global Academy next
school year by forcing about 150 students whose English has advanced to enroll at other buildings,
which was also a state recommendation.

“With more incoming students and more proficient students ostensibly opting to remain in CGA to
be with their friends and teachers, (it) creates an unintended consequence of overcrowding and
unbearable teacher-student ratios that inhibit student learning,” the report said.

The program rates students’ English skills on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5
advanced. Global students scoring 3 or higher will be reassigned next year.

The district will hold a special lottery solely for the affected students that could allow them
to be placed in one of its alternative schools. They have until Feb. 27 to apply for the “preferred
lottery,” which will be carried out before the district’s regular lottery for alternative

Global Academy is just across I-71 from the Ohio Expo Center. Its mission is to assist
English-language learners in grades six through 12.

“The transitional program is designed to meet needs of students who have recently arrived in the
United States, often lacking basic English literacy,” the state report said.

Its students generally score at the beginner level for English skills. Although students can
theoretically leave to attend their assigned neighborhood school at any time, students who can’t
speak basic English are “strongly encouraged” by the district to stay at Global, Gillison said. “We
have the resources there to work with those students.”

The district has English-as-a-second-language programs at more than 40 other buildings,
including 31 elementary schools. But more than 70 buildings have no programs for non-English
speakers, which “may inhibit access to quality education” for English-language learners, the state
report said. It recommended that the district develop a plan to provide services at all

The state report also said that more teachers, including those in neighborhood schools, should
be trained to work with ESL students.

Gillison said the district is working with the state to improve the professional-development


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