SEI program helps youngsters to learn English
Southwest Valley Republic
Jul. 6, 2005

Marianne Refuerzo
Hola. Buenos Días. Me llamo Enrique. Tengo seis años. Did you get that?

For many children in the Pendergast School District, Spanish is the only way they know how to communicate. About 2,500 of the 9,000 students are learning English as their second language.

A new statewide mandate requires teachers to have 60 hours of training in order to help these youths better understand English, according to Julia Soto, academic consultant for Pendergast language services.

The Sheltered English Instruction program helps teachers assess students' English reading, writing and speaking skills.

Teachers attend classes at their schools and the Pendergast Learning Center.

Cooperative learning is a strategy where teachers put students into small groups so that non-English speakers interact with their English-speaking classmates. This breaks up the lecture and puts English learners into social situations where they must speak the language, Soto said.

Students are categorized into five levels: pre-emergent, emergent, basic, intermediate and proficient. They graduate from the SEI program once they have reached proficiency. Two years ago, 55 students met that goal. That number has since risen to 838 in 2005.

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-6939