English Language Learners Program holds first meeting

By Julie Fann

   Families and staff of the Carter County English Language Learners Program held their first meeting at 6 p.m. Friday in the library of Valley Forge Elementary School. Approximately 11 families participated in the program, designed to help children and parents from other countries assimilate into the school system.
   Chele Dugger, program director, organized the meeting for the purpose of a question-and-answer session to discuss pertinent issues like the No Child Left Behind law and TCAP testing.
   "All students are required to take the TCAP test even if they are not fluent in English, so we want to make sure parents understand how the test is used," Dugger said, adding that a major question involves a certificate of eligibility code on the test to indicate if, according to state qualifications, a student's family is considered migrant.
   "If an immigrant comes into this country for the purpose of agriculture, they're considered a migrant for three years. If they move from one (school) system to the other the three years starts over," Dugger said. "It's often an issue that needs clarification."
   Juan Chu, of the state's Migrant Education Program, was at the meeting to answer such questions and provide additional information about citizenship status to families.
   Sixteen children from other countries attend Carter County schools. Most are Hispanic, and Dugger said there is also one student from the Czech Republic and one from Thailand.
   The Carter County ELL Program is in consortium with a similar program in the Unicoi County School System.
   The program offers English language tutoring to every ELL student. Seven teachers provide tutoring to students.
   The Elizabethton City School System does not have its own director for students who speak English as a second language, so Dugger also provides help to that school system as well.
   Others who were available to discuss relevant topics included Teresa Densford, parent-teacher coordinator, and Jennifer Clark, Valley Forge Elementary School principal.