NASHVILLE, Tennessee – October 3, 2012 – According the Tennessee Department of Education 2011 Report Card, the graduation rate for among English Language Learners (ELL) students in the state in was 70%, compared to 85% for all students. In Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), even fewer ELL students graduate: 64%.*
In the new special, “NPT Reports: Translating the Dream,” Nashville Public Television (NPT) takes an in-depth look at the graduation rate among ELL and immigrant students in Tennessee; the challenges they face that can prevent them from graduating on time; how schools and teachers are trying to address this increasingly demanding need; and how all of us are impacted when students drop out of school. The half-hour documentary, part of the American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen initiative, airs Thursday, October 4 at 9:30 p.m. on NPT-Channel 8.
Produced and narrated by veteran journalist LaTonya Turner, “NPT Reports: Translating the Dream” introduces the viewer to students whose stories exemplify some of the reasons that prevent ELL and immigrant students from achieving at the same level as other students. For some, the main challenge is learning a new language: MNPS has the highest percentage of ELL students of any school district in Tennessee, with more than 135 languages spoken among MNPS students.
Also discussed in the documentary is the challenge of “unschooled” ELL students, a reference to those students who have not had formal education until arriving in this country—mainly due to being refugees. Social and cultural factors also create obstacles for immigrant students, even those who are not ELL. And undocumented students face additional hurdles and disincentives that result from not having access to similar benefits that come with legal citizenship.
“While many factors contribute to the wide gap in graduation rates,” says Turner, “educators we spoke to point to the state’s new method of calculating grad rates.”
In 2011, the formula for a student to graduate on time and earn a regular diploma switched from a requirement of 5 years and up to age 22, to 4 years and up to age 18.
“The loss of more than a full year to educate students is especially noticeable among ELL, immigrant, and special education students,” adds Turner. “The strategies for addressing this challenge vary among school districts and even among teachers. Many educators admitted that it’s an experimental process to find what works for the students they work with at any given time.”
NPT will address some of these solutions and strategies in a second documentary scheduled to air in November.
About Nashville Public Television
Nashville Public Television is available free and over the air to nearly 2.4 million people throughout the Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky viewing area, and is watched by more than 600,000 households every week. The mission of NPT is to provide, through the power of traditional television and interactive telecommunications, high quality educational, cultural and civic experiences that address issues and concerns of the people of the Nashville region, and which thereby help improve the lives of those we serve.
About American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen
American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen is helping local communities identify and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. American Graduate demonstrates public media’s commitment to education and its deep roots in every community it serves. Beyond providing programming that educates, informs and inspires, public radio and television stations — locally owned and operated — are an important resource in helping to address critical issues, such as the dropout rate.
In addition to national programming, more than 75 public radio and television stations have launched on-the-ground efforts working with community and at risk youth to keep students on-track to high school graduation. More than 800 partnerships have been formed locally through American Graduate, and CPB is working with Alma and Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation .
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,300 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.
* TDOE Report Card