WESTBROOK — The school district’s English-Language Learner department is piloting a co-teaching program to better accommodate non-English speaking students in regular classrooms as their number continues to increase.

The ELL department saw about 100 new, non-English speaking students this fall, and that growth is expected to continue in coming years. ELL students make up about 17% of Westbrook enrollment and Superintendent Peter Lancia believes it will hit soon hit 20%.

Westbrook has the third largest ELL population in Maine, behind Portland and Lewiston, according to district ELL coordinator Regina Clement. “It is hard to predict the influx, but the number of students is increasing,” she said.

The pilot program puts two teachers in K-12 classrooms with English-learning students. The secondary teacher, with knowledge of the course work, can work directly with them without disrupting the flow of the class for the other students. About 40 teachers are involved in the program overall, Lancia said.

“It benefits all of the students, and brings in a huge wave of energy into the classroom by incorporating our EL students,” Clement said.

The district brought in Andrea Honigsfeld of Molloy College to conduct workshops for teachers, who attended on their own time, Clement said. Honigsfeld, the college’s associate dean and director of the Educational Leadership for Diverse Learning Communities Doctorate Program, developed the plan for the ELL program’s expansion into co-teaching.

“She is renowned in the field of (English as a Second Language) and Westbrook is the first school district to bring her to Maine,” Clement said. “The staff has been very excited in working with her and went to our professional development day with her on their own time.”

The staff will also have a number of webinars with Honigsfeld, paid for by a districtwide Refugee Grant.

Westbrook’s ELL students already fare well, Clement said, and the co-teaching program should help them do even better.

According to Clement, from 2018-2019, 72% of ELs improved their overall composite scores and 75% improved their literacy scores on the ACCESS test that measures ELL progress.

“The rate at which they acquire language is truly amazing,” Lancia said.

Comments are not available on this story.