Schools to get $1M for English-learners 

San Francisco and Peninsula schools will receive more than $1 million this year to help students who are new to the English language gain fluency faster.

The grants are part of a $55.5 millionstatewide annual grant program aimed at helping new immigrant students, specifically those in grades 4 through 8, learn English so they don’t fall behind in schools. Grant recipients were announced Thursday by Jack O’Connell, state superintendent of public instruction.

While the San Francisco Unified School District received $530,700, the top grant-getters in San Mateo County were the Redwood City Elementary School District, with $143,600, and the San Mateo-Foster City School District, with $109,000. Schools receive $100 for each student who is not yet fluent, according to Gentle Blythe, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Unified School District.

"One in four California students is learning the English language and the achievement gap between them and our highest-scoring students is unacceptable," O’Connell said in a written statement Thursday. "These grants will help our fastest-growing student population learn English and meet its full potential."

In San Francisco, most of the money will be funneled to schools with the most English learners, including Everett and Francisco middle schools, Cesar Chavez Elementary School and the Mission and Chinese education centers. While $100 per student isn’t a significant amount of money, when it’s focused in this way, it can be used to hire additional teachers and staff, according to Blythe.

Much of the district’s English-language funding comes from its general fund, along with state Title 1 funds, which go to students from low-income families.

"California is 41st in education spending, so there are opportunities we can’t pursue," Blythe said. But grants such as these can boost schools’ ability to provide individual and small-group instruction, train teachers and purchase materials.

In the San Mateo-Foster City School District, much of this grant money will help to pay for two newcomer academies, in which students receive intensive English training during their first year in America, according to Associate Superintendent Joan Rosas.

"We use this with other funding, and we’ve created some good programs," Rosas said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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