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Many years ago a group of teachers in the Lower Mainland area – where most of the new ELLs were arriving at that time – decided to get together to talk about the challenges of supporting teachers of additional language learners and their students. Such support was still a novelty and everyone was still trying to figure out just what were the best options for support. [The PSA forming was another aspect of this networking to provide mutal support as the formal provisions for additional language learners evolved.] Though the players have changed over the decades, the issues are heartbreakingly consistent: too few trained specialist teachers to provide the support needed, never sufficient time for advocacy for additonal language learner issues, and an ongoing thirst for appropriate resources.

The most recent issue for these coordinators of support in their school districts was the 1701 count. For those not in the know, all students are counted – warm buns on seats – and the numbers submitted to the Ministry of Education for a per student funding formula.

In addition – and here is where these ELL Specialists come in – there is top-up funding for those needing English language learning support. In order to get this financial support [an additional $1380 per student so identified] a great deal of detail [translation = paperwork] is required and it is all to be gathered in individual student files and completed by the end of September.

Since the paperwork required is yet one more add-on to the already long list of teacher tasks that are part of setting up for the new school year, it is a stressful time for all. Classroom teachers are not amused at additional duties and the ELL Specialists – if your school is lucky enough to have one – are multitasking to get all the paperwork in place, often with many new learners about whom they know little. The actual  ‘requirements’ are laid out in detail here. It seems to me that if everyone reviewed this and took special note [in terms of ELL learners] of the six requirements on page 8, it would help get everyone on the same proverbial page and perhaps lower the stress levels just a bit.

Why this ‘magic’ 1701 count seems to be such a well-kept secret has always had me puzzled. In most cases neither classroom teachers nor ELL Specialists – both impacted by the preparations required – are provided with this public document or even invited to look at it in advance to help them understand what they are being asked to do and why. Yes, it is yet one more thing to do but knowing it will garner a chunk of support dollars for your work with ELLs makes it seem worth the effort to me. It also takes some of the smoke and mirrors out of the process of funding for students.

My guess is that there would be some debate and differing opinions as to how to interpret the what and how of the information required, but in my book information is power. By actually thinking about this and discussing it, perhaps next year will be just a tad easier?