For the first time in recent history, 10% of the Evanston Township High School students do not speak English as their primary language.

Lindsey Rose, the ETHS Director of Multilingual Services, told the District 202 Board of Education on Monday night that there are now 364 “emergent multilingual” (non-English-speaking students) enrolled at the high school.

Illustrating the rapid growth in a short period of time, the 127 non-English-speakers in this year’s freshman class is double the number of those in the senior class.

Even more dramatic, Rose noted that from July through September of the current school year, ETHS saw more “newcomers” than it did in all of last year combined.

She also said it’s critical for those who don’t primarily speak English not to be stereotyped and looked down upon.

“People should be filled with pride and value, not shame and embarrassment,” she said.

“The first step is evicting the shame of speaking something other than English.”

In District 65, the feeder system for ETHS, a school board committee also discussed the same issue Monday.

Amy Correa, Director of Multilingual Services, told the D65 board 13 new non-English speaking students have arrived since Sept. 1.

“We must prepare,” Correa said, “and we’ve made a good start,” making sure every D65 school has language support staff on hand.

Schools are required to provide language services to non-English-speakers.

This is, of course, related to the migrant crisis in Chicago, where thousands of migrants from South and Central America have been brought here by the busload from Texas.

“Some newcomers already come with education,” D65’s Correa said, but “others come all the way from South America,” a brutal journey which totally disrupted whatever schooling they may have received.

It’s important to note that not all non-English-speakers are recent migrants.

For example, about two-thirds of the “emergent multilinguals” at ETHS primarily speak Spanish. But most of those Spanish-speakers, Rose reported, were actually born in the U.S., but grew up in a household where Spanish was the main language or went through the TWI bilingual program in District 65.

Wherever they are from, and whatever language they do speak, Rose stressed that the reason she uses the term “emergent multilingual” instead of “English as a Second Language”, is that “emergent multilingual” values the person for what they know, not something like “English Learner,” which focuses on what they don’t know … at least not yet.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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