Students and sectioning

April 22, 2021

The length of time a student is a part of any of these specialized programs varies from person to person. Some individuals join their respective programs as young as elementary school, while others are introduced at the secondary level.

Razan Babikir ’22 joined Seminar class, the junior high ELP equivalent, in 8th grade. Before coming to Iowa, she was in the ELL program for a brief amount of time in another state. She has noticed the division of students into educational programs can significantly impact students socially. 

“There’s the quite obvious social hierarchy of a middle or high school,” Babikir said. “If you were in ELL … you’re going way to the bottom of that, but if you’re in an advanced classroom like an ELP program … then they’re not as likely to treat you like they would with the ELL program.” 

When Babikir went to Northwest Junior High, she found out about ELP from her peers. Babikir asked her counselor about the program, but she felt the response she received was rather discouraging. Prior to checking Babikir’s grades, her counselor told her that she wouldn’t be able to be in the program. Knowing that she should be qualified for ELP, Babikir asked the counselor to check her academic history, which eventually led to her acceptance into Seminar.

“At first, I was definitely surprised [and] kind of taken aback,” Babikir said. “It was a very weird situation because at first I was confused, but then I was like, ‘Oh, so this is what I’m gonna have to deal with for my entire life.’”

[The reason you would be in] ELL is just because you can’t exactly properly speak English, but ELP is because you’re [an] academically advanced student. You could be both.”

— Razan Babikir '22

Babikir believes there are several misconceptions about students in the programs.  

[The reason you would be in] ELL is just because you can’t exactly properly speak English, but ELP is because you’re [an] academically advanced student. You could be both,” Babikir said. “A lot of kids don’t really get that, and they think that immediately if you’re in ELL class, you’re just not as smart as everyone else around you.” 

West High students in ELP receive emails with resources about educational opportunities, such as scholarships and support for college applications. For Babikir, this guidance has been beneficial. 

“I definitely think I was given more opportunities being in ELP,” Babikir said. “[Without ELP] if I had wanted to look at a scholarship or something that would give me an advantage, I’d have to go to the counselor and ask about specific things, or I’d have to be at home googling furiously in the middle of the night … I definitely think [ELP] is helping me further my education in high school and even afterwards.”

Although ELP students receive these supports exclusively, West High ELP Coordinator Kelly Bergmann says any student has access to these resources. 

Anything we do in ELP is something that your school counselor can do for you. All we have to know is that you have a need that isn’t being met.”

— Kelly Bergmann, ELP coordinator

“Anything we do in ELP is something that your school counselor can do for you,” Bergmann said. “All we have to know is that you have a need that isn’t being met.”

Talyia Ochola ’22, an ELP student, feels students in ELP are given extra resources that are not as beneficial to them as they would be to other students.

“It’s not really anything that helps with your learning. It’s more so if you’re already doing well in school and already succeeding and learning well, then it’s just showing you how to continue and your [future] options, more so than actually helping you learn,” Ochola said. 

Because of this, Ochola believes there are still improvements needed to make the program more inclusive.

“[There needs to be] more diversity within the upperclassmen talking to us, because that was definitely mostly white people and then a couple of Asian girls, but that was really it,” Ochola said. “It wasn’t representative of the people in ELP at all.”

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