Thailand, Bengal and Assyria all have staked a claim in the neighborhood
surrounding the elementary school. About 75% of the school's students
have limited English skills in a school population of 1,320 children.
About 1,000 students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches based on
Recent immigrant students are not literate in their first language,
Muir third-grade teacher Judy King said. Not having a foundation of
literacy, kids born in the U.S. "still have to learn the basics," she
Along with reading and writing, immigrants don't necessarily know the
social skills in their new country, semiretired third-grade teacher Maria
La Masa said. Teachers have a dual role, teaching concepts and etiquette.
Muir sixth-graders Hamlet Hovhanesian, Jeannie Tran and Anahit
Bedjanian learned the ropes quickly. All three enrolled in the school as
Jeannie spoke a Vietnamese dialect called Chrau.
"Teaching assistants helped me with English," she said.
In a month's time, she picked up English, and her parents learned to
speak from hearing her phone conversations.
Hamlet, born in the U.S., spoke only Armenian at home. He remembers it
was "scary" to learn English, but said he was comfortable with his new
language in a month.
Anahit also spoke Armenian at home. English words were learned from
the kids next door. Most of her kindergarten class was Armenian, as well
as the teacher. She learned English within two to three weeks, she said.
While students have adapted well to their new surroundings, and have
picked up spoken English fairly quickly, the SAT 9 test in reading "is
the most difficult test for students," Muir Principal Amaly Avakian said.
SAT 9 scores for 2000 show about 35% of the school in all grades
scoring above the 50th national percentile in reading. Greater gains were
made in math and language arts. In 1999, 46% of all fifth-graders scored
above the 50th percentile in math. This year, 61% of those same students,
now in sixth grade, scored above the 50th percentile. In language arts,
43% of all fifth-graders in 1999 scored above the 50th percentile in