Foreign students must learn English fast - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Foreign students must learn English fast

One year. That's how long some local student refugees have to learn English before test time. 

Payram Khamissi, 17, is one of about 200 student refugees expected to show up on Amarillo campuses this year.  

After twelve months, he and others like him will face the TAKS English.  This means the pressure is on him and his teachers to make sure he can perform well on the test and learn English.

For someone who has never been there before, the American classroom is proving a bit intimidating: "A little bit I am scared, because I go first time for American school," says Payram. 

 First day jitters aside, Payram says he's confident about conquering communication gaps: "I watch TV, I listen to the radio and I talk with everybody." 

He'll have to prove what he's learned next year, but some argue that's too soon to test him:   "For some of these kids there's just no way because they are pre-literate," says AISD Superintendent Rod Schroder.  "They're below a Pre-K level.  For example, they don't know their letters." 

Payram does know his letters, but his vocabulary is very limited.  In a writing assignment, Payram even talks about his trouble understanding English. 

At Tascosa High School, Payram and others new to the U.S. spend up to three hours in special English learner classes.  They also get a little help from their friends: "The other students will pitch in and they're so willing to help them try to understand what's going on," says teacher Lori Phillips.

Payram knows about the upcoming test.  He's sure he'll pass it because he's so determined to catch on. 

Whether refugees like Payram succeed or fail on the TAKS test, the school will have to answer for it.  Schools with large populations of failing refugees could face sanctions from the state. 

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