Speak UP just launched its first "English Learners" workshop, with the goal of offering tools and raising awareness among parents on how to help their children become proficient in English. Workshop participants learned about the initial English language assessment, six steps for enrolling a child in the EL program and tips on how to help their children master English.
More than 2.6 million public school students in California speak a language other than English in their homes. This number represents about 42.8 percent of students enrolled in all public schools in the state, and when a language barrier is not detected early, it can be a major obstacle in the learning process.
One of the main challenges for parents who come from other countries is to get their children to learn in school at the same pace and level as students whose first language is English. In California, 20 percent of students enrolled in public schools are classified as English Language Learners who require extra help and support.
Among the resources available to students in the Los Angeles Unified School District is the English Learner program (EL). This program is of great importance for the Latino community because 82.2 percent of the students enrolled in the English Learner program in California use Spanish to communicate at home.
Many parents who attended the workshop said that parents are not properly informed about how to get their kids the help they need to become "reclassified" from the EL to Fluent English Proficient status. Reclassification is achieved when the student is considered proficient in understanding, speaking and writing in English. This process often takes five years or longer, and some kids never get reclassified.
Parent Maria Cedano, who attended the workshop, believes an important element for success is to evaluate teachers on their ability to help students learn English.
"What I would change is monitoring the teachers every year,” she said. “I would also evaluate the programs that they (LAUSD) select for the English learners, because the statistics (reclassification rates) right now are very low.”
Mothers attending this workshop said children should have greater support both from teachers and from their own parents, and they should work as a team.
Parents said LAUSD needs to do a better job of explaining to parents the steps needed to ensure that children successfully achieve "reclassification." Parents need to know how the process works so they can offer the necessary support to their children.
LAUSD parent Norma Santiago, whose son has special needs, said parents should take a more active role in the education of their children. "(If I could), I would enact a policy to make it essential for parents to attend (school) meetings so they can learn how to help their children. Both for special needs, as well as for regular services."
The tools parents need to help their students do exist, but lack of communication and parent education on the help that’s available means many kids are left behind. Parents said schools should be required to inform parents how they plan to help EL students.
Speak UP’s new workshop helps raise awareness among parents about the importance of supporting and advocating for their children on their learning journey. To learn more about Speak Up workshops and to join one in the future, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and join Speak UP at www.speakupparents.org.
-- Aurelia Fierros