Parents: Train teachers to better serve English learners

STEM Magnet Academy parent Christine Bay-Spiric complains that her children, who are English language learners, have met obstacles in school: Unclear homework instructions that she is expected to explain to them. Missing assignments because they couldn’t make up work from days they missed due to a religious holiday.

She and other parents are pinning their hopes for change on a law that State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (24th District) plans to introduce in the next month.

Building a foundation

Lloyd Elementary teacher Ramona Richards puts one hand over her mouth and raises the other, signaling to the 1st-graders sitting on the carpet that they should be quiet. In Spanish, she tells them to cross their legs. “Ahora es tiempo para el desarrollo de Inglés,” she adds. Translation: “Now it’s time for English language development.”
As if a switch has flipped, her speech changes to English.

Dual language for all students

Back in July, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the creation of a city Office of New Americans intended to, in his words, “make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the world.” Indeed, immigration continues to change the face of Chicago and the metro area. In the city, one in five residents is foreign-born, according to census data, and 12 percent of students are English-language learners. In the suburbs, the ELL population has doubled in a quarter of school districts, and educators are grappling with how to educate these students at a time when state dollars are shrinking.