Answers and resources for families with English Learners

In this time of disruption, fear, and distance learning, families are dealing with immense uncertainty about their childrens’ education. The district has compiled information and daily updates here, but for families, many critical questions are still unanswered. 

To try to help, GO will be sending out weekly emails with the aim of helping families wade through the latest information, translating what it all means, and providing resources. While we don’t have all the answers, we will share what we know to be true in the hopes that it helps you and your family. And we’ll occasionally share our own perspective on solutions that can support students’ academic needs as well as the general wellbeing of WCCUSD families and educators during this difficult time.

This week, we want to talk to families of students who are English Learners…

As our school community settles into the second week of mandatory distance learning, we’ve been thinking about the nearly 1 in 3 WCCUSD students who are English Learners (ELs). Some are just beginning their journey to English proficiency, while others have been working towards reclassification for years. 

Now, parents and caregivers of ELs – who may themselves not be fluent in English – are wondering what this means for their students. Questions linger as families cannot visit their child’s school or communicate with teachers face-to-face. Just as they did before school closures, families want to know that they’ll have access to both high quality, grade-level instruction as well as support in their child’s progress towards English proficiency. 

Today, we want to talk about some of the most pressing questions we’ve heard from families of English Learners and share the most up-to-date information we have: what are my child’s rights, how can I best advocate for my child, and what resources are available for me to support my child’s learning and advancement towards reclassification?

What are my child’s rights and what should I expect from distance learning?

During distance learning, the California Department of Education has communicated to school districts that English Learners must have time in their schedule for designated English Language Development (ELD). While there is no minimum number of minutes required, ELD is a required course of study for any student designated as an English Learner, even when schools are physically closed. Districts do, however, have the flexibility to decide how services will be provided. 

WCCUSD’s parent distance learning guides state that students across all grades will receive ELD through “online teaching in small groups, or through teacher recommended online resources using the ELD Visual Guide.” In a remote learning environment, this could mean a lot of different things depending on your student’s EL level and their teacher’s comfort with providing “scaffolds” within core instruction by including visuals and graphic organizers whenever possible.

How will school closures impact my student’s path to reclassification?

While WCCUSD’s distance learning plan states that support towards reclassification will continue, the district has not provided any update on the status of the 2020 ELPAC assessment. Some districts began to administer this annual test before schools were closed. According to the district’s Multilingual & Multicultural Services Department, reclassification as Reclassified Fluent English Proficient (RFEP) occurs “…when a child demonstrates language proficiency sufficient to be successful in their academic classes” as measured by the following criteria: ELPAC, Standardized Test Assessment Interim, Parental Consultation, Teacher Evaluation, Writing/ELD Placement Level, and Grades. 

More clarity from the district and state on how the suspension of the 2020 ELPAC will impact the ability to reclassify would be helpful to families – particularly when only 4 in 10 ELs in WCCUSD are reclassified by 5th grade. Hopefully, English Learners who missed the ELPAC this spring will have an opportunity to take the test this fall and demonstrate their progress towards English proficiency. 

In the short-term, the ELPAC website is the best place to stay up-to-date on any state guidelines impacting reclassification. With the CDE giving educators flexibility to administer Smarter Balanced Interim Assessments to students online, it’s possible these assessments could be used to support the reclassification of a student, but additional information is needed. 

How can I best advocate for my child?

While the COVID-19 crisis is placing unbearable stress on caregivers and parents, we encourage you – as we always do – to remember your own power in this moment and advocate for your child. Also for yourself, as you are now asked to be both parent and educator. 

If you haven’t already, we recommend asking for a remote meeting with your child’s teacher. Make a list of your questions and concerns, and keep in mind that educators are also new to distance learning. Remember that you can ask for a district interpreter who could join the phone call or video-conference remotely. Some districts have addressed this challenge by using remote interpretation services such as Language Line, which has 240+ languages available. If you’re new to Zoom, GO WCC has created a “how-to” video in English and Spanish

Finally, this is also a good time to deepen literacy skills in your student’s home language. Quality literature that is engaging, challenging, and fun for your child to read will only benefit them.

What resources are available to support my child’s learning and English Language development?

Educational resources for families supporting remote student learning at home:

  • PBS Learning: Highly interactive lessons organized by grade level, available in multiple languages.
  • Khan Academy: ELA, Math, and Science Lessons for PK-12. Available in 30+ languages. (Scroll down to “Change Language” in the bottom-left corner of a lesson.)
  • Selection of K-6 Reading Passages: Short reading passages for kindergarten through grade 6 with comprehension quizzes
  • FreeChildrenStories.com: Stories for English Learners organized by age group, read aloud; includes rhyming stories and stories in Spanish and Arabic.
  • Teen Tribune: High interest articles by grade span that can be customized to fit the student’s reading level. Includes embedded quizzes. 
  • USALearns.org: Website for older students and adults, including video lessons and activities to practice speaking, listening, vocabulary building, and pronunciation

Informational resources & support for families:

Resources for educators: Tips, trainings, and materials for distance learning for ELs

A final thought: mental health is so important during these challenging times. Families and students of all ages are under immense stress. Young people in particular are less likely to identify their anxiety and take extra steps to care for themselves. As the stay at home order continues for an extended time, young people may begin to exhibit stress in different ways. This resource provides some helpful strategies to identify and support your child during this time: The Subtle Ways Your Kid Is Trying To Show You Their Coronavirus Anxiety.

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