Latino Students Lagging Behind

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

By: Ashmar Mandou

According to a new report by Latino Decisions, eighty-five percent of Latino parents in Illinois worry their kids are lagging behind. Recently, a pool of education leaders and advocates convened virtually, including members of the Chicago Board of Education, Illinois State Board of Education, the Latino Policy Forum, held a discussion on the biggest challenges these students are facing and the effective way to serve the more than five million English Learners (Els) across the US, facing the mounting pressures of remote learning, limited resources, and language barriers. 

“The digital divide is a main issue that we encounter. When we decided we were going to follow the decision of CPS to close, we sent a survey to the families on what capacity they had technologically and also in terms of knowledge in terms of how to use technology. I never expected that one-third (more than 340 families) reported that they did not have computer or access to the internet,” said Maricela Garcia, chief executive officer of Gads Hill Center 

“One of the ways I would summarize the challenge from a school district perspective is the fast pace of change. We needed to use old tools to figure out a new situation. Old tools had limitations. Our understanding of structures and strategies in the school districts – the way we’re set up, had to evolve. Also, we had to focus on some of the deep culture, where we have a history of collaboration and where we might not. Where we have a history of being equitable in our results and where we don’t. Where’s the opportunity? How do we see this through the lens of moving forward,” said Dr. Ushma Shah, Assistant Superintendent of elementary schools/Instruction and Equity for SD U-46.

The report addressed the challenges during the pandemic, which included:

• Digital divide – Over a third of families reported in a survey conducted by Gads Hill Center that they did not have a computer at home or access to the internet.

• Family engagement and the role of parents – Parents are faced with having to step in to fill the role of a formal teacher and oversee their child’s daily schedule.

• Economic inequity – EL students historically face lack of funding and resources in their communities and COVID-19’s economic impact has added another layer to it.

Key areas of investment: 

• Develop Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with local community organizations to coordinate service delivery and referrals.

• Utilize attendance data and log-in participation data to gauge student participation in school.

• If possible, prioritize vulnerable populations and youngest learners for in-person instruction.

• Provide professional development for teachers on developmentally appropriate virtual remote learning, with particular attention for children ages three to eight and that value home language development.

• Co-develop professional development opportunities with technology teachers, specifically related to the different platforms available for virtual learning that benefit language and content learning.

• Provide professional development on trauma-informed training opportunities and tools sensitive to ELs and their families.

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