U-46 to host dual language academy for parents
Elgin Area School District U-46 next month will host its first dual language academy for parents who want their children to become bilingual.
The academy primarily is for parents of students enrolled in the district's dual language program in preschool through seventh grades, as well as parents of prospective students. It will run 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Elgin High School, 1200 Maroon Drive.
Its goal is to empower parents to better prepare students for bilingualism and biliteracy, and also celebrates the district's multiculturalism.
The state's second-largest school district is more than 50 percent Latino and about 28 percent of its more than 40,000 students are English Language Learners, said Annette Acevedo, director of programs for English Language Learners.
Students who are native Spanish speakers and at one time or another qualified for English Language Learner services receive dual language instruction, but the program also is open to English-dominant students as an enrichment option in "two-way" classrooms.
U-46's dual language program -- implemented in the 2011-12 school year for 3,904 students in prekindergarten through second grade -- serves 9,066 students through seventh grade at 33 schools.
This year, dual language classrooms were rolled out for seventh-graders at five of eight middle schools. Eighth-graders will be included the following school year. Ultimately, the goal is to offer dual language through high school.
Acevedo said students coming from a Spanish-speaking background are not seen as deficient, but rather their home language is an asset they can build upon through bilingual education.
"We really believe that it helps support a healthy identity for students," she said. "When you have a strong first language that can definitely translate into developing in English, as well. It also helps increase family cohesion ... job opportunities."
The academy begins with multicultural musical performances by the district's teachers from Spain and students during registration, followed by a keynote speech by Kim Potowski, author and professor of Hispanic linguistics at University of Illinois at Chicago. There will be breakout sessions on strategies used in dual language classrooms, transitioning into the middle school dual language program, understanding the ACCESS (English language proficiency test) and SUPERA assessments (math, language arts, and reading test given in Spanish), homework and language support, family engagement, and available tools and resources. Sessions will be presented in English and Spanish.
Parents also will learn math and literacy-centered activities they can do at home with their children.
"We're looking forward to building stronger relationships with parents and sharing with community members the difference they can make in their child's education and the promise of a dual language experience," Acevedo said.