Parent Tool Kit” to Help Families of English Learners Navigate U.S. School System
HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 19, 2017) – Education officials with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA), and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) met with parents of Henderson County Public Schools students on Wednesday, Oct. 18, to gather input on a new “Parent Tool Kit” being designed for families of English Learners (students for whom English is not the native language).
Henderson County Public Schools is the first of many school districts nationwide to be invited to participate in providing parent collaboration and feedback for the national publication. The Parent Tool Kit, to be published by the OELA in multiple languages including Spanish, will be a companion piece to the OELA’s “Newcomer Tool Kit” and “English Learner Tool Kit.”
While the two existing OELA tool kits offer guidance to states and school districts in meeting the legal education obligations to English Learners required by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice, the Parent Tool Kit will be primarily for non-native English speakers navigating the U.S. school system with their English Learner students.
At a roundtable discussion with parents at Dana Elementary on Wednesday, Dr. Samuel López, OELA Senior Education Program Specialist, said the Parent Tool Kit has a tentative framework with chapters based on feedback from parents in school districts nationwide. Existing tentative categories include a school system’s identification of English Learners, services offered, school performance information, extracurricular activities, and tips to succeed in the U.S. school system.
“Some of what we learn from you will either be inserted here, or there will be some new categories,” López said. “We’re putting together what you think works.”
At the parent workshop, López was joined by OELA Asst. Deputy Secretary & Director José Viana, NCELA Title III Director Dr. Jobi Lawrence, and NCDPI ESL/Title III Consultant Xatli Stox, in asking parents about their experiences with the U.S. school systems. The education officials asked what particular challenges parents faced as non-native English speakers, how schools currently communicate with them, what specific improvements could be made, and what cultural differences could be noted in the Parent Tool Kit that may assist other parents’ participation in their children’s education.
“We want to hear from you about your wishes for your child’s education,” Viana said. “What information would be the most useful for you to have in order to facilitate your involvement in school and best support your child’s academic success? What information do you want from your child’s teacher, school principal? What information do you wish you had known prior to enrolling your child in school?”
Superintendent Bo Caldwell, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jan King, and ESL/Migrant Education Programs Director Simone Wertenberger thanked the federal and state education officials for inviting HCPS parents to take part in the collaboration process. “Thank you for allowing Henderson County parents to have a voice,” King said.
During their visit to HCPS, the education officials toured and met students at the Innovative High Schools and Dana Elementary.