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To Help Language-Learners, Extend Aid to Their Families Too, New Study Argues

A new report from the Center for American Progress makes the case that communities looking to improve education for school-aged English-language learners should also offer services to their parents.

The study, "The Case for a Two-Generation Approach for Educating English Language Learners," finds that limited English skills for parents and students "can create a poverty trap for families" and argues that engaging them simultaneously improves the academic and educational well-being of both generations.

"It is not surprising ... that higher proficiency in English among immigrant parents is associated with greater academic and economic success of their children," the report's author writes.

The report also found that language-learner students are more likely to attend high poverty schools, with a lack of adequate resources, and that the growth of immigrant communities across the United States has led to "uneven and inadequate instruction to adult English instruction."

The study concludes that "changes in the settlement patterns of immigrants means that many communities are facing the challenges of sizable ELL populations for the first time ... Investing in these two populations is critical to the success of these families and the U.S. economy as a whole." Thumbnail image for immigrantincreasegraf.JPG

Taking a look at promising programs from coast-to-coast, the report outlines recommendations for adopting the two-generation approach. The recommendations are:

  • Adopt the community school model to provide wraparound services for students and families. The study highlights the success of the Chula Vista, Calif., Promise Neighborhood in a community just six miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Implement extended learning time to ensure that students have additional instruction to help them learn English while learning their core academic curricula. The author examines efforts underway in Massachusetts, where state lawmakers and grants provided funding for extended school days and summer learning academies.
  • Prioritize family engagement at school to help parents become better advocates for their children. The author looks at how the Oakland, Calif., school district, where nearly a third of students are language-learners, gave parents the opportunity to use the same school resources as their children.
  • Create workforce-development programs with English-as-a-second-language classes. The authors shares the benefits of a literacy- and workforce development model in Washington state that has caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Prioritize English-language learner training for teachers. The author takes a look at how the Denver school district has required all of its teachers to be certified to teach language-learners.
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