Reviewers at the federal education department found the way Connecticut measures the performance of its public schools lacking and its plans to begin tracking the achievement of English learners vague. State officials must now decide whether they want to revise or defend Connecticut’s plan for complying with federal law before U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos officially considers whether to approve or reject it.
Learning a new language could be daunting and especially more challenging for new immigrants that not only come face to face with a new culture, but to a totally different environment. Most times children adapt easily, but in the case of English Language Learners, the assimilating process may take longer than most, particularly when the primary language spoken at home is not English.
While I enthusiastically support the idea of more dual immersion schools, I also believe that the problems facing English Language Learners in Connecticut are so complex and urgent that they require a broad set of solutions and initiatives.
Research confirms that good dual language programs are effective in closing the achievement gap and promote brain development for all students. It is also evident that both majority and minority children benefit from dual language programs by preserving their culture and opening new possibilities in a global world.
Connecticut’s school policies don’t value the language and the culture that English language learners bring to the societal table. Said differently, the people who make laws and set educational policies along with those who oversee educating our children — legislators, voters, commissioners of education, union officials, boards of education members and superintendents of schools — don’t value immigrants.
“The efforts around English learners are one of our most important priorities,” says state education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said. “… Our English learners need more support than they are currently getting, and we know that because of our data.” The Mirror sat down recently with Wentzell to speak about the state’s approach to providing that support.
School districts across the country that have committed to reaping the benefits of dual-language instruction have found ways to make big gains in the face of obstacles, both perceived and real.
Connecticut has largely failed to embrace the one model for English learners that research consistently shows works best by far. It’s being adopted and expanded elsewhere. First of three stories.
One of every 15 students in Connecticut’s public schools speaks and understands only limited English, and their academic achievement lags far behind that of their classmates. The achievement gap in Connecticut is among the highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Fairfield County, a region marked by sharp disparities in income and in urban and suburban life, faces particular challenges in assuring all its residents a quality education. Today, a special report, “Education, Diversity and Change in Fairfield County,” explores the issue through in-depth policy reporting, interactive maps and charts, photo galleries and opinion pieces written by teachers from the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University.