The American education system has been faced with a grave challenge of ensuring that students from minority language groups have to read and write well in the English language. Being English literate has become an important aspect for the realization of academic success in the American schools which has an impact on the accessibility to the educational and economical opportunities that are to be found within the United States.
This challenge has been compounded by the fact that there has been a growth in the diversity of the ever-increasing language-minority students. This paper shall examine the interaction between the families of English Language Learners and the schools touching on the social-cultural influences and bilingualism and home language use. The paper shall further analyze the parental and community resources for English acquisition in the Seattle area. Background:
The number of English Language Learners (ELLs) has been steadily increasing which has become a significant challenge to the education system in the United States. According to statistics, in 1979, the number of language minority students was estimated to be six million and by 1999, the number had shot to an estimated fourteen million. In a survey done to establish how such students fared in the county, it was observed that less than 20% could score above the standard gauge as established by the respective states.
Whereas only 10 percent of those who spoke English were found to drop out of school at high school level, the scenario was even worse for language minority students whose percentage was slightly more than 30 for those who could speak English and slightly more than 50 for those who could speak English with some difficulties (August and Shanahan, 2006). For the language-minority students who have difficulties in reading and writing English in a proficient manner, they have a limited participation in the American schools, workplaces and the society in general.
Such individual usually faces an uphill task in competing for the employment opportunities and accessing power. The impacts of the inadequacy in the proficiency of the English language is not only a detriment to the self through self impoverishment but also impacts negatively on the nation through reduction of the country’s potential in terms of economy, innovativeness, quality of life and increased productivity (August and Shanahan, 2006). Socio-cultural influences on ELLs:
The English language Learners (ELLs) can not be regarded as a single group as they exhibit variations when critical factors are put into consideration as opposed to the common feature that they are all learners of the English language. Socio-cultural factors play an important factor in the analysis of these learners. Such factors include the prior academic schooling; literacy levels in the homes; socio-economic status of the families; and the cultural influences in regard to the native language and the country of origin (Carrigg, 2006).
In prior academic schooling, there are variations in what is regarded as elementary or primary education whereby it may refer to “k-8, k-6, 1-6, or 1-5 grades” (Carrigg, 2006, para 3). The location of the schooling [whether urban or rural] is also important in the analysis on the performance of the student. Literacy in homes is a critical element in determining academic excellence in students. Vocabulary is first acquired in the homes and with educated parents; his becomes critical to the school going children.
The socio-economic status of the family is also an important aspect in language acquisition. Poverty stricken homes have very little support if any to the academic language. There are also cultural barriers but their influences on language acquisition are not serious. What should however be noted id the fact that culture and the native language has a more pronounced impact on the older student compared to a younger one (Carrigg, 2006). Bilingualism and home language use:
Most parents of the English language learners avoid speaking their first language believing that this would help their children in the development of proficiency in the English language. This is regarded as a generalized fallacy and that the parents who engage in this deny an important aspect to the children in their developmental process. The knowledge of the first language is crucial for the children’s maintenance of family relationships and cultural identity of the children (van Broekhuizen, 2010). The parents generally assume that learning two languages is a difficult task and could impede the development of language.
They believe that the child will be unable to develop mastery of either language when exposed to the bilingualism thus would lack proficiency compared to those who learn just a single language. They also hold the belief that the two languages would confuse the child and they would have to speak the English language with an accent. This is however not true as it has been established that close to 50 percent of children around the globe can learn more than two languages becoming fluent and proficient in both languages (van Broekhuizen, 2010).
In fact some studies have suggested that bilinguals in some instances have outperformed their monolingual counterparts when it comes to performance of more complex issues (Brainy-Child. com, 2010) Parental and community resources for English acquisition in the Seattle area: The Seattle Public Schools are engaged in an effort to ensure that students who graduate from the schools are ready for the colleges through the implementation of a Strategic Plan which was to be conducted in a creative and relentless manner. The plan was committed to engaging all the families in what was dubbed as School-Family Partnership Plan.
The family engagement has been defined as efficient involvement of family members or any other caring adult individuals in the education of the children via academic support; advocacy; and partnership in the school system. The family engagements are implemented to ensure that students graduate when they are fully ready for either college, careers or life (Seattle Public Schools, 2010). To accomplish the mission of family engagement in the education system, various positions have been created to enhance the process.
These positions include the director for family engagement, family engagement coordinators, and family engagement teams. The District parent/Family Advisory Committee has also been established to provide leadership, professional development, childcare, and transportation among other services that many be required. There are other components that have been established under the new plan to promote the engagement of parents in the education system (Seattle Public Schools, 2010). How to improve school partnerships with the ELL Families:
Since the parents are the child’s primary teachers, it is important for programs that serve the English Language Learners to form a collaborative relationship between the parents and the teachers. In this regard, parents need to be provided with opportunities to participate in the child’s education. It is the duty of the teachers to “share information with parents about the standards, curriculum, and instructional methods that are used in their child’s class and help parents understand the results of various placement and achievement assessment measures that are used in the classroom” (Coltrane, 2010, para 9).
It is vital for the home and school to work together to ensure that the students’ abilities are well nurtured and developed. Conclusion: The importance of the relationship between the families and school especially in English Language Learners’ schools can not be ignored. In fact such relationships are crucial in the development of language proficiency amongst the learners in a more comprehensive manner. ELL schools should therefore be encouraged to establish sound relationships with the families of learners to ensure academic success.
Reference: August, D. and Shanahan, T. , (2006). Developing Literacy in Second-Language Learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth. Retrieved on 24th July 2010 from; http://www. cal. org/projects/archive/nlpreports/executive_summary. pdf Brainy-Child. com, (2010). The Impact of Bilingualism on Overall Language Development and Academic Success. Retrieved on 24th July 2010 from; http://www. brainy-child. com/article/bilingual. shtml. Carrigg, F. , (2006). Teaching ELLs in the Content Areas.
Retrieved on 24th July 2010 from; http://www. state. nj. us/education/njpep/pd/iel/powerpt/TeachingELLsin_ContentAreas. ppt. Coltrane, B. (2010). Working With Young English Language Learners: Some Considerations. Eric Digest. Retrieved on 24th July 2010 from; http://www. ericdigests. org/2004-2/young. html. Seattle Public Schools, (2010). Seattle Public Schools: School Family Partnerships District Plan 2009-2010. Retrieved on 24th July 2010 from; http://www. seattleschools. org/area/fam/documents/SFP%20District%20Pl