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Parents voice support for dual language program : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Parents voice support for dual language program
Petitions urging retention, expansion of program presented to school board

by Natalie Stevens


Oswego School District administrators announced at a June 9 school board meeting that the district's dual language program would continue as normal for the upcoming school year and an audit of the district's English Language Learners (ELL) program would be completed and presented to the board in October.

But parents of students in the dual language program said Monday night they were concerned the district might cancel the program and didn't want the discussion to end. They addressed the board and administration concerning the future of the program.

Parent Ruby Reveles, who has four children in the dual language program, said she appreciates the members of the board and administration who have taken a second look at the data and taken suggestions to heart.

However, Reveles said recently one of the dual language parents was asked directly by a board member, "Where were the dual language parents and staff over the last nine years?"

"The answer to that question is we were here. Involved in the classrooms and appreciating the opportunities available in the Oswego 308 school district," Reveles said.

She added, "We trusted the administration to advocate for the dual language program. We trusted in those in authority to educate the board about this program and why it is so beneficial to both native Spanish and English speakers.

"We asked for the program to grow. Teachers suggested many ways to improve the program. These parents and teachers have been right here, but no one has been listening until the past month, until we started a petition to save the dual language program."

Reveles brought with her a binder of 2,108 signatures of Oswego School District residents who were in favor of saving and expanding the dual language program. She said she began collecing the names since May 31 and was "thrilled to feel the support of this community," in just over three weeks.

"Each of these signatures represents a person standing in this room in front of you saying, 'I am a resident of Oswego 308 and am a supporter of the dual language program,'" Reveles said.

Addressing Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt, Reveles said he had once told the dual language parents "we had a public relations problem."

"Thank you for that, I believe you were right," Reveles said. "But these signatures say we're fixing that problem."

A part of that problem, said parent Tina Gonzalez, is that not all of the data concerning the ELL program is correct.

"There has been no attempt to correct miscoding of the previous seven years of the previous administration, or the last two years of this administration," Gonzalez said.

She referenced a 12-page document "Response to Citizens' Comments on Dual Language" that was released before the June 9 meeting and contained the district's responses to several concerns brought up by dual language parents.

The document says that all students moving forward will be coded correctly in terms of native language

"We must correct all data that already exists, Gonzalez said. "Using an accurate list is of utmost importance."

She said the administration did not separate dual language students by native language, but instead used a home language survey to determine a student's native language.

"The survey only determines if a language other than English is spoken in a home. It does not determine a student's native language," Gonzalez said. "If our administration uses the home language survey to categorize students, the resulting data is flawed."

Gonzalez also expressed her pleasure that an audit will be done by an impartial expert but cautioned that the, "Evaluation will only be as good as the data provided, and therein lies our greatest concern."

Transparency is also an issue, Gonzalez said. She explained that dual language parents had requested information via the Freedom of Information Act for the ISAT (Illinois Standards Achievement Test) data of dual language students, but was surprised to receive notice that the district was unable to report the data as specified in the request.

However, at the June 9 board meeting, Superintendent Wendt provided that information to the community, when just days before the dual language parents were told the data was not available.

"Transparency and administrative confidence in the area of ELL are still of great concern. When we add in fact that an unusually fast October due date (for the audit) has already been determined and we have no program director or assistant director, we think it is only prudent to share our concerns moving forward," Gonzalez said.

She added that she wanted accountability.

"I believe we need to hold school administration accountable to make sure best practices are being followed for every student in every classroom in every school," Reveles said.

"I urge the school administration to keep the dual language program as is or consider expanding the dual language program throughout the district so the needs of every student will be valued and met.

"We look forward to being a part of the process and hearing results of a fair and unbiased audit," said Reveles.

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