From opening “pop-up” preschools in Cicero to building new partnerships with existing service agencies, teams of parents, educators and health care providers are developing locally-based projects to improve access to early childhood education in the communities that most need it.
STEM Magnet Academy parent Christine Bay-Spiric complains that her children, who are English language learners, have met obstacles in school: Unclear homework instructions that she is expected to explain to them. Missing assignments because they couldn’t make up work from days they missed due to a religious holiday.
She and other parents are pinning their hopes for change on a law that State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (24th District) plans to introduce in the next month.
Just 6 percent of early childhood teachers in a recent survey had bilingual or English as a Second Language credentials, according to a report released Tuesday by the Latino Policy Forum and New Journalism on Latino Children.
Since almost 20 percent of Illinois students come into kindergarten as English-learners, there is a substantial gap between the need for bilingual services and the supply.
Lloyd Elementary teacher Ramona Richards puts one hand over her mouth and raises the other, signaling to the 1st-graders sitting on the carpet that they should be quiet. In Spanish, she tells them to cross their legs. “Ahora es tiempo para el desarrollo de Inglés,” she adds. Translation: “Now it’s time for English language development.” As if a switch has flipped, her speech changes to English.
Back in July, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the creation of a city Office of New Americans intended to, in his words, “make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the world.” Indeed, immigration continues to change the face of Chicago and the metro area. In the city, one in five residents is foreign-born, according to census data, and 12 percent of students are English-language learners. In the suburbs, the ELL population has doubled in a quarter of school districts, and educators are grappling with how to educate these students at a time when state dollars are shrinking.