I'm really frustrated! My kids are in a small, rural school where they are the only bilingual kids. They are in Kindergarten and 2nd grade. Because I told the school they are bilingual and we speak ml (Spanish) at home, they gave them a state required exam to test their ML (English) ability. They both "failed" their evaluations. I have no idea why or what the test asks. I am completely taken aback by this since they DO speak the ML all the time and HAVE been in an ML school.
So, they have placed a language assistant in their classes a certain number of hours per week to help them during class. (I don't know what that means.) I was trying to keep an open mind about this, but am getting increasingly annoyed. I'm concerned that it is stigmatizing AND gives the teacher an excuse to not pay attention to my kids. I'm concerned that my kids will be paying attention to this assistant instead of the teacher. I'm concerned that it is a "crutch" excuse for the teacher to blame any difficulties or confusion with school on, "Oh well, they speak Spanish."
No, they are BILINGAL! And, they are just learning to read and write.
Does anyone have a similar experience with their child's ML school? Anyone have any suggestions at how to approach the school or teachers about getting them out of this program?
Native English Mom, fluent in Spanish; Native Spanish Dad
Posts: 132 Country (residing now): US Country (originally from): Spain Children, Ages: Girl, born in March 2016 Majority Language: English Minority Language(s): Spanish, German, and hopefully French some day!
Kind of the same thing happened with my daughter. I only speak in our mls at home, so her contact/use of the ML at home was nowhere to be found. She began going to a school where she had a lot of issues (I honestly think it was just an adjustment to the new school thing, and the fact that she's very stubborn and wants to do things her way all the time....and the fact that she was 3, but I digress...), so without asking for my input on this, the teachers decided that she couldn't continue in the program, and one of the reasons that they basically mentioned was that they couldn't communicate with her because she didn't seem to understand English. I can tell you that wasn't the issue at all, but oh well. Anyway, it was a pretty traumatic experience for me, so she went back to daycare, and then the pandemic began. For a long year and a half, she was at home with me, and we didn't go anywhere and/or saw anyone in person. I eventually registered her for kindergarten at a different school and sure, since I told them we spoke Spanish and German at home, she had to take the state exam. She failed it (I mean, she had spent a year and a half without speaking English at all, so it wasn't a surprise). The lady who administered the test told me she should attend the school ESL classes, and that she wasn't worried at all because she knew that at her age, she'd pick it up (English, I mean) very soon and there wouldn't be any issues. I told her we'd try it and see how that went...
.... well, in my case, things have worked out pretty well. The ESL teachers at her school are AMAZING and she loves it when she goes there. Needless to say, the moment she began attending school again and being surrounded by English-speaking children and teachers while receiving all her education in English, she began speaking English fluently, but I think those classes also helped. If nothing else, they have been great to make her love for reading grow (now she's exceeding expectations for her level). At least in my experience, my daughter hasn't noticed any stigma attached to those courses, and both students and school teachers have been pretty cool about this. She's still going to those sessions (I believe not as often as last year), and she's very happy because she gets to spend time with two of her favorite teachers, she gets to read cool books and play with cool toys, and she helps other kids, so she's a happy camper there. I have to say I haven't noticed anything that leads me to think that her teachers are using the ESL classes as an excuse to not pay attention to her at all.
This is my experience and it might be completely different from other parents, for sure. I did consider asking the school to remove her from the program, but I figured that, after a year and a half of being all by ourselves, the more input she could get, the better, so I went with it. I think she won't be attending those classes next year, but in any case, although I'm sure she'd still have got to where she's today without them, the classes haven't hurt either. Her age might be a factor as well. Maybe your 4-year-old might find these sessions more 'fun' than the 6-year-old, but who knows? If they continue with them, I hope that their experience is as positive as my daughter's.
Edited to add: I wrote all this before reading Marisa's post. I started writing over an hour ago, got busy, then came back later on and finished it
Hi, Ilyssa, and welcome! What's going on at your kids' school sounds very stressful. I can't help with any information about these programs anywhere, but I wanted to share a few thoughts in case it helped:
- Have you considered having your kids evaluated by a bilingual speech therapist so that they can assess their language ability in both the ML and ml? This way you would find out whether your kids need this ESL program in the first place.
- I would try to get information from the bilingual speech therapist on these programs too. My guess is your kids haven't been the first ones to have failed this ML test and a bilingual speech therapist may know whether a program like this one would help them or harm them.
If they tell you this program is a bad idea for whatever reason, I would ask them to it put all in writing and take it to the school. If that doesn't work and you're convinced this program isn't for your kids, I'd look into changing schools. I don't know whether this would change anything with this test being mandatory for bilingual speakers.
For the record, my kids are 9 and 6, they speak both our ML and ml, they have been in school since they were 1yo and 6 months old, respectively, and their ML and ml are still lacking. I expected it of the ml, but not the ML. I very much doubt an ML assistant at school would help them in any way and, like you, I would be afraid it would stigmatize them.
Thank you Marisa and Raquel for your thoughtful suggestions and experiences. Just to fill you in, I ended up finding some "loophole" in the state rules that said that the school was supposed to inform me about the program IN WRITING and they never did. I wrote a legalese type of letter citing their mistakes and pointing out that I am a native language speaker. The school was required then to have a bilingual expert review their cases (which was sort of what you suggested, Raquel). They did a minor amount of questioning the ESL program director and then decided that as long as I signed a notarized letter stating that I understood my kids could never reenter the ESL program, then they would remove their ESL determination. Me being a native English speaker went a long way in convincing them. Plus, they messed up by not really informing me about the program.
It was a stressful process, unnecessarily. I'm glad they are out of the program. If there were other bilingual kids in the program with them or it was a real bilingual class, I would have loved it!
Native English Mom, fluent in Spanish; Native Spanish Dad
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Jan 6, 2023 20:02:18 GMT 9