Opinion: Tools to meet a challenge

Lynn School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler issued a challenge last month when he called for boosting the number of students reaching English proficiency from 48 percent to 52 percent.

School administrators have taken the challenge to heart by making changes aimed at helping English language learner (ELL) students. With the goal of meeting requirements in newly-implemented legislation, administrators are planning to form an English Language Parent (Family) Advisory Council and create a seal of biliteracy for inclusion on high school diplomas.

Why the intense public school focus on ELL? One, the law says school districts in Lynn and other  communities must bolster language learning and make ELL programs more accountable starting this year. Two, Tutwiler prioritized language learning improvements high on his goal list to ensure administrators and educators right down to the school level work together to improve language learning.

Lynn school district statistics list 4,030 ELL students and 1,407 former ELL students in the Lynn schools. These numbers underscore another, more sobering statistic: ELL students are most at risk of dropping out of high school.

School planners are already looking into launching a two-way Spanish immersion program with the initial focus on kindergartners in the 2020-2021 school year.

The objective of enhanced ELL education is to make students biliterate and bilingual. Making students conversant and literate in two or more languages is intended to give them a leg up in catching employers’ attention and snagging college acceptance letters.

A seal of biliteracy on a high school diplomacy won’t be a token gesture but rather a statement of accomplishment indicating a student has scored sufficiently high on a language assessment examination and demonstrated an advanced degree of biliteracy.

By forming an advisory council, school administrators are declaring that they want and need parents to participate in decision making for school district English learning strategies.

Tutwiler has made English language advancement a priority, and schools strategies for making the priority a reality favorably include students, educators and parents.

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