A group of Latino parents showed up at this week’s meeting of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board to express their disappointment in the district’s Two-Way Immersion Program (TWI) that is designed, in part, to help Spanish-speaking students overcome their language barrier to learning in the district’s schools.
Speaking to a full house of more than 100 observers present at the meeting, the parents, many speaking in halting English, complained that their students had been placed in the TWI program without their approval and that it hampered their ability to master the English language.
Their remarks took many of the board members by surprise, and the parents left the meeting with assurances that the board would evaluate the effectiveness of the program, including the process by which students are admitted to the program.
The gist of the comments from parents was that they feel their kids would learn English faster if they were totally immersed in the language, rather than having a Spanish-speaking teacher providing some of the instruction.
A mother who lives on Dobson Street with her three children said, “I want my children to learn English. They need English to advance in a career in this country.”
The mother of an entering kindergarten student said her child was tested and found deficient in English and was automatically assigned to the TWI program.
The TWI program was started in the district in 2001 and has grown from one to five schools: Dawes, Dewey, Oakton, Washington, and Willard. Approximately half the students in each classroom are English-speaking and half are Spanish-speaking. The goal is to help each language group become proficient in the other language.
One of the Latino parents told the Board that it was her impression that the English-speaking students were gaining more from the program than were the native Spanish speakers.
In the board responses to the public comments, Richard Rykhus said he was aware of the parents’ concerns, particularly the process of placing students in the program, and that he would urge the board to add an evaluation of the TWI program to its upcoming calendar.
Subsequently the board did tentatively slot that discussion into one of their March 2013 meetings, although the complete calendar of board topics has not yet been finalized.
Kim Weaver said it was her hope that a Latino parent would consider running for the school board in the April 2013 elections.
Superintendent Hardy Murphy said that parents do have a choice about whether their students are admitted to the TWI program, but acknowledged that “we may have to look at that process.”