English classes for immigrant parents strengthen schools, build communities

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang. (Image courtesy of Boston Public Schools.)

The event has been postponed due to weather.

 

In the weeks since the inauguration, many Boston educators are grappling with how to best support students of immigrant backgrounds facing anti-immigrant sentiment and rapidly changing immigration policies. According to the “BPS: We Dream Together” website, nearly half of 57,000 students in Boston Public Schools (BPS) speak a language other than English at home and represent 139 countries.

On March 15 from 9:00-11:00am at the BPS School Committee Chambers, an innovative approach to engaging immigrant parents of BPS students that uses adult English classes will be showcased at “Building Community-School Partnerships through Parent ESOL Classes.”

The event will provide an overview to the ESOL for Parents Initiative while emphasizing the impact at the individual, family, school and district levels. It will include a presentation of awards to students participating in Parent ESOL classes, as well as a stakeholder panel to provide current research and context to explore integral partnerships, focus, challenges and successes associated with immigrant families trying to engage more deeply with their children’s education.

Superintendent Dr. Tommy Chang will headline the event, underlining the timeliness of this event. “It is important that we continue to foster the relationships with all families so they can be even more engaged in our school system and city,” Dr. Chang said. “English language classes for parents and caregivers are central to strengthening these relationships and building an inclusive community.”

Dr. Frances Esparza, Assistant Superintendent for English Language Learners, will present the awards. Students and recent graduates of ESOL for Parents classes, including parents from El Salvador, China, Nigeria, Haiti, and Somalia, will also speak to attendees on the specific impacts these customized English classes have on their lives.

Istahil Ali, a Somalian mother of two Boston Public School students who is enrolled in an ESOL for Parents class at the Blackstone Elementary School, said, “I learned how I can speak to my child’s teacher with confidence if something happens, or when I should speak to the principal.”  Istahil also now is active in the Blackstone Parents’ Council.

English for New Bostonians’ (ENB) ESOL for Parents and Caregivers Initiative supports customized English classes to help immigrant parents gain English skills to support their children’s educational success. Currently, ENB provides funding and technical assistance to six ESOL for Parents partnerships serving 150 parents in Boston. Community-based ESOL programs partner with elementary schools, pre-school programs and BPS’ Newcomer Assessment and Counseling Center. BPS’ Department of Adult Education also offers ESOL for Parents and family literacy classes through its Adult Learning Center.

Event hosts ENB, BPS Office of English Language Learners, and the Cabot Family Charitable Trust hope that by demonstrating the impact these classes have on immigrant parent engagement in Boston’s schools, the event will build the momentum required to expand these classes to more schools serving large numbers of immigrant families.

“With immigrant families feeling threatened right now, communication and relationships are key,” said Claudia Green, Executive Director of ENB. “ESOL for Parents classes help parents get comfortable with the vocabulary, with asking questions, and with using their voice as their child’s first teacher, as supporter and as advocate.”

A panel discussion will include BPS Assistant Superintendent for Engagement Monica Roberts; a Nigerian mother of eight who enrolled at BPS Adult Ed; and Susan Klaw, who developed the ESOL for Parents and Caregivers curriculum on behalf of ENB and also teaches a class at the Blackstone.

The event is free and open to the public. The School Committee Chambers are located at BPS headquarters in the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building (2300 Washington St, Roxbury, MA). Attendees are encouraged to RSVP ahead of time via ENB’s website (www.englishfornewbostonians.org).

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