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Dual Language Parents 'Cautiously Optimistic' After Special Board Meeting

Dec 16, 2014 11:58AM ● Published by Steven Jack

Parents supporting Oswego School District 308's Dual Language program crowd into a May School Board meeting in a show of support for the program. File Photo Courtesey of Todd Andrlik

After months of debate between parents and Oswego School District 308 officials, aspects of the district’s Dual Language program appear to be gaining new support from some School Board members.

At a packed special board meeting Monday night called to determine the future of the district’s struggling English Language Learners program, board members discussed ways to overhaul the program, including using successful parts of the Dual Language curriculum across the entire ELL system.

The meeting was called after an audit of the ELL program last week revealed major flaws, including inequities in education for ELL students, high turnover among staff and poor training for teachers. The district’s ELL program serves about 815 students, speaking dozens of languages.

The audit also revealed the district’s Dual Language program, which focuses on making its 365 native English and Spanish speakers bilingual,  is cost neutral and provides a better education overall than the district’s traditional ELL programs.

“The whole system needs to be fixed, but if the Dual Language program’s techniques work, let’s bring those to the rest of the students,” said board member Greg O’Neil. 

Board member Brent Lightfoot agreed, saying nothing should be “taken off the table” when it comes to fixing ELL.

After a series of questions for board members from Superintendent Matthew Wendt regarding several aspects of Dual Language, Wendt said staff will work for the next two months to prepare an overhaul to the entire ELL program with recommendations for changes to come in late February. 

While O’Neil and Lightfoot’s words could be seen as welcome relief for Dual Language parents who have feared for months that the program may be eliminated, a leader of the Bilingual Parent Advisory Council said the group is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“The BPAC is cautiously optimistic with the results of the special meeting last night. After the Audit results and the variety of public speakers we heard last night, we were pleasantly surprised to hear some positive perspectives from Mr. O’Neil and Mr. Lightfoot about Dual Language, including an acknowledgment that DL is the best choice for English Learners in our District,” said BPAC Vice President JC Reveles in a statement to Only Oswego.

“While the language of 'dismantling DL' appears to have gone away, the BPAC will continue to monitor Dr. Wendt’s plans to restructure the entire EL program. We want to make sure that the parts that need fixing get addressed, and those that work well (such as DL) are properly supported and expanded." 

For a complete report on the district’s ELL program audit, read this article from the Aurora Beacon News.

Education, News oswego school district 308 dual language

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