Heading into the 2019-20 school year, the South-Western City School District is home to more than 3,300 identified English Learners and more than 1,800 exited ELs.
These students and their families hail from all parts of the world and speak more than 80 languages and dialects. In building programs, securing resources and training staff to support English-language acquisition and content-area proficiency, we have focused our attention on the importance of partnerships.
To provide access to education and opportunities in the real world, our first partnership starts with the relationships that each of our schools work to create with all families. By recognizing the importance of first-language resources in providing information about district programs and procedures, we strive to ensure that all families receive important educational information.
By working with families to gain a better understanding of the diverse cultural practices found throughout the district, our goal is to provide opportunities for real world experiences that better prepare all of our students for their roles in a diverse world.
Our next partnership centers on the importance of the day-to-day collaboration of stakeholders within the district who help to manage the needs associated with developing both English-language and content-area proficiency for all students.
This requires communicating needs and securing resources for a diverse group of students and families in areas as wide-ranging as curriculum, career-technical education and transportation.
This partnership is based on a constantly developing relationship focused on providing an education for all students that allows for the opportunities that are the stated goal of our school district.
A vital and evolving partnership that has helped to bolster the work we are doing with all students and families involves the willingness of organizations within the larger central Ohio EL community to help address some of the EL-specific needs of the district. Relationships that have been established with key players in the EL community, such as the Abubakar Assidiq Islamic Center, the Ohio Hispanic Coalition, Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services, the 21st Century After-School EL Program and many others, have provided opportunities for a deeper understanding of the cultures of many district families, as well as expertise in cultural matters that contributed to the professional growth and development of our staff.
Finally, our developing partnerships with postsecondary institutions has been instrumental in building a path toward real life opportunities for all students through college credit plus offerings.
Relationships with Ohio State University, Columbus State Community College and Central New Mexico Community College have resulted in opportunities for students to earn credits in heritage Spanish, bilingual medical interpreting and bilingual customer-service courses.
These partnerships, as with the others forged between SWCSD and all of the previously mentioned groups and organizations, have helped to provide an education that has placed all students in a better position to secure promising career opportunities in an increasingly diverse world.
Edward Kennedy is coordinator of English Learners Programs for the South-Western City School District.