by Terry Rogers
Over 20 percent of the student population at Milford Central Academy received English as a Second Language (ESL) services. In addition, many students who have exited ESL programs in the district continue to speak another language at home. This has led Milford School District to offer several programs designed to benefit parents who may not speak English in order to help students enrolled in the district.
“Our multi-lingual families contribute invaluably to our students’ academic success, but due to the language barrier there is sometimes a disconnect between their efforts at home and our efforts to support students at school,” Erin Bryan, a Milford Central Academy EL teacher, explained. “These meetings offer multilingual families the opportunity to meet regularly with school representatives and communicate via interpreters, thereby bridging home and school support systems and improving student outcomes.”
In October, the district held its first ever Immersion Night for children and families who are currently enrolled in the Immersion Program. The goal was to provide families with additional details and supports about learning as an immersion for families, provide helpful resources and answer any questions they had.
“Families rotated through different stations throughout the evening that were appropriate for both parents and children,” Darian Mitchell, EL teacher at Morris Early Childhood Center, said. “The children were able to participate in the stations and complete activities and crafts while the parents were able to work collaboratively with their child while also listening to strategies on how to help support their child in the immersion learning environment. Families had the opportunity to take several items home with them. These items included a bilingual book of their choice, a card game, bookmarks they made themselves, an “All About Me” poster, DOE benchmarks for parents along with a list of websites, apps and resources to help parents and children learn English and Spanish.” A meal was also provided.
More than 200 people attended the program and many of the families responded positively to the event, according to Mitchell. Families appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the immersion program as well as have specific questions answered about their children.
In addition to the first Immersion Night, Milford School District also partners with Polytech Adult Education to offer a Family Literacy Program at Ross Elementary. On Monday and Wednesday nights, parents are able to attend classes that enable them to not only learn English but also participate in the GED program through Polytech. While they are in class, their children are able to attend the Polytech Family Literacy Program which provides literacy-based educational programming.
“The program supports and improves student reading, writing and oral language skills,” Brittney Campbell, Mispillion Elementary EL teacher and Family Literacy Teacher at Polytech, said. “Children ages two through four work on school readiness skills and receive developmental screenings to assist parents with learning at home. Students in Kindergarten through sixth grade are taught by certified teachers and follow an English Language Arts curriculum, receive tutoring services and homework assistance. Parent-child interaction is encouraged by requiring parents to read at home with their children. Parents also attend a monthly parent group where they learn about community resources and programs to promote family well-being. Currently, there are 67 children in the program from 34 families.”
Each month, Milford Central Academy holds Bilingual Information Night which provided parents the opportunity to speak to educators and administrators as a group as well as individually through an interpreter. Based on the parents’ interests and needs, the district provided information about academics, extra-curriculars and school-based resources, bringing in representatives from various community resources to speak with families. Between six and ten families have attended the meetings which began in September 2019. The next meeting will be held on November 14 and another on December 5. The meetings begin at 6:30 PM and are held in the Milford Central Academy library.
“Milford School District continues to embrace the diversity of the population we serve,” Dr. Bridget Amory, Director of Student Learning, said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with our families and are committed to continue to adjust our programming and family events to best meet their educational needs.”
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