Santa Ana parents want role in English teaching

Education The district's low test scores have raised frustration levels.

Frustrated that most Santa Ana schools consistently rank among the lowest in the state, parents are calling on school officials to improve English instruction and recruit more parents to help them get the job done.

About 100 families are expected to meet with school officials tonight at St. Joseph Parish Hall to propose two programs: one to develop English-language instruction and the other to get teachers to visit students at home to reach out to their families.

Parents say they are willing to help Santa Ana Unified School District turn around city schools. Studies long have linked poverty to low test scores, but parent organizers say they are confident scores can improve despite the district’s challenges. More than two-thirds of Santa Ana Unified’s 60,000 students are poor and learning English as a sec ond language. If it’s true that the economic issue is important, it’s also true that our children have the capacity to learn,” said Venancio Chavez, a parent organizer.

We want (teachers) to know that we receive them with open door and we want to feel the same way when we go to the schools.”

The meeting, which is organized by parents and the nonprofit Orange County Congregation Community Organization, comes as the state is reviewing the way the district teaches students who are learning English.

District officials say they are tackling problems openly. For the past two months, teams of administrators and teachers have been going classroom to classroom to review how English learners are being taught. State officials will conduct their review in January.

The district’s review showed that problems persist, despite efforts over several years to improve achievement.

Many schools on year-round schedules because of crowding fail to receive textbooks on time, and schools lack English Learner Advisory Committees, which are required by law, according to a district report. Also, teachers are not tailoring instruction to the students’ English proficiency, and the district does not have a process for monitoring how instructional programs are carried out.

Yes, there are some areas that need to be improved, and we’re not going to get defensive about it,” said Howard Bryan, director of English-language development and bilingual education. We’re going to admit that those situations exist and they are going to be improved.”

Test scores have improved at many schools since Superintendent Al Mijares launched his Above the Mean” program four years ago in which schools focus mainly on reading, writing and math to raise scores above average.

But most schools’ test scores are still among the lowest in the state. In the most-recent state rankings, 40 of 46 Santa Ana schools ranked 3 or below on a scale of 1 to 10.

The district also has adopted tougher graduation requirements, added an hour to the school day for all ninth-graders and is considering putting students through two years of kindergarten to help them learn English. Seven schools are in a state intervention program that will give them money to improve.

Fernando Cibrian, a community organizer, said parents are willing to help the district carry out reforms.

The organization researched the schools and found many lacking, particularly in English instruction downtown, where as many as 80 percent of the students are poor, learning English and parent involvement is not required.

In comparison, the district’s higher-scoring fundamental schools, which serve students from all over the district, have fewer students who are poor and learning English, and parent involvement is required.

We want to let the public know that parents are interested in participating,” Cibrian said. They do want to take part in making our schools better.”

Parents and district officials are to meet tonight at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Parish Hall, 608 E. Civic Center Drive, Santa Ana. The meeting is open to the public.

Contact Sacchetti at (714) 796-4934 or [email protected]

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