By Claudia Rinaldi, Ph.D.
January 30, 2014
Are you getting ready to prepare for next school year? Is your child a second language learner? Does your child struggle with school? Do you want to know what questions to ask when you meet with your child’s teacher?
Parents are often trying to prepare their children for the demands of school but often times they get conflicting messages about what children should know to be successful in schools. Below are some guidelines that might be helpful for parents wanted to prepare their children for school.
Children are expected to master many skills over their preschool years through adulthood. The main areas that are typically presented to parents iare social skills development and academic skills in reading and math.
Although these guidelines by grade they represent more of a continuum of skills that develop and increase over time. It is important to talk to your child’s teacher multiple times in the year. As a parent you would like to ask the following:
How is your child making progress towards grade level expectations?
What else is he or she receiving to help them accomplish those goals?
What you can do to support the learning process at home?
What are websites or other sources of information that can help me help my child?
For many children and young adults, school does not come easy. It is important for parents/guardians to be advocates for their child. If you suspect that your child or young adult is having difficulty in school in reading or in math, you can request weekly check-ups with the teacher. You may also want to consider an educational evaluation if you feel your child may have learning disabilities, behavioral disabilities or other challenges that keep him or her from learning grade level material in school. If you request an evaluation, the school has a process that they must follow with the conclusion of a meeting that determines if your child has 1 of the 13 areas of disabilities identified by the US Department of Education that impair their learning in school.
If you child does meet eligibility for special education supports and a specialized education plan, a team that includes you develops an Individualized Education Plan or IEP for your child. If your child is found to not be eligible, you can request that they school provide with him/her with interventions outside of the Reading/Literacy or English language Arts time or Math depending on the area of difficulty. This intervention is additional support that can help him/her prepare to access the content in class in more effective ways as part of their school day. In many states this process is called Response to Intervention or Tiered Intervention and Support. Visit your school district website, the district’s website or even the state for more information or visit a leading research center- the RTI Action Network for more information (www.rtinetwork.org).
If you child is also learning a new language, consider requesting that the teacher and the ESL or the teacher for students learning English as a Second Language be present at your meeting so that you can see the progress in their English language as well as academics. Learning a language takes 5-7 years so it is important that teachers and parents are aware of the progress and that they child gets the support along the way even when the child sounds like a fluent English speaker (i.e year 3 or 4).
For parents from different cultures, it is important to know that parents in the US are very involved in the children’s school particularly at the pre-school and elementary level. It is ok to ask for clarification of how teaching is happening in the classroom and how your children are learning. It is also common for parents to volunteer, if possible, in the school. As a bilingual parent you can provide many skills that schools are in desperate need such as translating materials for other parents, helping new families, helping introduced groups of students in their primary language.
If you need this information to share with other parents in other languages (available in 11 other languages) consider visiting Colorin Colorado http://www.colorincolorado.org/ for Reading Tips by grade http://www.colorincolorado.org/guides/readingtips/
If you are interested in a website that focuses on families with children that have learning and attention issues visit http://www.understood.org . This great website is a community of parents and experts that work together answering parents questions. The website is available in English and Spanish.
If you need more information about the educational evaluation process because you think your child may have a learning disability please visit the National Center of Learning Disabilities (www.ncld.org) and their parent guide to the evaluation process http://www.ncld.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/IDEA-Parent-Guide1.pdf
Sources for these article came from:
Reading Rockets http://www.readingrockets.org/
Colorin Colorado http://www.colorincolorado.org/
Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts http://www.meadowscenter.org/vgc/
Professor Claudia Rinaldi is the Chair of the Education Program at Lasell University. Her areas of research are the implementation of the Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS) framework in urban settings with English learners, teacher education in bilingual special education, and diversifying the teacher pipeline. Claudia has authored peer-reviewed publications and a book for educators called Practical Ways to Engage All Struggling Readers. She lead and developed a graduate certificate program in Teaching Bilingual Students with Disabilities for general, ESL and special education teachers geared towards applying research-informed practices to the questions and processes of identifying whether it is a language difference or a learning disability. Claudia developed a college mentoring program called Pathways to Teacher Diversity for districts and teacher education programs to partner in identifying and supporting underrepresented high school students interested in teaching careers to successfully access and persist in college. She serves in various boards including the National Center for Learning Disabilities and serves as an expert for Understood.org and the National Center for Intensive Interventions.
Professor Claudia Rinaldi believes that it is critical to prepare teacher leaders who may serve as advocates and allies and who will respond to the belief that all students can learn and succeed beyond barriers like culture, language, disability poverty, and marginalization in our country and globally.