SMART and Critical Exposure are teaming up! Critical Exposure will be working with some of SMART's most creative members.Our Community Media Interns include (from left to right):Lisa Zhao (Wilson), Rainer Luza (Roosevelt),Rahwa Mebrahtom (Coolidge),Hemant Guyadin (Roosevelt) and Emma Scott (Facilitator). CMI's will be working with facilitator Emma to put into focus, frame, and expose some of the most pressing issues facing ELL students in DCPS.
After waiting 3 hours to testify at the DCPS Oversight hearing, Our SMART organizer's finally got to speak their minds! Read their testimonies to find out some of the most pressing issues faced by ELL students and check out how Teddy got SMART a meeting with council member Kwame Brown!
Watch the video (SMART starts at at 3hrs 44mins): http://dc.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=1053
Manuel's Testimony on Counselor to Student Ratios and School Closures
Hi, my name is Manuel Juarez and I go to Roosevelt Senior High School. Today I am here to talk to you about my experience with the lack of counselors in DCPS. There is a serious problem in my school- There are 689 students, but only 2 counselors – one of them is an ELL counselor. However- even though, we make appointments to see her, she is just not available. There are students who need help with college applications, how to apply for scholarships, etc. Another thing is that they need to know if there is credit recovery or they just want to change their schedules. Many students go to the wrong classes because of their schedules and that’s not fair. For my counselor it is really hard to meet with all the students- especially when a lot of them need translation in another language. Right now the counselor to student ratio is about 500 to 1- I want that ratio to be much smaller so that all students get the attention they need to get a good education.
I also wanted to talk to you, because I heard that my school is getting shut down, and I was terrified because I wonder where all the students are going to go. Cardozo is also going to close. I noticed that only schools from wards 1, 4, 7, 8, are going to be closed and not schools from wards 2, 3, or 6. In wards 1 and 4 is where most of the ELL students live so the schools being closed will have a big impact on ELL student, especially high school students since Roosevelt and Cardozo are on your list. I think it is unfair for DCPS to say that my school is not a “good” school because we don’t do well on all these tests. DCCAS is really difficult, even more difficult when you don’t know English. It has really brought disappointment among ELL students and teachers. Actually, at my school there are really great programs for students to participate in- like the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), Critical Exposure, and Roughriders for Global Peace . What LAYC does is that they have a parent and student program in order to get parents involved in their children’s education. The things that Critical Exposure does is that they teach students how to use the media to identify important issues in their schools. Roughriders for Global Peace is a program that raises funds to help people in the Congo! Roosevelt isn’t the only school with these kinds of programs, but other schools that are getting shut down also have their own great programs. By that you can see that is not only the test scores what makes a school good, but also the fact that there are teachers, school staff, and families who are really committed to help students. Another thing is that my school doesn’t receive enough money to improve education- there are not enough resources like in other schools, like Wilson and School Without Walls. They have laptops, enough books, nice buildings, and more after school programs. Please do not close my school give us a chance. Thank you
Lydia's Testimony on Credit Recovery Options for ELL Students
My name is Lidya Abune. I go to Calvin Coolidge SHS and I am a senior. We are here representing the Student Multi-Ethnic Action Research Team (SMART for short) - the education project of Many Languages One Voice (or MLOV). MLOV works with DC residents who do not speak English or who are in the process of learning English- to make sure they have equal access to government services despite any language barriers. SMART focuses on working with English Language Learning students, teachers, and parents in high schools across DCPS to make sure students and their families can still receive quality education and treatment while they are in the process of learning English.
Today, I came here to testify about one of the issues that I believe is very crucial not only for me but also for most of ELL students. I will be telling you my personal experience with not having enough credit recovery options for students. I left my apartment one Tuesday morning, enjoying the beautiful weather, to my appointment to the Office of Bilingual Education. It has been only three months since I become an immigrant student in the United States. My school had requested me to submit the evaluations of my former high school transcripts. I was so excited to be a class of 2011 and could not wait more for the result of the evaluations. Upon my arrival there, I was ushered to the Director`s Office. She made me sit and handed me the result of the evaluations. To my astonishment, I discovered that they could not give me more than 15 credits. It exasperated me more to find out all my credits for English subject were not included. I had taken the subject and scored high grades as a senior high school student in my native country, Ethiopia. Because I came from a country which English is not the national language, I was told that I was still a freshman and deserved no credit for it. All the excitement I had had suddenly vanished.
I started to reason out and asked for an evaluation test so that at least I could get the chance to have some of my English credits. All the answer I got was a” no” and that they are adhering to the educational system here. I felt I had been treated unfairly and desperately sought an explanation because I failed to see any logic in it. But no further explanation was coming and I was left with ‘take it or leave it’ situation. Despite the fact that I was very angry with the situation, I did not want to give up on my education. Convincing myself to accept the undeserved placement at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School as a freshman student, I started to find ways so that I could graduate on time. In the mean time, I discovered that it was not only me who faced such problem but also some other students. In my school, I met immigrant students who were 17 and 18 years old being placed in grade 9 unfairly. We all began voicing our rights and work hard on finding solutions to the problem. Last year, my school offered a credit recovery class only for seniors. I- considered as a grade 9 student- did not even stand a chance to enroll in the extension program. The school administration declined my application. I tried to talk to the assistance principal of my school and later on joined others and demanded to have a meeting with the school principal. We explained our grievances and said that we all were ready to take additional classes if they would allow us to enroll in the credit recovery programs. We failed to get a positive reply. However, by the end of the school year some of us succeeded to enroll in the summer school program so as to get credit for the English class.
I have a recommendation as to how we can begin to fix this problem. Let ELL students have the chance to enroll in credit recovery classes during summer school and after school. Summer school and after school programs that offer credit recovery should not be only for students who have failed their classes. You should take advantage of the fact that you have students in DCPS who want to get ahead. “Getting ahead” is especially important to ELL students who sometimes come from their home countries, where they were ready to graduate and are then placed in 9th grade. This is very hard for many students because at 17 or 18 we feel we should either be going to college or helping our families by working. I understand the financial problem that DC is having right now but helping us get credit recovery can begin with a very small step. I have sat in summer school- and have seen half of the class being empty despite my principals and teachers telling me that there was no space for anyone who was not a senior- why not offer the empty seats during those summer school classes to non-seniors and ELL students?
Thank you. Hope you will consider this in your budget plan and make a difference in a lot of students lives who are eager to change their life through education.
Teddy's Testimony on The Need for Interpretation and Translation Services
Have you ever wondered what you will do if you were in another country and you see your child report card all “D ” and “F”s? You want to find out what’s the reason behind it ,but if you go to his school, there is no means of communicating with the teacher. How would you feel? How about you get a call in another language to tell you that your son was absent from school but you just pass it because you don’t understand the language .What will happen to your child in the near future? How about if your child want to apply to collage and he have question to ask, but he don’t know how to explain it in their language. How would you feel? How would all this make you feel? Seeing your own child future go down the drain, am sure it is a night mare for any parent. This might not be what most of you in this room experience. But guess what? We immigrant students and our family’s go throw it like it is a normal thing, but guess what? It is not. Our future depends on it.
Hi my name is Tewodros Kasahun, I am in 12th grade and I go to Cardozo Senior High School. One of the high schools which was recommended for closure or turn around by the IFF report. I am here on the behalf of ESL students across dc public school. I am one of the youth organizers at SMART (Student Multi-Ethnic Action Research Team). As I mentioned, one of the problem that is holding us ESL students from getting quality education and achieving in school is the lack of interpretation and translation services.
DCPS have been paying for translation and interpretation services through “The Language Line”, but it is not using it- this is based on the personal experience of ESL students, teachers, and families from all over DCPS. The program is not being implemented, in fact most of the teachers and the school staff don’t know the language line even exists!
If DCPS is spending money on this service, it also should check if the service is being implemented properly. Not having interpretation at parent teacher conferences or even when families go to the main office is affecting students and their families across DCPS. Why spend all that money for something that is not being used?
The solution to this issue is a simple thing: Why not give a lecture for teachers and school staffs on one after school day on how to use the language line? Also, we need our government to demand- as required by the Language Access Act of 2004- that schools put up signs in different languages that say that everyone has the right to Interpretation and Translation services. This way when parents walk in they can know. Also if the school itself supporting this it might also help a lot of students not feel ashamed to ask their teachers and counselors to use the language line in front of other students. SMART is willing to work with DCPS to solve this issue. In fact, we invite you to meet with us to hear some of the other ideas we have to make DCPS a more welcoming space for ELL students and their families. Would you be willing to meet with us? How can we set up an appointment? Thank you.
I know we are minority, but at the end, we also are the future of America. So why increase poverty with such a minor thing that can be fixed so easily? And we are not asking for much we just asking for the service that is being paid for, to be implemented for us.
This was my first time to be on a radio and also for my friend Lidya . We were so excited and
terrified at the same time when we first walked in to the station. Oscar,the Host for the radio station gave us a warm welcome . He showed us how things work and gave us a brief explanation . we were really glad that we got the chance to talk about the issues in our schools (DCPS) and how to solve them. We talked about the drop-outs of some students. We also talked about the needs of ESL teachers and counselors in some schools. One the most difficult problems ESL students face is discrimination against.I personally have faced discrimination against and some of my classmates. The name of the radio is WPFW 89.3FM, Pacifica and the person who invited me to the interview was Inti Vizueta, a student that graduated from Wilson High School. There were Lidya Abune, Norberto Martinez, and Oscar Rodriguez. We (Manuel and Lidya) are members of SMART (Students Multiethnic Action Research Team) which is an organization that helps ESL students to solve their problems at school. When I came to the USA, I was discriminated against by a teacher just because I didn’t know any English. That day I felt very disappointed and I was wondering why I was discriminated against by a teacher. Teachers are supposed to teach and help students. At first, I didn’t say anything because it was the first time and I thought it was fine. Two months later, the same thing happened and I was so pissed off. That day, I complaint with the principal of the school, so the principal warned that teacher and told if him that he was not supposed to be discriminating against students because that was not his job. Because this is my first
time on the radio, I felt nervous. Well, at first I felt confident because I was going to talk about the issue I am most concerned about. I felt nervous when they asked me what the solutions for the school issues were. At that moment I could not think of anything, my face was kind of red because I didn’t know what to say. We also talked about Ethiopians because they are expanding in the District of Columbia. Washington DC is the place that has more Ethiopians than any other state in whole nation.
The Student Multi-ethnic Action Research Team (SMART)