Colin Hill
Module Two EPDES 946
Advocacy for English Language Learners and Their Families
Action Plan
Overall goal: Increase involvement of families in their ELL **__students__**' education
Objective #1: Build a community of support in schools for ELL families to increase family involvement in students’ education.
Justification of this objective: In a review of research published by The National Education Association (NEA), research findings are quoted as saying, "When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more. (1)” Educational research can usually be found to support both sides of a position; however the research on parental involvement is conclusive. Students with involved parents earn higher grades, test better, attend school, fit in better socially, and graduate in higher numbers regardless of income or family background. Parental involvement may be the most important factor in ensuring a child’s success in school.
People involved: Myself, ELL and Non-ELL families, Seattle Partnership Committee, School’s Parent and Student Advocate, PTA members, IA translation staff, and perhaps a “Natural Leader” volunteer.
Justification and Current challenges:When parental involvement is so important, it should be ensured that all groups have an opportunity to participate, and are supported and encouraged to do so. This can be problematic for English Language Learners, as they can have barriers to parental involvement. The Great Lakes Center’s paper on promoting ELL parent involvement shows these barriers and some possible solutions (2). These barriers can include the barriers that all families face such as poverty, lack of education in families, and time constraints. In addition, ELL families have barriers that are unique. ELL families can suffer from a negative school climate caused by anti-immigrant legislation and sentiment. The families can be blamed for their lack of involvement in a “deficit model” of involvement, where schools fail to recognize their responsibility to reach out to all families. Schools often rely on a “unidirectional” approach to involvement, where they want families to support the school, but do not offer any support in return. Lastly and foundationally related to these other factors, ELL parents can suffer from a language barrier. This can contribute to feelings that their culture, language and they themselves are not welcome in schools.
The paper suggests solving these problems by involving ELL families through bilateral interactions with a “dual model approach”. Firstly, they suggest acknowledging and supporting ELL families’ language and culture in the traditional areas that English speaking parents are involved. Secondly, they suggest involving the ELL community to provide reciprocal involvement in school based non-traditional programs and assisting families in utilizing/creating a community based support and educational network that can be integrated with the school (2).

Some of these problems are amenable to quick solutions, while others require a deeper systematic change. I plan to set a goal to do one large project over the summer before school starts (home visits), one project starts before school and requires a small time commitment during school (website upgrade), and one project that will be ongoing (PTA modifications). These projects are designed to build momentum and support, so that I ‘get the ball rolling’ and then step back to allow them to be self-sustaining. I start off with home visits to build community and communication. I then upgrade the website to make information more accessible to parents and more fully involve their language in school culture . Lastly, I slightly change the PTA format to allow for increased buy-in for ELL parents that will hopefully lead into a fundamental change over the next few years. All of these activates are to designed to foster a dual service model of interaction.

Activity #1: Home visits.
The article, “Promoting ELL Parental Involvement: Challenges in Contested Times” suggests that home visits are a good way to build communication with parents. Home visits with ELL families can be difficult because of the language barrier, however, even with limited language, the visits show parents that teachers are willing to help serve families in a two-way support model. Seattle is currently engaged in a supported home visits program. This program is supported through the “2010-13 Collective Bargaining Agreement between Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Education Association (4),” which mandated that, the Partnership Committee must “develop, train and implement a parent/guardian and community engagement process that supports school staffs in reaching out to community resources and the parents/guardians of the students we serve.” A home-visit program has been supported in Seattle through an NEA foundation grant. For this part of the project, I will visit families over the summer that will be in my class the next year. I will work in collaboration with the school’s Student and Family Advocate, but these visits can be done without any support. This is not independent advocacy, it is a district supported program that is available to use, that few teachers are using. Since 2009, around 400 teachers have made around 1,500 home visits in Seattle. This is a good start but I would like to be engaged in the process to increase those numbers and maybe be financially compensated.
Resources needed: I will need to set aside time to arrange and make visits over the summer (luckily, the catchment for my school is small, so driving far won’t be an issue), time for the paperwork to apply for paid time, a class list with addresses and contact numbers, a car, and courage to visit families outside of my familiar school environment.
Chronological steps in accomplishing this activity:
1) Contact Seattle Public Schools Partnership Committee- I will request the paperwork and approval to join a Parent/ Teacher Home Visits Program.
2) Plan Visits— I talk to students’ that will be in my class next year and give them notes in English to read to their parents, asking if they are interested in a home visit. Additional resources such as translators for phone calls home may be available through the program.
3) Make Visits—I anticipate that only a third to a quarter of my parents will be interested. I will plan to make one-hour visits to each interested family, divided into one or two a week over the summer. Visiting over the summer preserves valuable school year time, sets a positive tone for first contact with parents, opens the door to communication, and will be enjoyable!
Methods/data for monitoring the effectiveness of the activity:
The district will collect data its own data on the effectiveness of home visits independently of me. I will collect data to see if families that receive home visits are more involved in school activities as part of a process already in place at the school where sign-in data from school events/meetings, and parent teacher conference attendance is collected. I can compare attendance numbers across the variable of “families I visited” and “families I didn’t visit” in a simple correlational study. If the numbers are significant, I can even apply for additional grant money to extend the program.
Activity #2: Website Upgrade
My school’s website doesn’t include any information in other languages. While making a version of the website in all the different languages spoken at my school is not possible, I have two easy ways to improve the communication from the site to ELL families. By coming to the website, and seeing their language, families will be more informed and feel more welcome in the school process.

To upgrade the website, I will use a “widget” provided through Google Translate. This option is currently available on Seattle schools websites, but it is an option that is not easy to find. I will add hyperlinks on the website to this tool which provides a drop-down menu that allows the page to be translated. By increasing the visibility of this tool I will increase its use. Instead of having the word “translate” in English on the link I will have it in the languages of my students. Khmer speaking parents will find, បកប្រែ” more usable than the word “translate” in English, which could be unreadable.

Secondly, I will scan and upload the translated handouts and forms that parents already get via “kid mail” to the website. This will allow families to check and make sure they have the current information. While this modification will be a big help, it will be harder for families that don’t use the internet. Hard copies will continue to be provided for all families as well.
Resources needed: A computer with a scanner, a copy of the paper handouts given to ELL families, about an hour or two, principal approval.
Chronological steps in accomplishing this activity:
1) Get Approval: I will discuss my concerns with my principal and propose the added hyperlinks and scanned documents.

2) Scan the Documents: I will talk to the bi-lingual IA’s that do our translating in-house and ask them to give me copies of the newsletters that they already send home to ELL families. I will then scan these documents on my home scanner.

3) Modify the Website: I will add the hyperlinks and links to the scanned documents.
Methods/data for monitoring the effectiveness of the activity:
I will conduct an informal survey at home visits to ask if those parents know about the website and the translation function. I will then ask families, during subsequent contact (i.e. PTA meetings and parent teacher conferences), if they have used the translation. I will measure whether telling parents about the function, adding more content and making the function more visible increases reports of use.
Activity #3: PTA modifications to pave the way for a “Natural Leaders” type program.
The PTA at my school is dominated by English speakers. While parents with limited English proficiency do attend, I want to make the process more inviting for them. In this activity I will accomplish that goal by providing informal time before and after the meeting for ELL families to talk in language groups. This is beneficial in two ways. First, by talking with each other parents can share resources, tips, and suggestions in their native language, thus building community. Secondly, parents can use each other’s language skills in English to make sure their concerns are addressed at the meetings. In my PTA modification, I will begin simply and add more pieces over time. This is a useful modification as it requires very few additional resources.
Over a few years I will try to build to a “Natural Leaders” type model. This PTA modification joins with my home visits, which will hopefully make parents feel welcome, and website modification which will help in keeping parents informed of school issues. This last stage will help to give them voice in advocating for themselves, and perhaps even provide the motivation and exposure for them to join a larger “Natural Leaders” program to help other ELL families.
I got this idea from a principal at a Shoreline District school. His school participated in a program called “Natural Leaders” (5). This program was instituted in many local districts. In this program, parents are trained to connect with refugee and immigrant parents to “provide them with the resources they need to help students be successful at school.” The parents trained as Natural Leaders assist in many duties at the school including greeting, translating, hosting social events, and making phone calls to parents asking them about their concerns. In one school, the institution of the Natural Leaders program changed the make-up of the PTA from all English to ELL parents taking leadership roles. The Natural Leader program is self-sustaining as the parents train incoming Natural Leaders in “how to identify the talents of families and build relationships while being mindful of cultural differences, boundaries and confidentiality (5).” Some of these Natural Leaders have found paid positions in the district.
Resources needed: A minor amount of additional translation to advise the parents that receive a translated newsletter already that they are welcome and encouraged to attend the PTA meetings and that time will be provided before and after the meeting for optional discussion with members of their language group. The few minutes before and after the meeting, the school is already open, so no additional resources are required. Parents will spend extra time, but many already show up early or stay late. Some parents will be asked to facilitate communication, this is a minor commitment.
At some point, I would like a “Natural Leader” to come and speak about the program to the PTA, I have already spoken with a principal who told me that he has a few willing volunteers. If the “Natural Leader” program went further it would require more resources such as a volunteer to host training and willing parents to try the program.
Chronological steps in accomplishing this activity:
1) Principal/ PTA Approval—I will have to seek approval to semi-program PTA time.

2) Newsletter and Nametags—I will provide the added section, less than 100 words, to be translated into the newsletters by our in-house translating staff. I will also make nametags for the parents who will assist me (see next section).

3) Programming at the Meetings— when I have attended meetings I have made parent contacts in all the major language groups, I will ask these individuals (who speak English and another language) if they want to help discuss concerns or questions from parents that speak their language. I have had parents approach me already who are willing to take on this role. Parents will already be introduced to this idea via the newsletter and be given the name of the contact (who will wear a name tag). This role can even rotate among willing members in subsequent meetings.

4) “Natural Leaders”—at some later date, I will have a volunteer come to talk about this program and maybe be able to get support for it.
Methods/data for monitoring the effectiveness of the activity:
I will use informal interviews during parent contact times to ask parents who participated if they found this modification helpful or if they have another suggestion. I will also check in with the assisting parents to see if they are willing to continue and if they have suggestions. I will informally keep track of numbers of attending parents to see if the language support increases attendance. I will informally keep track of contributions to discussion and the make-up of PTA offices to see if these become less native English speaker centered.
The “Natural Leaders” program has documented results. Here is a quote from the OSPI website:
“Schools that support Natural Leaders are seeing WASL scores rise. In 2007, 64 to 80 percent of students passed the state tests compared with 46 to 51 percent in 2003. During this time, each school saw an 8 to 36 percent increase in the number of English Language Learner students.”
These results cannot be causally linked to the “Natural Leaders” program. However, these results are encouraging and perhaps they are the effects of increased parental involvement in these schools.
Objective #2: To build a community of support for ELL families outside of schools, to empower them to help in their children’s educations and connect to services.
Justification of this objective: The Great Lakes Center’s paper on ELL family involvement suggests creating non-traditional programs and assisting families in utilizing/creating a community based support and educational network that can be integrated with the school (2). Specifically they recommend that we, “support community-based education programs that inform parents about school values and expectations.” While the school is ultimately where the impact will be felt, community based programs and resources can help develop community and skills for ELL parents that will empower them to be more involved in their child’s education. To this end I will help parents utilize community and online resources; I will also act as an impetus for the formation of independent parent groups. I struggled to find ways to advocate for family involvement that didn’t require too much involvement. Since I chose a mix of time-involved and easy to implement ideas in the last section, for this section I chose resources to empower parents with limited involvement from me or the school. These programs have the added benefit of not using school resources or limited teacher time and being effective while showing parents that the school wants to assist them.
People involved: Myself, library staff, ELL parents and their students, limited use of on-site translators.
Current challenges: The hardest part of utilizing community resources and forming parent groups is the language barrier in disseminating information. For this I will always need a little help from translating staff. However, this investment in translator time is a small one-time investment that pays dividends. After the initial work, parents are given tools that need no further translation. Then the schools have a chance to show parents that schools do want to serve families. By sharing resources and help parents get organized in parent groups, the school is showing ELL families that school involvement is not just about what the parents can do for the schools, it is also about what the schools and the community can do for parents. This idea of reciprocal involvement is the model that is suggested by the Great Lakes Center’s article.
Activity #1: Online Resources Guide
I interviewed a teacher at my school that grew up in Mexico and immigrated to the US in elementary school. She spoke a little English and her parents spoke almost none. I asked her what her biggest frustration was with her education experience and she said that teachers expected parents to be able to help students with their homework; her parents’ English abilities limited their ability to perform this role.
In the book, Fires in the Bathroom by Kathleen Cushman, interviews were conducted with ELL students to ask them what they wished teachers would ask them. They included, do you have homework help at home? Do you want to learn English? Do you read in English outside of school, what do you read? Do you read in your own language, what do you read? The common thread is that students want to be able to connect their home reading experience with their school reading experience.

I want parents to have access to native language resources that they can use to help their children with their homework and understand what is expected of them at school. To better prepare parents to accomplish these tasks. I plan on compiling native language resources for parents to use to bridge this gap and be involved in student’s education.

I have begun to make a list that I would flesh out more before the sheet was complete. Here are three representative examples:

1. Colorin Colorado-- This bi-lingual Spanish and English site contains tips for parents from what to expect in schools, how to navigate schools, and what students need for the first day. A part that I am especially excited to use is the reading tip sheets. I can use these sheets in English in class and parents can use in Spanish at home. This way parents know what their students are studying and how to help them. Another key resource at this site is bi-lingual book recommendations. This gives families a bridge to connect their native language with the language of instruction.

2. ESL Resources for Different Language Groups-- Since not all ELL students in Seattle speak Spanish, I found a site that has resources in 10 different languages. This site has resources from bi-lingual books, to online dictionaries, to online English classes. These resources can help parents help their students.

3. International Children’s Digital Library—
This site has books in English and in many other languages. If I use books from this site in instruction, parents can read the books in English and their native language to assist children in comprehension reading homework.

Resources needed: Printouts of resources, with descriptions in simple English for students to share with parents. Parents need internet access (available after school or at the local library). I could also use a few minutes of time during conferences to demonstrate the sites.
Chronological steps in accomplishing this activity:
1) Type up resources and short description of what they are in simple English.
2) Pass out resource sheet.
3) Check in and demonstrate some of the resources during conferences.
Methods/data for monitoring the effectiveness of the activity:
With ELL students, I can do a survey of who has parents that help them with their homework, and how they feel about it before and after the handout. I can suggest the resources specifically to students who are uneasy about their parents helping them. I can later ask students if the website was helpful, and survey them again to see if it increased parent involvement in homework help.
Activity #2: Community Resources Guide:
The Great Lakes Center’s article suggests making community based partnerships. One barrier to ELL community support is that parents might not be aware of the resources that are available (2). I know a couple to give to parents now, and I can ask parents what resources they recommend to share them with others. I am sure this list will grow as I teach and learn new tricks. These community resources help parents feel empowered, which increases their involvement. By sharing these resources I am showing parents that I want to help.
The resources I will begin with are:
1) Beacon Hill Library—this is the neighborhood library for my school and it has a fantastic list of resources for ELL parents. They offer a Chinese-English bilingual play group with crafts and stories. This is for children to make friends, but caregivers will also make connections. They offer homework help that is, “especially good at helping new English speakers.” This can provide extra support for ELL families struggling with helping their children with their homework. They also provide a free ten-week basic ESL class that would be a great place for parents to sharpen their skills and meet others. This is a great resource because the page can be easily translated with a clear button on the top of the page, and listed in 5 languages.
2) S-TESL—I would be remiss if I did not mention the Tuesday/Thursday night class at S-TESL. This would be a bit of a drive, but would be a good place for parents to build confidence with their English.
Resources needed: Handout with resources and descriptions in simple English.
Chronological steps in accomplishing this activity:
1) Make handout.
2) Distribute to students to take home.
Methods/data for monitoring the effectiveness of the activity.
Ask parents at initial contact and again later if they had a chance to try any of the activities, if they have any to suggest, or if they would like to recommend them to others.
Activity #3: Parent Group Launch Pad
This is a simple idea that allows parents to build community. I will host in my classroom sign-up sheets for a parent group. I will provide a parent-to-parent mailbox in the classroom and distribute contact information with parents’ approval. I will set a date for an initial meeting and host it directly after school in my class. I will watch the kids so that parents can talk. My role here is to get parents talking to one another, provide the resources to initially facilitate it and then let the momentum carry it from there.
Resources needed: Phone/email list, parent to parent mailbox, classroom space, translated sign up sheet.
Chronological steps in accomplishing this activity:
1) Make sign-up sheet for open house—I will introduce this idea at open-house when translators will be on hand. I know from experience that this event is well attended by all groups of parents. At this time I will also explain the parent-to-parent mailbox, and that if parents want, I can give out their contact information to other parents.
2) Set a Date—I will host the first meeting in my classroom to watch students and get the ball rolling, after that parents will need to find a location to meet and an agreeable time. I can have suggestions of meeting places in the community if they need it.
Methods/data for monitoring the effectiveness of the activity.
I will measure attendance and note when the mailbox is used, or if parents ask me for others information. If people are initially involved I will ask them how it is going when I see them.

1. “Research Spotlight on Parental Involvement in Education”
2.“Promoting ELL Parental Involvement: Challenges in Contested Times

3. “Parent/ Teacher Home Visits”

4. Collective Bargaining Agreement between Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Education Association, 2010-2013: Certificated Non-Supervisory Employees

5. “Natural Leaders”

6. Colorin Colorado

7. ESL Resources for Chinese Speaking Students

8. Beacon Hill Library