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Hands-On ELL Parenting Enrichment

By Chuck Bagwell
Principal, May/June 2014

Every school must overcome its own set of challenges for students to achieve academic success, and Arcadia Elementary School is no exception. Two of our community’s greatest barriers are an increasingly high language gap and a 94 percent poverty rate. Arcadia has one of the highest Hispanic populations of any other school in South Carolina, with total enrollment reaching 65 percent. Our staff recognized our need to provide additional resources not only for our students, but for our parents as well.

With full support from our staff, administration, and school board, we began two programs to empower our parents and community. First, the H.O.P.E. (Hands-On Parenting Enrichment) Esperanza class meets Wednesday afternoons. There, parents work on English skills in our computer lab with Rosetta Stone. (They are also given login credentials to use on school computers to learn anytime.) Then, four trained teachers lead parents through strategically planned English lessons: a “parenting skill of the week” discussion and a Q&A session about how parents can help their children succeed. Dinner is provided for parents and students as part of our universal free dinner program, which already serves 300 students enrolled in our afterschool program. At the end of each year, we have a small “graduation” for successful parents, and we give them a bag of books to read with their children.

We also launched the Arcadia Adult Learning Center, a partnership with the Spartanburg Adult Learning Center. There, we offer free English classes and general education classes two nights a week for any community member, with free childcare from both paid staff and volunteers. We now have 188 adults enrolled, with a waiting list of 25, in eight classes, including a GED preparatory class. Among participants, eight different language groups are represented, including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Lao, Russian, Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese. We particularly wanted to involve more fathers. The evening timeslot allowed more of them to attend, and now 30 percent of the participants are male.

Each of these programs is a win-win. They help our parents and community members learn English and computer skills. The home/school relationships that have been cultivated are tremendously meaningful. Our children see their parents and neighbors improving themselves by learning and serving as great role models for school success. Last, the parent programs help our community, because our residents have the identity of being a part of a “village.”

Chuck Bagwell is principal of Arcadia Elementary School in Spartanburg, South Carolina.


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Bagwell_MJ14.pdf49.59 KB