Tuesday September 6, 2016

Hispanic students make up 51 percent of Oklahoma City Public Schools

Fifty-one percent. That is the breakdown of Hispanic students in Oklahoma City Public Schools. It is a statistic that sometimes brings as much surprise as sharing that more than 90 percent of our students live in poverty.

Some facts may be difficult to comprehend, but they are still facts. Supporting efforts that help these students succeed is our obligation, morally and for the future of our community.

English Language Learners are the fastest growing segment of the public school population nationwide.

It is estimated that the number of ELL students will reach 10 million by 2025, and we are seeing that same growth in Oklahoma City Public Schools.

The majority of these children were born in the United States, most are from low income homes and they are one of the lowest performing subgroups in our district.

That has the attention of leaders in OKCPS and there is a focused plan to provide them with the support they need to improve and succeed.

One area of support is to increase the number of bilingual teachers in our classrooms. Our English speaking teachers struggle with ways to communicate with these students as they become proficient in English.

Many times bilingual teaching assistants (paraprofessionals) serve as translators for both the teacher/student relationship and the teacher/ family relationship.

The Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Project is an innovative program launched by The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools to close the bilingual teacher gap and provide the district with certified teachers.

‘Grow our own’

It is a “grow our own” concept and is currently assisting 26 bilingual paraprofessionals from within the district with expenses for college. Some of these individuals started the program with college credits, and some have none.

They all share a similar goal of becoming a certified teacher within Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Education partners UCO, OCCC, OSU-OKC and Rose State College are working collectively with the Foundation, OKCPS and the bilingual paraprofessionals to advise and support this journey.

The participants in the program so far are all women. Each has a different story about what brought them to this place in their lives.

Many have children in the district. Some are single mothers. All are committed to the students of Oklahoma City Public Schools and to doing what it takes to finish their education, hold their full-time positions within OKCPS and serve our kids.

They know that language is a lifeline for these students and they understand the critical role a bilingual adult can play.

Breann Jimenez, one of the program participants, said this on her application narrative, “I have come across children of limited English proficiency who are eager to learn and understand the language. The struggle of trying to learn something and the desperation on their faces when they don’t understand it is heartbreaking.

“Many times the only support they have comes from school. Many of them have parents at home who have the same struggles with language. Having gone through this myself, I know how they are feeling. I want to be a teacher to help and encourage them and show them that with hard work and dedication they can succeed.”

These women are special and the paths they are on are far from easy.

They will succeed and the support systems in place will help them along the way.

The Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Project has a motto: Soy. Puedo. !Y lo Haré! I am. I can. I will. I do.


Read the original article on NewsOK.

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