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Illinois Law Boosts Bilingual Education Programs

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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law on Thursday that aims to strengthen the state’s bilingual education programs by ordering a report  on their effectiveness and by creating ways to increase parent involvement.

The law, House Bill 3819, was sponsored by state representative Linda Chapa LaVia and state senator Iris Martinez. ”Parents of non-English speaking students want–and need–to feel a greater stake in navigating their child’s education,” Rep. Chapa LaVia said at the ceremony, reported Fox News Latino. “This new law opens the door to such innovations as ‘parent academies’ to accomplish that.”

The law supports the creation of parent academies for parents of bilingual students that will be held in Spanish. These programs are intended to help immigrant parents navigate the school system. The academies will focus on teaching parents about topics including understanding standardized tests, encouraging reading at home,  promoting homework completion, building character and encouraging a relationship with their child’s teachers.

It also requires that bilingual programs’ success rates be evaluated by the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education and that the findings be delivered in a report to the state superintendent by January 2013. The report will evaluate whether bilingual programs should be modified to increase student success and boost parent involvement. It also asks the council to address how bilingual parent advisory committees at the school district level can be used to increase parent input on the programs’ effectiveness.

Fox reported that Illinois State Board of Education figures show that in 2010, about 183,000 students did not speak English as their first language. They made up almost 10 percent of all students. About 80 percent of the students were Spanish-speaking.

Governor Quinn added that the law “will keep Illinois on the cutting edge of bilingual education programs to ensure that every student is ready for the workforce,” reported Fox.