How Can Schools Best Educate Hispanic Students? On Education Next, Harvard Education Professor Nonie Lesaux calls for teaching higher-order literacy skills, while Juan Rangel, president of Chicago’s UNO Charter School Network, stresses civic responsibility and good citizenship.
It’s not enough to teach basic conversational and reading skills, writes Lesaux. Students learning English — and their classmates — need to be “in strong and supportive language- and content-rich classrooms” that build academic vocabulary and knowledge.
Schools have done a good job teaching most students the basic skills necessary to be proficient readers in the early grades, decoding and comprehending the conversational language that conveys ideas and topics in beginner books.
But in higher grades, many Hispanic students don’t have the vocabulary and knowledge to comprehend the “academic language of print,” learn academic concepts and “generate ideas and questions,” Lesaux writes.
Immigrants are chasing the American dream, but public schools no longer teach them how to become Americans, Rangel writes. “A quality public school that emphasizes civic responsibility and good citizenship” will . . . ”transition immigrant families into the American way of life, into making American values, culture, norms, and language their own.”
Schools in the UNO network are 95 percent Hispanic in enrollment and 93 percent low-income, but are “classic American schools,” writes Rangel. Instead of special programs, immigrant students — and others — need ”a great teacher, a core curriculum, a disciplined school culture, and strong accountability.” UNO uses Structured English Language Immersion for its students rather than bilingual classes and offers a longer school day and year.