To the editors:
Your Fall 2008 edition underscores the urgent need to reevaluate how the Philadelphia schools are educating the District’s 12,000 English language learners (ELLs). Afterschool programming for ELLs is an additional vital resource.
To improve their language skills, ELLs need opportunities to use the language naturally, in settings where they feel safe to make mistakes and test out what they know. Afterschool has the flexibility to tailor activities to different needs of students, build on their strengths, and facilitate social, academic, and English language development.
Student success in school often depends on positive social relationships with peers and adults and comfort levels, outside of their ESOL programs. High-quality, out-of-school-time programming can positively impact schooling experiences. With English as a means of communication (rather than the focus of activities), kids of different language and cultural backgrounds benefit from working together.
High-quality afterschool programs facilitate communication between home and school, providing a bridge for families to get involved.
As District staff work to meet the needs of their diverse student population, I urge them to commit additional resources to afterschool education.
The writer is director of professional development at the Center for Afterschool Education at Foundations Inc.