We all have become aware of the changing face of the western suburbs. We now are more diverse as a community than at any time in the past.
This change was highlighted by the recent presidential elections that demonstrated this reality on a national scale. According to 2010 Census figures, the foreign-born population in the U.S. has reached nearly 40 million, up from 19.8 million in 1990 and 31.1 million in 2000.
School districts must respond positively to facilitate the success of all students. Every district must provide opportunities that, at a minimum, conform to state and federal guidelines and law. In Lombard District 44, we have students receiving educational support that represent 27 languages spoken in the homes. The largest language group is Spanish, representing nearly two-thirds of students in English Language Learner (ELL) programs. The second-largest language group is Urdu.
District 44 has specific goals to support our ELL students. They are: 1) to help ELL students have equal access; 2) to help ELLs have academic success; and 3) to help ELLs increase proficiency in English and to build self-esteem and confidence using a holistic approach.
The most diverse school in Lombard District 44 is Madison Elementary, and that is where we offer our most concentrated services for identified students. At Madison we have bilingual programs at the kindergarten, first- and second- grade levels.
In these classrooms, a combination of English and Spanish is used to instruct students. In grades three, four and five, we offer support services on a need basis. In all other school buildings in District 44, we provide support for students as needed.
All of this should resemble a familiar pattern in the United States, the country seen as the most desirable in which to live. Most all of us are descendants of immigrants and that has resulted in a nation of citizens who realize our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. As a school district, we are committed to the success of each and every student, including our newcomers.
Jim Blanche is superintendent of Lombard Elementary District 44