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Elmhurst residents continue to question Fischer's ELL program

Published: Thursday, June 27, 2013 9:26 a.m. CDT

ELMHURST – Instead of walking away satisfied after Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, community members clustered into groups to further discuss the controversial impacts of Fischer's English Language Learners program.

"We want to try to continue the conversation that tonight begins," said Fischer Principal Jane Bailey.

Parents and community members had many more questions than Fischer staff, district 205 administration and Board of Education members could answer during the 3.5 hour long meeting.

"We are here to listen to what you have to say," said Board of Education President Jim Collins at the beginning of the meeting.

He explained that the four attending board members created a quorum and established Fischer's packed gymnasium as an official board meeting. In the interest of discussion, the school and district representatives were allowed to respond to questions raised during public comment.

"Please forgive the formality," said Collins.

More than two hours into the meeting, community members and parents broke down the formality of the meeting by shouting comments and questions from the crowd. Many of which revolved around the process for evaluating students' English proficiency.

The Home Language Survey is a federally mandated document given to all students enrolling in a new school district. It consists of two questions: "Is a language other than English spoken in your home?" and "Does your child speak a language other than English?" If parents answer yes to either question, the survey asks them to identify the language, and the student's English proficiency must be evaluated.

When a handful of parents stated that they speak a second language occasionally at home, but didn't want their children evaluated because they've grown up speaking English as their first language, the district ELL and social studies coordinator Karen Mulattieri responded.

"I think you need to do what you feel is best as a parent," she said about how to answer the mandated survey.

Collins addressed some of the concerns saying the board will continue to look for a solution that works. He also said the board will look for answers to the questions that were not answered during the meeting.

"We wish that we had the liberty to just focus on our children instead of focusing on the laws that are written for us in Springfield," he said.

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