Everyone speaks the language of student growth

As the director of World Languages for the Fort Worth Independent School District, I know this to be true: our world is beautifully, wonderfully diverse. Our languages, our comfort foods, the way we dress, the holidays we celebrate and our traditions all weave together to form the beautiful tapestry of a unique cultural experience.

As an educator and a mother I have experienced a related truth: parents from all cultures have much in common. Whether parents speak English, Spanish, or another native language, they want their children to receive a quality education and to enjoy happy, successful lives. We are united in our hopes for the next generation. So how do we get there?

I believe one of the most vital factors for a successful education is the partnership between home and school, as we point students toward high academic standards. We need passionate, skilled teachers in the classroom. We need involved parents, participating as valued leaders for their children’s education. Then, as we partner to help students reach high standards, we need measurements to gauge if they are on track. In Texas, annual STAAR tests are one the most valuable benchmarks.

STAAR tests measure each student’s annual progress in reading and math for grades 3-8, writing at grades 4 and 7, and science at grades 5 and 8. In high school, there are end of course exams (EOCs) which cover English I and II, Algebra I and Biology. These tests have always provided valuable information about a student’s readiness for the next grade, but beginning this year, the results will go home in a new, more easily understandable format. Carefully designed STAAR report cards will be mailed to parents this summer. And a parent website, TexasAssessment.com, allows families to access more information and guidance, including help for areas where kids are struggling and enrichment in the subjects where they are thriving.

For the Fort Worth school district, where 31 percent of students are English language learners, with the majority being Spanish speakers, the website provides an extra service – Spanish translations for many of the resources. Latino parents are deeply committed to student success; Hispanics nationally rank education as their No. 1 area of concern. Many immigrant parents are simultaneously learning a new language, a new culture, and a new education system for their children. The Spanish resources at TexasAssessment.com include sample STAAR report cards by grade level, videos and more. And next year, the printed STAAR report cards will also be provided in Spanish. This summer update on student progress creates a valuable starting point for communication within the family as well as with teachers and counselors in a new school year.

Whether parents speak English as their first language or not, the new STAAR test reporting tools are understandable, transparent, and easy to access. As a parent of a high school student, I understand the importance of following my daughter’s progress so I can best support her. And I value an end-of-year assessment that helps me see if my child has made enough progress in the past year. I encourage Fort Worth parents to log in and learn more about their students’ STAAR test results as soon as the printed report card arrives in the mail.

Franklin Roosevelt once said that the real safeguard of democracy is education. I agree with Roosevelt, and I believe we fortify our nation’s future by rallying around high standards, good tests, and great parent-teacher communication. The new STAAR report card and website are an exciting investment in the best of what unites us: love for our children and hope for their future.

Elda Rojas is director of World Languages for the Fort Worth Independent School District and the mother of four children.

[Original post can be read here: http://www.star-telegram.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article159512859.html]

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