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Branham bridging the fluency gap

Bilingual emails and in-home visits help non-English speaking parents

Caitlyn Schlaman/Special to Bear Witness

Caitlyn Schlaman/Special to Bear Witness

Caitlyn Schlaman/Special to Bear Witness

Anastasia Langner, Copy Editor

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To keep Spanish-speaking parents in the loop about their children’s performance in school, Branham staff are taking extra steps to ensure relevant translation of student events.

This starts with the weekly bilingual email updates that Principal Cheryl Lawton writes to parents. Staffer Alma Cisneros-Iberri has been rewriting the documents in Spanish.

Spanish teacher Damian Fragano makes one-on-one meetings with parents a top priority to keep kids focused on grades and graduation. He points to a gap in English proficiency that makes it difficult for students to share relevant information if their parents are not English speakers.

“Kids aren’t sure of what information to provide to parents,” Fragano said.  “[The language barrier] causes students to be unsure of what to inform.”

Branham also hosts monthly meetings with a group of parents called the English Learner Advisory Committee.

Despite these efforts, some parents remain out of the loop, either because they lack access to technology or are unaware of these outreach efforts.  

Junior Jackelyn Gonzalez Arciniega attests to these conflicts.

“I am the one to usually communicate with them about what events and activities I’m doing,” Arciniega said.  “If I don’t know about something or do not take part in an event, then they [my parents] don’t know what’s going on at school.”

Accompanying these issues of language are cultural, economic and social gaps that are daunting to cross for parents and students alike, especially those who struggle with English.  Spanish teacher Leticia Molina suggests that the larger issue facing parents is understanding the education system.

“They [some parents] don’t understand how the education system works,” Molina said. “They don’t feel they can approach authority.”

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Branham bridging the fluency gap