“Helping Your Child Be Successful in School” is the sixth and final chapter of the English Learner Family Toolkit, which is meant to support families of English learners (ELs) in the U.S. education system. Each chapter has five parts: (1) Overview, (2) Family and Student Rights, (3) Suggested Questions to Ask School Staff, (4) Tips for Families, and (5) Resources. Information in each chapter varies. As readers can choose to access only certain chapters of the toolkit, it is important to note that some information may be repeated in multiple chapters.
Schools in the U.S. see families as partners in their child’s education. Your child’s school may have events for your family to attend. These events may include meetings with your child’s teacher(s), social gatherings, and student performances, like concerts or plays. When you have questions, contact your child’s teacher(s) or school staff.
You can help your child be successful in school. Know the school’s attendance rules. Know how the school reports your child’s progress. Ask if your child has homework and help your child in doing his or her homework every day. If your child needs more help with homework, ask your child’s teacher(s) or other school staff about tutoring services.
Schools want to be partners with families. Your school-family partnership will help your child to succeed academically and in life.
Family and Student Rights
As a family member with school-aged children, you have certain rights. This is very important. A parent’s home country, citizenship, or immigration status does not change these rights. These rights include the following:
- Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) says that school districts must provide the required communications to parents of ELs under Title I in an understandable format and, when possible, in a language that the parents understand. 80 They must provide information to all parents regardless of their native language or proficiency in English about any program, service, or activity of a school district.81 Additionally, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that school districts and SEAs ensure meaningful communication with LEP parents in a language they can understand and to adequately notify LEP parents of information about any program, service, or activity of a school district or SEA that is called to the attention of non-LEP parents.82 The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that consent (agreement or permission) from parents must be requested in the parent’s native language, or through another form of communication understandable to the parents.83 Communication to parents may include information about
- enrollment and registration;
- language assistance;
- grievance procedures;84
- notices of nondiscrimination;85
- student discipline policies and procedures;
- report cards;
- requests for parent permission for student participation in district or school activities;
- parent-teacher conferences;
- parent handbooks;
- gifted and talented education (GATE) programs;86
- disability-related services87 for students with disabilities;
- magnet and charter schools;88
- language instruction educational programs;
- childcare; or
- extracurricular activities.
- Public schools must test students each year in third through eighth grade, and at least one time in high school in reading/language arts and mathematics. Public schools also must test students once in each grade span (third through fifth, sixth through ninth, and 10th through 12th grades) in science. Each state chooses which tests89 will be used in all its public schools. Schools must also test all ELs in grades K–12 each year for English proficiency.
- When testing academic achievement and English language proficiency, all states and school districts must provide appropriate accommodations on content (subject) tests and English language proficiency (ELP) assessments to students with disabilities and to ELs. States and school districts must provide an alternate (different) assessment for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who cannot take the regular test, even with accommodations.
- Schools must give ELs, including ELs with disabilities, equal opportunities to participate in all curricular and extracurricular activities. Curricular activities include courses required for graduation, specialized and advanced courses, and programs. Extracurricular activities include sports and activities, such as clubs and music.
- Each state has laws that require school attendance for children of certain ages. The ages may be different in different states. For example, some states require children to attend school from age 6 through high school.
- Parents have the right to know how their children are doing in school. Parents should be able to contact school staff for information related to their children. Schools often send progress reports home to parents and ask parents to attend at least one parent-teacher conference each year.
- Students have the right to be free from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and disability.90
80 ESEA 1112(e)(4).
81 U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights & U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Fact sheet: Information for limited English proficient (LEP) parents and guardians and for schools and school districts that communicate with them. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-lep-parents-201501.pdf.
82 U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights & U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Fact sheet: Information for limited English proficient (LEP) parents and guardians and for schools and school districts that communicate with them. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-lep-parents-201501.pdf.
83 IDEA, 34 CFR 300.9.
84 A grievance procedure is an internal conflict resolution process that may address formal complaints by individuals. Developing, publicizing, and effectively implementing these procedures gives students and parents opportunities to address concerns at the local level. See https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/grievance.html. 85 Notices of nondiscrimination require that schools notify students, parents, and others that they do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age, and, if applicable, that they provide equal access to the Boy Scouts of America and other designated youth groups. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/nondisc.html.
86 Gifted education programs provide educational practices, procedures, and approaches for children who have been identified as gifted or talented. The main goals of these programs are generally enrichment and acceleration.
87 The term “disability-related services” may refer either to special education and related services provided to children with disabilities who are eligible for services under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and/or regular or special education and related aids and services provided to qualified students with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. See Chapter 3 for more information on disability-related services for EL students with disabilities.
88 See definitions in Resources.
89 Tests may also be called assessments.
90 Educational institutions have a responsibility to protect every student’s right to learn in a safe environment free from unlawful discrimination and to prevent unjust deprivations of that right. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin is prohibited by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (This includes discrimination based on a person’s limited English proficiency or English learner status; and actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including membership in a religion that may be perceived to exhibit such characteristics (such as Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh individuals)); sex discrimination is prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; discrimination on the basis of disability is prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination Act of 1975. OCR also has responsibilities under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits disability discrimination by public entities, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance.