While there is an increase in early language programs in some communities, other existing programs at the elementary and middle school levels are facing cuts in schools due to funding considerations. Decision makers often opt to protect only the state tested courses. It is important to educate all stakeholders. Below are suggestions for steps, strategies and tools teachers can use to save a program in jeopardy of being eliminated.
Create a timeline and calendar of events.
Find out when…
- the budget will be presented to the board.
- the School Board has public hearings
- the School Board will vote on the budget.
A timeline and calendar of events will help you and all who are involved create a plan of action for how to address the threat to the program.
Create teams of parents to help with the advocacy effort.
Recruit one parent per school to serve as a liaison.
A parent liaison reduces the teacher’s work load and helps with communication.
Work with the lead-parents to identify and contact parents interested in helping with the efforts to save the program at each school.
Many parents have skills that are helpful behind the scenes: technology skills, writing skills, skills in web designing, graphic designing, public speaking, research, etc.
Attend School Board Meetings
Research board meeting protocol.
Find out if…
- teachers, parents, and children are allowed to attend.
- teachers, parents, and children are allowed to speak.
- speakers stand and wait to be recognized or must sign up to speak.
- signs are allowed.
Advocates that follow protocol are taken more seriously.
Parents that wear the same color shirt send a silent but clear message that the parent group is on top of the issues.
Often school divisions frown on teachers advocating because it comes across as they just want to save their jobs, so let parents take the lead when speaking about the program.
Showcase students’ language ability at every opportunity. Have students deliver part of the message in the target language.
School boards want to know what a child can do that is in the language program.
Have parents strategically sign up to speak at public hearings. Each parent should address a different benefit of early language learning.
Parents that use research in their speech demonstrate that the parents are cognizant of the latest research.
School Boards tune out if they hear over and over that the children “like” language.
Make sure language advocates speak at the beginning in the middle and at the end of the hearings.
Identify and contact past students to speak to the board.
Having the School Board hear an adult that has come through the school system talk about his/her successful career due to starting language at an early age is powerful testimonial. Board members love hearing from students or former students.
Prepare your case
Identify research that demonstrates the benefits of early language learning.
In letters or when speaking to the board, cite research that shows cognitive gains in math and language arts.
When Boards are trying to find ways to raise test scores it is hard to argue that cutting a program that raises scores is in the best interest of the children.
Visit a successful district’s web site to get more ideas on how to coordinate the advocacy effort.
The organization Fairfax FLAGS was successful in Fairfax County, VA in their efforts to save all elementary language programs from budget cuts.
Read the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s Advocacy Guide for more ideas and strategies.
- This guide gives advice for planning an advocacy campaign and communicating with policymakers.
- Develop and use online resources.
- Harness the power of social media to coordinate the effort (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
- Posting updates via a social media format keeps a large percentage of the population in the loop. You can get a group to gather in minutes of a post or tweet.
- Create a petition at ipetitions.com
- Electronic petitions generate a larger response if they are short and to the point.
- Develop a distribution list or use a function of the website to generate email updates.
- Notifying and reminding parents of important events will attract more parents to these events.
- Develop and use media contacts.
- Contact the local newspaper and television stations.
- Finding a media contact is important. They will be there as people walk into board meetings – take pictures of parents holding signs, or children speaking on behalf of early language learning.
- Remember that advocacy cannot take place during the school day. You must develop and use these resources outside of the regular school day and with your own materials.
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