On February 15, 2011, I had an opportunity to attend the Southern California English Learner Summit held in Region 11. This Summit was a joint effort of the California Afterschool Network and Region 11 (Los Angeles County). Gordon Jackson, the Director of the Learning Supports and Partnerships Division, opened the Summit by welcoming over 125 participants from across Southern California. In his opening remarks Jackson stated that the participants had made an important choice and decision by attending the Summit. He said, “English Learners matter to California and the Nation”. He went on to explain that the contribution of English Learning Americans makes a difference in the well-being of both California and the Nation economically and that it is critical we work every day to help close the Achievement Gap. Jackson explained that by 205, 38% of the workforce in America would Hispanic. He went on to say that work force was aging, and that baby boomers are aging-out. These jobs and the ones not yet discovered, will be filled by a citizenry with many English Language Learners who have been supported by public education and after-school programs.
Jacks mentioned that this is “the season of afterschool”. In Sacramento, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Director of Education, Tom Torlakson, is a vocal and long-time supporter of after-school programs. Torlakson is supported by the Afterschool
Network, Jackson’s California Department of Education staff, Regional Leads across California, and many at the local level who find value-add in after-school programming. Jackson stated that after-school programs have the opportunity every day to engage English learners in a way that could influence the school day performance of these young people.
Jackson said that it was time for after-school to take things to the next level and demonstrate to voters that the State’s investment in after-school was providing a big “bang for the buck”, and that after-school programs were a complement to the school day.
Jackson ended his opening remarks by saying that after-school is well positioned to support literacy and fluency in English learners by providing practice time and an opportunity to practice the language through conversations, reports, and working with others on projects. He stated that it is important to protect the productivity of this nation by being fully committed to the work being done, each day in the after-school space.
Jackson’s opening remarks set the tone for the Summit and also, as many people attending the Summit commented, reminded them that the work they do is not only important, but essential for both California and America.