Critical Education Level of English Language Learners
Acknowledging that they are not meeting the needs of hundreds of thousands of students learning to speak English, the nation's two largest school systems announced plans in October of 2011 to improve instruction and services for English language learners (ELLs). Pressed by federal and state officials, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the New York City Department of Education will adopt broad changes to their programs and services for these learners.
The plight of Latino students is a nationwide example of this great need. In its April 2011 report entitled “Improving Education for the Latino Community,” the U.S. Department of Education (ED) reported that 1 in 5 students in public school systems is Latino. The education of these students is at a critical level, as “…the national Latino demographic has the lowest educational achievement levels in the country.” Furthermore, compared to other minority groups, Latino children represent the largest segment of early childhood population in the nation, but are less likely than any other group to be enrolled in center-based early education programs.
English learners with special needs
In respect to the characteristics of English language learners with special needs (ELSN), the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition reports that 500,964 English learners with disabilities were served by IDEA in 2008. Of this group, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that Latinos develop visual impairments and blindness at the highest rate of any ethnic group in the country. Also, Gallaudet University reported in 2009-2010 that approximately 53.6% of deaf children are from an ethnic/racial minority group and that 30.4% of these children are Latino.
In its priority for the funding of the DCMP, the ED supported cultural and linguistic diversity by mandating that 25% of the new captioned and described educational media distributed through the DCMP library should be made accessible in Spanish. DCMP members in schools that provide bilingual educational services, dual language programs, and transitional programming to instruction in English will have access to these newly selected Spanish-language media titles along with 220 previously captioned educational media.
Need for this access is well documented. For example, a 2008 formal survey by the NAD of the top 35 media producers/distributors in the United States confirmed that only 25% of the media is captioned and less than 5% is described. The percentage of accessible Spanish-language educational media is even lower.
Importance of the DCMP/Dicapta partnership
Providing accessible media in Spanish to be used in the classroom or at home has the potential for huge impact and is being received with great enthusiasm by educational leaders. “We are delighted that, finally, needs of the Hispanic community will receive attention. We, as professionals working in the field, are thrilled to know that media with video description and captioning in Spanish will be available soon,” said Dr. Juana Rodriguez, Dean of Education at Universidad de Puerto Rico.
When providing services for Latino children, there is always the question about the choice of language. Undoubtedly, in the case of children growing in Puerto Rico, where Spanish is the official language, Spanish is the clear language choice for educational services. In the rest of the country, multiple needs have been identified among ESL children with disabilities, and research also documents that a strong foundation in the native language supports the learning process and the development of literacy skills.
Dicapta was the first company to provide Spanish-language video description in the United States, and the company has since described and captioned over 3,000 hours of educational and commercial television. A team with over 40 years of experience in audiovisual media is fully aware of the needs and issues faced by Latinos with sensory impairments. Staff have established important relationships with organizations that teach, advocate for, and otherwise work with Latinos with disabilities.
Dicapta will perform the Spanish captioning and description of DCMP media and the promotion of the DCMP services. Work with the DCMP will also include assistance in determining the needs of ELSN students and selection of educational media. Further, Dicapta will perform Spanish translation of various DCMP clearinghouse information on the subject of media access, as well as create original training materials.