Educators: U46’s gifted-program language aid helpful (Sun-Times Media)

by Emily McFarlan Miller

CHICAGO — Cindy Wendt remembers one boy she had in a bilingual class who was “the most phenomenal student.”

He learned things, he picked things up, he wanted to try new things, Wendt said. But he only had been in classes for English Language Learners for a short time, she said, and his English wasn’t good enough to keep up in a general education or gifted classroom.

Gifted students like that boy who don’t get the challenges they need, tend to “stall out” in middle school, she said.

Later, after Wendt began teaching a sixth-grade gifted class for Spanish-speaking students at Sheridan Elementary School in Elgin, she had his brother in her class. He went on to study engineering, she said.

That’s the difference the Spanish English Transition School Within A School (SET SWAS) program can make for gifted students who need support in Spanish, Wendt testified Wednesday in the racial discrimination trial against Elgin School District U46.

The lawsuit alleges U46 discriminated against black and Hispanic students by placing them in overcrowded schools in its 2004 school boundary plan. It also alleges the state’s second-largest school district did not offer students who were black or Hispanic access to gifted and advanced programs, or appropriate help to ELL students.

Wendt confirmed during cross-examination by plaintiffs’ attorney Stewart Weltman she remembered another student, a girl who received straight A’s in an English-only third-grade classroom. She also told U46 attorney Jennifer Smith she was “quite certain” that student benefited from receiving support in Spanish in her SET SWAS classroom.

“They definitely need that support because they’re still developing those skills. It takes a long time to learn a language,” Wendt said.

For the rest of the story, read Educators: U46’s gifted-program language aid helpful (Sun-Times Media).