Anoka-Hennepin’s first EL survey garners positive results

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District contracted with the Morris Leatherman Company to conduct its first English Language program parent survey this year.

Results were presented to the School Board Feb. 27 and indicated that for the most part, EL parents are satisfied with their children’s education in the system.

Six hundred parents were surveyed in 56 different languages, though more than 80 languages are spoken districtwide, according to Cory McIntyre, executive director of student services.

Anoka-Hennepin serves more than 2,150 EL students. About 5.6 percent of the student population speaks English as a second language.

About a quarter of parents surveyed spoke Spanish. Hmong followed as the second-most common spoken language with 17 percent of respondents indicating that Hmong is their preferred language. Other commonly spoken languages include Vietnamese, Somali, Russian, French, Laotian, Swahili, Arabic, Chinese and Polish.

Ninety-two percent of parents said their child’s school meets or exceeds expectations.

Most receive information from the district online through email and district and school websites, with email as the most common preference.

A majority of EL parents receive printed materials in English, rather than their own language, but a majority said they would not use printed materials more frequently if they were translated.

About a quarter of respondents said they do not access the district website, but 90 percent do visit school websites. Of the 10 percent that do not, a majority said they would not visit more often if the website were in a language familiar to them.

Only 8 percent of parents said they did not attend conferences because of a language barrier.

Many were not aware of language line and interpreter services available to them, 43 and 31 percent, respectively. Of those that were aware and did not utilize services, more than 90 percent said they were not needed.

Most reported no difficulty entering their children’s schools. Of the 1 percent that do have difficulties, 57 percent reported trouble communicating and the remaining 43 percent do not possess an ID.

A majority of EL parents surveyed have their children participate in after-school programs and activities at school. The top reasons for not participating were lack of interest and busyness.

Two-thirds of parents said there was nothing the district could do to increase their participation or involvement.

After spring break, student services will begin sharing results with staff and digging into the realities at each particular site in the district, McIntyre said.

“We’re doing a relatively good job, an effective job at communicating with our EL parents,” but there is always room for improvement, he said.

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