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Nonprofit ensuring bilingual students catch up on reading levels

Posted at 4:59 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 22:20:06-04

MAGIC VALLEY — The pandemic caused bumps in the road for many students. But for bilingual students, those bumps were even bigger.

Because many bilingual students are still in the process of learning English, hurdles faced during the pandemic caused them to fall behind on their reading levels.

“The reality is that these issues kind of existed even before the pandemic and like so much it exposed some of the inequities in our system," said Evelyn Johnson, CEO of The Lee Pesky Learning Center.

But The Lee Pesky Learning Center is working to make sure these bilingual students don't fall behind. It created a program called pathways to literacy, which will provide students with multiple resources like one on one tutoring.

“When you look across all grades, so that’s K-3, for the IRI (Idaho Reading Indicator) it was like 54% of all white students entered meeting grade-level targets. 32% of students who identified as Latinx were meeting grade-level targets," Johnson said.

A more than 20% difference they say has existed even before the pandemic. When looking at the data from previous years, Johnson said some times that percentage difference reached more than 30%.

But when the pandemic hit and classes moved to being online, that caused more problems for these bilingual students.

“I mean when a child is first learning English I think people understand how challenging that could be for a student to try and keep up with a class that was conducted entirely in a language that they are not proficient in," Johnson said.

On top of all of that, having access to certain technology caused more issues.

“We did work with some students logging in on a phone and so you could imagine the challenge of trying to look at materials online that your teacher might be referring to and they’re on a very small screen," Johnson said.

The Lee Pesky Learning Center started the Programs to Literacy program to help these students catch up.

The program is based in Hailey, but the organization has plans to expand to the Treasure Valley.

“Over time we are hoping to work with CSI, Boise State, and the College of Idaho to think strategically about how we could grow and what it is that we could do to increase the number of Latinx students entering teacher training programs," Johnson said.

For more information, you can visit their website.