Denver – Several school districts in four states are fostering the integration of Spanish-speaking immigrants via a program of radio classes in English that already have thousands of participants.
The Maestro en Casa ("Teacher at Home") project was developed by the Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together Foundation, known as MATT, and it is being offered on radio stations in Texas, Colorado, Nevada and California.
"It's not just basic English classes on the radio, but rather it's a complete program of social integration," Salvador Carrera, director for multicultural outreach with the Denver Public Schools, told Efe.
"The adults, many of them parents of students in our schools, learn English and at the same time they learn the terminology for various daily situations in categories such as education, immigration, finances, citizenship and health, as well as general subjects," he said.
According to DPS statistics, during the 2010-2011 school year the district had about 73,000 students, of whom 42,000 were Spanish-speaking. Of those, almost 20,000 spoke only Spanish.
By way of comparison, the second most-frequently-spoken foreign language in the DPS after Spanish is Vietnamese, with 824 students.
"When the parents learn English, they're helping their children and it reflects in their children's academic performance. We know that the parents can't always attend a traditional class. Therefore, we're offering them classes by radio and in the comfort of their homes," Carrera said.
Maestro en Casa is broadcast on five stations in Texas, one in Nevada, one in Colorado and six in California.
Participants receive the educational material at the Mexican consulates in their respective cities or at other local community organizations that are cooperating with San Antonio-based MATT and with the corresponding school district.
The lessons last 30 minutes and are transmitted three times per week on different schedules by each participating station. The radio classes complement the textbooks, but they don't repeat what participants learn there.
In contrast to last year, when the program was launched for the first time, this year the students receive all six textbooks at the same time. In addition, they can enroll online, by telephone or in person.
"They don't have to worry about transportation or childcare to attend the classes, or that anyone is going to laugh at them," Carrera said.
MATT expects that up to 5,000 students will sign up in each city where the program is offered. Those who complete the program successfully will participate in a formal graduation ceremony at the end of the 2011-2012 school year.