Oral Testimony Presented By Camara Francis at the District of Columbia Joint Public Roundtable PR23-0067, The Chancellor of The District of Columbia Public Schools Dr. Lewis Ferebee Confirmation Resolution of 2019

Good afternoon Chairman Grosso and Council members.  Thank you for allowing me to testify today. I am testifying here today because I would like Dr. Ferebee to understand how deeply this issue affects our communities’ future opportunity and I hope he makes addressing this inequity one of the pillars of his work as DCPS Chancellor.

My name is Camara Francis and I am a Ward 7 resident, mother of 1 son who attends Plummer Elementary school in Ward 7, and founder of the East of the River Foreign Languages for Kids, a nonprofit, whose mission is to provide foreign language services to children living in Wards 7 and 8. This organization was started by parents residing in Ward 7 having a desire to find foreign language training and courses for our school age children.  As such, we found that we were all experiencing the same situation – no foreign language curriculum was offered EoTR for our children and long waitlists for schools across the District.

Out of the 23 dual language immersion programs in DC there are only 2 in our community. Thank you Chairman Grosso, for your support of these two schools. Despite recent years having seen the first two dual language programs in Ward 7, these schools have waitlists. Thus, leaving Parents EoTR with little choice for impactful language immersion programs.

Parents EoTR travel to PG county and across the city having to face grueling traffic because of the lack of equitable access to bilingual education in our community. This is a glaring disparity that should be strategically addressed.

Parents understand the proven cognitive benefits of mastering a second language, and its direct correlation to standardized test scores.  As such, OSSE’s DC Report Card reflected the attainment of higher proficiencies in Math and English across all grades for students attending dual language schools.  The data substantiates that dual language programs can result in narrowing the achievement gap to a significant degree.

The cognitive benefits includes, but not limited to: increased mental flexibility, decision making, and problem solving skills among bilinguals. Oftentimes, mastering a second language, translates to increased opportunities for Higher Education, as well as the ability to obtain higher paying jobs in the marketplace both locally and nationally.

We understand that our children must compete in a connected and globalized world and we refuse to have them left behind

In conclusion, although, the work of our organization is important, it in no way supplants the need for more dual language programs or addresses the inequity in the way that quality dual language programs would.

As a DCPS parent, supporter of public schools, an advocate for bilingual education, and a concerned citizen, I urge you to strategically work to expand dual language education in all DC public schools and subsequently, work to provide equitable access to children living EoTR.