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Debate Raging At City Colleges Of Chicago Over ESL Classes

Jose Lorenzo earned his bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University this spring after moving here from Mexico four years ago without speaking much English. Last week, he made his way back to where his education in the United States began: Daley College on Chicago’s far Southwest Side.

He took English classes there when he first moved to Chicago. It was in those English classes where he polished the basics and, in advanced classes, learned how to write five paragraph essays and read books like Charlotte’s Web.

“It’s like a baby. You know nothing,” Lorenzo said. “Thanks to God and thanks to Daley [College], people helped me to get through this pathway.”

But starting this fall, the English classes at Daley College that propelled Lorenzo through college will be cut back. City Colleges of Chicago is overhauling its English as a Second Language programs to try to improve student performance and standardize the classes across the six campuses that offer adult education.

They want more students to advance through the six ESL classes so they’re prepared to transition to college level work or to earn industry certificates. Last fall, the Illinois Community College Board put City Colleges on probation because not enough students were successfully completing the different levels. The classes are free.