After retiring, Roscoe Overton, Sr. became a substitute teacher and quickly recognized the power of students obtaining a bilingual education. In 2007, Mr. Overton brought his vision of a Spanish education to life and began hosting consultation and filing with the Office Secretary of State to become an official non-profit. The Overton Group would dedicate its resources to promote bilingual education with an emphasis on serving the African American community. As funds were procured, Mr. Overton began hiring part-time teachers to carry the mission of enriching native Spanish speakers, teaching non-Spanish speaking students, and building an official curriculum. There HILO was developed--Harmonious Intervention Through Language Opportunities.
To create and provide dual language opportunities for elementary, African-American students in the East Austin community, thus advancing them to compete in emerging global markets.
THE OVERTON GROUP BOARD
Committed to the Cause
DR. AUDREY MACKEY
Research from the Harcourt Archives, 2004, states: “without early intervention and prevention, children who are at risk of falling behind will likely fall behind and remain. Children who have the potential to fall behind may need entirely different kinds of learning experiences that extend beyond traditional instruction.” Austin Independent School District’s (AISD) transition to Dual Language education exemplified such a shift. However, the discrepancy in opportunities for second language acquisition led to The Overton Group’s efforts to address equity for African American students.
In 2005, Roscoe attended a multicultural Presbyterian conference with thousands of attendees from all parts of the world, where he was intrigued by the lack-of multilingual speakers (including himself). At the beginning of a session, the facilitator asked everyone who spoke one language to stand; everyone stood, then she asked for those whose spoke two or more languages—at the end, seven attendees were standing who spoke five or more languages. Three of the seven were native Africans.
The Overton Group was founded in 2007 as a non-profit organization with a curriculum designed to teach Spanish in local day care centers. The next step was finding a curriculum that depicted students of color. After one year using the Sube Curriculum, The Overton Group hired two on-level elementary certified teachers to develop the HILO™ Curriculum (Harmonious Intervention through language Opportunities). In April 2015, when the HILO ™ program was piloted at Pickle Elementary School, AISD’s Department of Research and Evaluation conducted a preliminary evaluation. This evaluation informed administration on the progress of the pilot and student-outcomes. Based on attendance, parent perceptions, and curriculum-based assessment measures, the HILO™ program was declared a promising program.
Following this successful pilot, the HILO™ program was implemented in four AISD elementary schools from fall 2015 – spring 2017. In fall 2017, HILO was implemented at Texas Empowerment Academy, a public charter school, and remains active.
Through the efforts of Roscoe and other dual language advocates, an AISD African American Dual Language Committee was established in 2021. The goal of this group is to recruit parents and guardians who will actively develop strategies that will help their children succeed in dual language education. This committee will have representation on the district’s Multilingual Advisory Committee.
While there is still much work to be done to ensure that African American students have equal access and the necessary support to succeed in dual language education, The Overton Group has proven to make an indelible mark on this journey, and looks forward to furthering this impactful work.