The Albuquerque school district will send out new forms next week to better identify students who need bilingual instruction.
The home language survey is part of a three-step process to ensure that only students who really need extra help will be enrolled in APS bilingual programs.
The new measures are part of an agreement between APS and the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which determined earlier this year that the district’s bilingual programs did not meet federal standards.
Joseph M. Vigil, director of curriculum and instruction, said Thursday that the survey, which will be printed in English and Spanish, will ask parents four questions to determine if a child’s first language is something other than English and if the student speaks that language most of the time.
“A ‘yes’ response to any of the questions puts the student into the second net,” Vigil said. “We would then see how he scores on a standardized reading test. If he scores below the fiftieth percentile, we would then assess speaking, reading, writing and understanding of English. If he scores low, then he’s identified as having limited English proficiency.”
Students with limited English skills will be placed in a bilingual program.
Previously, students whose parents identified themselves or anyone else in the home as Spanish speakers may have been included in the bilingual program, even if the student’s primary language was English. But the district did not test students routinely to determine who needed help.
Vigil said he expects the new measures to increase the number of students identified for the programs.
The agreement did not specify how much the new measures would cost.
Fifty-seven Albuquerque elementary, middle and high schools offer the state- funded program, which enrolled about 26,000 students. The state paid the district about $13 million last year.
The agreement also says the district must:
* Test all students who may need extra help with English by Jan. 30. All students who need bilingual education must be identified by Feb. 15.
* Notify parents if their child is placed in a bilingual program and keep them informed about school activities throughout the year, using the student’s home language.
“We have a responsibility to communicate to all families in their home language,” Vigil said. “That does make things more complex although we do have some resources available for unique languages. If we find that languages other than Spanish are prevalent, then we’ll deal with that.”
* Submit by April 1 a written plan detailing how it will address the needs of students with limited English skills. A distinction will be made between students who speak no English and require more intensive assistance and those who speak some English.
* Outline how it will train and recruit certified bilingual teachers. District officials have said low pay has made that difficult.
* Buy more textbooks and other instructional materials.
* Come up with criteria to determine when a student has learned enough English to “participate meaningfully in the regular classroom.” However, students who no longer need extra help must be tested at least twice annually for two years. If they fall behind, they’ll be put back in the bilingual program.