Bennett-Kew Elementary School, whose students received some of the Inglewood Unified School District’s highest test scores in reading, writing and arithmetic, has been authorized by state education authorities to continue educating Spanish-speaking students in an English-immersion program.
The authorization comes less than a year after state officials threatened to withhold $6.9 million in federal funds from the district because its bilingual program did not comply with state guidelines. In one instance, state authorities said, a kindergarten class of almost all Spanish-speaking students had no Spanish-language books.
To correct the problems, the district hired a bilingual consultant and issued a statement informing teachers and principals of the state’s requirements. The state accepted the district’s corrective plan last month but is still monitoring the district.
Norman Gold, manager of bilingual education compliance at the California Department of Education, said he was encouraged by the progress that the district has made in improving its bilingual programs in the last year. He said the state’s approval of Bennett-Kew’s bilingual program provides the school with a “platform of compliance” and further reduces the likelihood that the district will lose federal funds.
The state’s approval provides the district with an exemption from following state requirements that limited-English students attend classes in their primary language while they slowly master English. Many Spanish-speaking parents have protested the method because they fear that it slows their children’s acquisition of English.
State authorities have granted exemptions to about 20 school districts that have been able to prove that their teaching methods are working. To qualify for the waiver, students must score at or above state averages on the California Learning Assessment System.
Bennett-Kew is one of only four elementary schools in the Inglewood district where students scored high enough to qualify for the waiver, Inglewood Supt. McKinley Nash said.
So far, state officials have granted a waiver only to Bennett-Kew’s bilingual program. But Nash said he plans to seek the state’s approval of the bilingual programs at Kelso, Daniel Freeman and Beulah Payne elementary schools, where students also met the state’s testing requirements.