Bilingual instruction may last three years

Oceanside district's plan nears approval

OCEANSIDE — A week after voters statewide called for an end to most bilingual education, the local school board has moved forward with its own plan that would allow students to remain in bilingual classes for up to three years.

Tuesday night’s unanimous approval of the Program for English Learners Master Plan does not defy Proposition 227, said Jim Shirley, an Oceanside Unified School District administrator and one of the plan’s architects.

The program would allow parents to sign a waiver to keep their children in native language instruction after a year if they’re not ready for all-English classes, Shirley said.

And it hedges against the possible success of legal challenges against the measure, he said.

The plan does not become final until the board votes on it for a second time later this month.

The three-year limit on bilingual education won praise Tuesday from Carlos Flores, Lidia Flores (no relation) and Magdalena Contreras, three Spanish-speaking parent volunteers at Ditmar Elementary School.

“In three years, you get the basics. That’s going to be sufficient,”
Contreras said.

Contreras and Lidia Flores said their children received Spanish language instruction for their first three years of school but then moved into all-English classes.

Carlos Flores maintained that one year usually isn’t enough.

“It’s a little time to learn a lot,” he said. “English is very complex.”

All three think that the majority of Ditmar parents with children who do not speak English fluently would sign waivers to keep their children in bilingual programs beyond one year.

Nearly one-fifth of Oceanside’s 21,000 students are considered to have limited English proficiency. Spanish is the native tongue of most of those students, but 18 languages other than English are spoken by students in the district.

Some receive instruction in English only, while others receive instruction in a combination of English and the language spoken in their home.

Shirley said the new plan updates a 1995 version by specifying a time line and by establishing uniformity throughout the district’s 22 schools.

“One of the problems we ran into is (students) transferring from one school to another and receiving a different type of program,” Shirley said.

Take, for example, a girl in a sheltered English class, in which teachers instruct only in English and use visual aids to emphasize vocabulary. If she moves across town, she could find herself in a Spanish language class if her new school has no sheltered English class.

The new plan calls for all schools to have the same program.

It would combine three main elements:

?At least a half-hour daily of reading in English.

?Sheltered English for teaching other subjects, such as math and science.

?Special vocabulary lessons — in English-as-a-second-language class,
for example — to help students understand science, social studies and other subjects.

“The English components of the program have to be pretty strong from the beginning if they’re going to transition out in three years,”
Shirley said.

Under the plan, Oceanside schools would have to offer intensive instruction to those failing to pass English competency tests after three years.

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