WASHINGTON—Fresno Unified School District will overhaul its bilingual education program over the next eight months to ensure its bilingual teachers are being used to their full potential.
The revamping is necessary because the district could lose as much as $ 8 million in state funding if its non-English speaking students are not getting the same education as English-speaking students.
The State Department of Education will audit the district’s program in May.
A report presented Thursday night to Fresno Unified trustees revealed that only 50 of 131 bilingual teachers in Fresno schools are teaching classes in another language. The report also showed that the district lacks the materials to properly teach the basics to children in their primary language while they learn English.
Currently, there are about 24,000 students who do not speak fluent English in Fresno schools. In 1983, there were 2,000 such students.
“We need to get on the bandwagon,” said Barbara Carrillo, the district’s multi-language coordinator who presented and created the report. “We lack teachers to make lessons understandable (for these students).”
One big problem is that many bilingual teachers have become burned out or frustrated with the district for not providing books and other kinds of support, said Deberie Gomez, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources.
The greatest need is for teachers who speak Hmong, Lao or Vietnamese. The district recently hired two Hmong teachers, but needs 192 more, according to the report. There are 50 Spanish-speaking teachers teaching bilingual classes, but the district needs 204 more.
The report says the district needs to hire teachers that speak Lao, Khmer, Vietnamese, Russian, Armenian and Punjabi because no classes are taught in those languages now.
The report also outlined steps principals must now take at their schools, including identifying the needs of non-English speaking students and teachers who may be better used teaching bilingual classes.
A bilingual education center will be created by the end of the year, the report said.
“We’ve been aware for some time that changes would have to be made . . . because we don’t have enough qualified teachers and the ones we do have are not appropriately placed,” said trustee Juan Arambula. “I feel like we have some work to do before we get back on track.”