The Board of Education made minor amendments yesterday to Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy’s plan to change bilingual education, beefing up his plan to give parents more say when their child is enrolled in the program.
Under the plan, school administrators will be required to tell parents that they have four options from which to choose: traditional bilingual classes;
classes in English as a second language; a more intensive version of such classes; and a program known as dual language instruction.
Under the current system, if parents do not make a decision, children are placed in traditional bilingual educational classes, depending on where there is space.
Mr. Levy developed the proposal based on research requested by Irving S.
Hamer, the Manhattan representative who is head of the board’s subcommittee on bilingual education, and on a report by the Mayor’s Task Force on Bilingual Education. Mr. Levy was a member of the task force.
Most of the board’s seven members have indicated they want significant changes in the program, after reviewing findings that showed that too many students languished in bilingual education for most of their school careers.
Only 45 percent of the students who entered the programs in middle school and 15 percent of those who entered in high school learned English well enough to leave the program during their school careers. Some remained enrolled until they reached 21.
The amendments made yesterday called for Mr. Levy to research ways to help special education students in bilingual education.
The amendments also called for Mr. Levy to find ways to help students who do not speak English and who enter the system after the sixth grade.
Dr. Hamer said that students, for example, might be urged to take the intensive classes, or enroll in Saturday classes or summer school. Mr.
Levy’s proposal also calls for summer school and Saturday classes for bilingual education students.
William C. Thompson, the board president, said that the amendments were simply refinements of Mr. Levy’s proposal that were brought to members’
attention at a public hearing in January.
Mr. Thompson said that he also wanted to be clear that the board was not trying to dismantle a federal consent decree and included language like
“parents are entitled” to bilingual education in the amended policy.