DPS Bilingual Plan Passes Last Hurdle

Judge approves shift of emphasis from English as second language.

Denver Public Schools has cleared all obstacles to its new bilingual program.

Denver U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch approved a plan Thursday that will shift the program’s emphasis from teaching English as a second language to teaching strictly English.

While Matsch’s approval was necessary, it was never considered much in doubt. The plaintiffs in the case had agreed to the plan.

”It’s time to move ahead,” school board President Sue Edwards said. ”It makes sense.”
Opponents say they will give it a chance.

”I think the result was good but (DPS) knows there is a trust issue in the community,” said Adrienne Benavidez, an attorney representing the activist group Paders Unidos. ”I think DPS is going to have to prove itself.”
The plan won the blessing of the U.S Department of Education in February. The department had accused the district of discrimination by not educating non-English speakers well.

Matsch was expected to follow the lead of the education department which investigated the district’s efforts for a year and half.

As part of the agreement with the federal agency, DPS agreed to let an outside expert monitor the program. Matsch said he would keep an eye on the program through the monitor’s reports.

Several Hispanic education activists and organizations had opposed the plan, which will move most students into English-speaking classes in three years. Opponents consider five to seven years of dual language instruction appropriate.

More than 20 percent of DPS students, or about 14,000, have limited English ability and 90 percent of those speak Spanish.
Hispanics make up half the district’s 66,000 enrollment and just over half graduate.

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