DPS Makes Headway in English Language Acquisition Report

Denver Public Schools is improving its grades in a court-ordered program for non-English speakers, but it still has a long way to go, an independent evaluator’s most recent report shows.

The six previous court-ordered reports on the district’s English Language Acquisition program were much more grim.

But last year, 63 percent of the 68 schools visited had the basic program elements in place, according to the most recent report, dated June 2001.

That’s an improvement over the December 2000 report, which found that 53 percent of 15 schools had all the basic elements of English Language Acquisition in place.

The most recent report also praised the district for improving access to student data and increasing compliance at two of the most troubled school programs – Lake Middle School and Ashley Elementary.

“I think a major part of it is having some time to take a look at the components that make up the plan,” ELA Director Jose Perea said of the improvements. “Then, the fact that we are training so many teachers.”

The independent evaluator, University of Colorado professor Ernest House,
started issuing periodic reports two years ago for U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, who is monitoring the district’s English Language Acquisition program.

Under the program, non–English speakers learn subjects such as math in their native languages, generally Spanish, so they don’t fall behind while learning English.

The goal is for children to leave the program within three years.

Under anti-bilingual education initiatives proposed for the 2002 statewide ballot, children would have only one year to learn English.

Only Matsch can decide whether the statewide initiatives, if successful,
would take precedence over federal oversight of English Language Acquisition in Denver Public Schools, according to Wayne Eckerling, assistant superintendent of research, planning and special projects.

Denver’s program has been consistently plagued by problems.

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