PUSD Officials Say The Limited-English Program Is Near Par

PITTSBURG—The school district is on its way to meeting state and federal standards for limited-English students, according to a district official.

If everything is approved by the state Department of Education and the federal Office of Civil Rights, the district might be receiving part of the $ 450,000 that had been withheld because it had not met state and federal deadlines to improve the English language development program.

The Pittsburg Unified School District is trying to solve a problem that began in 1998, when voters approved Proposition 227, which abolished bilingual
education. The district dropped its bilingual program but didn’t adopt a unified program to replace it.

A group of Latino parents formed the Pro Committee for Education, which alerted federal officials to the district’s failure to serve the English language learners in 1999.

Since then, the district has been struggling to come into compliance.

According to Karen Mazza, district coordinator of literacy and English language development, Pittsburg schools are nearly there. Every school in the district has assessed all the students and placed them according to their abilities, she said.

To meet the state and federal mandates, all Pittsburg students were tested for their English proficiency. Parents were then notified in a letter written in Spanish and English what proficiency level their child tested at. The letter gave parents three options for their kids: They could be placed in the mainstream classrooms, an English immersion class, or they could request a waiver to establish a true bilingual program.

However, the district doesn’t actually have a bilingual program in place.

In the immersion class, every teacher must have a cross-cultural language academic development certification.

Each school also has formed an English Language Advisory Committee, made up of teachers and parents. The committees will determine how English language learner money is spent.

Representatives from each school site committee have formed the District English Language Advisory Committee. The committee is still forming and doesn’t yet have a president.

Some parents say, however, that the work is far from complete. Suggestions made by the committee are ignored, according to Carlos Munoz, a committee member and co-chair for the Pro Committee for Education.

At the last meeting, parents refused to sign an application for state funding to protest what they say is the district’s refusal to listen to them, according to Munoz.

The application is supposed to be signed by the committee president. In past years, the application had been sent without a signature.

“There are a lot of things we would like to discuss,” he said, alluding to problems with the English language development program. “But they just want us to sign the document.”

District officials said that parent input is valuable and is being used to improve the program.

The application will be presented to the committee to be signed again on March 1.

On March 30, state inspectors will come to Pittsburg to conduct an on-site evaluation of the district’s progress.

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