Gloria Matta Tuchman is on a personal crusade to end the state-mandated bilingual education program.
And, the teacher of 30 years and former school board member is making some strides.
On April 19, Tuchman, 54, a former Tustin Unified School District trustee, spoke before the Assembly Education Committee in Sacramento with a resolution to end what she calls the institutional “sacred cow” of bilingual education. The program teaches English to students with limited or no English language skills in their native language.
Her resolution passed in the form of an Assembly bill by a 12-1 vote of the committee. It now goes before the Senate.
The next day she addressed the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, where her resolution passed by a 3-2 vote. This month she hopes the state Board of Education will support the governor’s position that local school districts should be given control and flexibility on how bilingual students should be taught.
“I am going to start the biggest revolt to end bilingual education in this state in history,” Tuchman said.
A first-grade teacher at Taft Elementary School in Santa Ana, she has specialized in teaching students limited in their English proficiency for 30 years. She has found that teaching English-deficient students in English _ called immersion _ works better than the system of teaching in their native tongue.
“I’m for immersion because it teaches English rapidly and the bilingual method delays the learning of English, which is the primary purpose of bilingual education,” Tuchman said. “It’s not doing the job it is intended to do. That’s why I think immersion is more efficient. It gets the job done faster.
“The state says if you’re teaching immersion you have to prove it’s working. The bilingual system doesn’t have to prove it works. “
In this fight she has received resistance from Hispanic groups, as well as the California Association for Bilingual Education and the state Department of Education. Estella Acosta, county coordinator of bilingual education, said the system gives kindergarten through third-grade children who are very limited in English the opportunity to develop such skills as math and reading in their primary language, while concurrently learning English.
“Bilingual education is a vehicle for them to understand what the teacher is presenting,” Acosta said. “If they are only learning math in English they have two challenges. They must learn the mechanics of math, as well as the vocabulary of math being presented.
“They might be sitting in the first or second grade listening to all English and it is comparable to all noise; it’s incomprehensible. “
Tuchman argues that the local school districts should have the choice of how to teach the students.
“I want to see the first step to restoring local control,” said Tuchman. “I want the local school districts to decide what’s best.
Government can just butt out. We know what’s best for our students.
“We want results over methodology. If they choose bilingual, then by God they’d better get results. That’s my fight and I won’t let it go. “
Tuchman was elected to the Tustin Unified School District Board of Education in 1985 and served twice as board president until 1994. In 1992, she founded the Campaign for California’s Kids, which lobbies for the reform of the state’s bilingual education system. On the national level, in 1987 she was appointed by the U.S. secretary of education to the National Advisory and Coordinating Council for Bilingual Education. In 1988, on the recommendation of then-Senator Pete Wilson, she was appointed to the Fund for the Improvement and Reform for Schools and Teaching, and she was that group’s appointee to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Tuchman comes from a family of Hispanic leaders. Her father was a member of the Arizona Civil Rights Commission and her mother was the national second vice president of the League of the United Latin American Citizens.
“I don’t care who it is; I will confront them on this problem,” said Tuchman. “The fight is about money; who controls the money and who controls the kids. The kids are being used as a political football in this. “
Her resolution has achieved some success. It was adopted by the Westminster Teachers Union and by the Westminster Elementary School District. The Anaheim Union High School District also is exploring the resolution.
Tuchman said her next step is to address the El Monte Teachers Association and the El Monte Elementary School District.