Bilingual Botch-up

Move students into the right classrooms now

Critics routinely charge that too many public schools merely go through the motions of teaching students. Maybe, maybe not. But if the Dallas Independent School District wants to prove otherwise, it should waste no time in rectifying the latest bilingual education disaster to hit the district.

The news that 16 or more English-speaking second-graders at Anson Jones Elementary school in west Oak Cliff have been knowingly placed in bilingual education classes defies credulity. Equally outrageous is that some of the students were apparently shifted to bilingual education without parental notification. And worse yet, school officials still have not corrected the problem.

Bilingual education is supposed to get non-English-speaking students to make the transition to English quickly so that they can learn and compete in the mainstream. But too often in recent years, there have been reports of English-speaking students being wrongly placed in bilingual education classes.

In bilingual education, core subjects such as math, reading, science and social studies are taught in the students’ native tongue in this case Spanish. The students who spoke mainly or only English would have been far better served if Anson Jones Principal Linda Soliz had hired an English-speaking substitute teacher.

The students and their parents are understandably frustrated. “When she (the bilingual education teacher) says it in Spanish, I don’t know what to do,”
laments one second-grader. “That’s going to throw him off,” says his mother.
“He needs English. Spanish, he can take as a subject when he’s older.”
Hmmmm. If the main players get it, why can’t the school officials?

Rather than being a mere tempest, situations such as these can deteriorate into personal tragedies. Students who become discouraged or frustrated are much more likely to drop out of school. And dropouts are much more likely to fall into poverty or crime.

The school district should prove that using students as pawns in a grown-up’s game is a thing of the past. Over time, such a mentality may well yield the phenomenon of push-outs in addition to dropouts. If new Superintendent Bill Rojas wants to demonstrate his commitment to students,
he should use his clout to ensure that English-speaking students do not fall victim to bureaucratic botch-ups.

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