Sometimes, a view from the inside is the best way to find out why the system isn’t working.
A Tucson Citizen article this week outlining the difficulties some parents face when they opt to pull a child out of bilingual programs in the Tucson Unified School District revealed some disturbing observations from parents who sat in on bilingual classrooms.
* Amparo Martinez said she signed up to be a parent aide in her son’s kindergarten to find out what he was learning. She was told he would be taught in English for 45 minutes a day. The only time they actually used English, Martinez said, was during the pledge of alligiance.
* When Teresa Garcia last year visited her daughter’s first-grade bilingual classroom, she also observed that the children weren’t being taught in English. She moved her daughter into an English-only classroom, where she’s doing well.
* Carmen Acevedo, who removed her daughter from a bilingual program, said the only homework her daughter brought home last year was in Spanish.
How can bilingual teachers possibly expect their students to learn English if their instruction is limited to Spanish?
The public has started to collectively wonder why so much tax money is spent on bilingual programs, which then crank out too many kids who can barely speak English.
Could the answer be as simple as this: No one is teaching it to them?
If you ask bilingual educators why so many students linger so long in bilingual programs without becoming proficient in English, they’re likely to launch into a long-winded diatribe, loaded with educational jargon, that amounts to: Each kid learns at a different pace.
Does that justify the snail’s pace of English instruction that appears to be going on in at least some bilingual classrooms?
Although bilingual educators wouldn’t dare express it in such crude terms, their rationale amounts to: Some Spanish-speaking kids can’t pick up English without years and years and years of specialized instruction.
We don’t buy it, and neither do the parents who have fought to get their kids out of bilingual programs.
Given the observation of some parents that no English instruction is taking place in some bilingual classrooms, TUSD administrators and school board members must find out just how widespread that practice is, and put a stop to it.
If they don’t voters might have to do it for them with an initiative similar to one passed recently in California that limits the number of years students can spend in bilingual programs.