Better bilingual education is objective in Scituate

SCITUATE — Last fall, the Scituate School Department jettisoned its bilingual program for students of Cape Verdean heritage in favor of an English-as-a-second-language program.

The change returned dozens of students to regular classrooms, where they receive extra help from English-as-a-second-language tutors.

The new program is designed to provide extra help for students who need it while exposing them to English on a regular basis, world languages chairwoman Patricia Jacquardt told the school committee last night.

“We’re trying to see what the best program is for these children who come to us with serious deficiencies in English,” Jacquardt said.

Some school committee members wondered whether the new English-as-a-second-language program does enough to immerse students in English. Some of the students with poor English-speaking skills are still taken out of regular classrooms for extra help.

“These kids have been in the school all the way through and they still need this?” committee member Marguerite Soccorso asked.

The bilingual department’s proposed budget for next year, $ 111,357, is $ 38,592 smaller than this year’s, primarily because of the elimination of a separate bilingual classroom for 13 students at the Wampatuck School. The students are now visited in their regular classroom by an English-as-a-second-language tutor, who provides help as needed.

The staff also includes a part-time tutor for 15 students at the Gates Intermediate School, a tutor for 14 students at Scituate High School and a community liaison. The liaison’s role is to improve communication between the schools and non-English speaking parents.

“We’re trying to hit them from as many angles as we can in elementary school,” Jacquardt said.

In a few years, only the elementary school program may be needed because students will have made enough progress in English, Jacquardt said.

School committee Chairwoman Carol Lane, a chemistry teacher at Quincy High School, said she has witnessed students’ improvement after being in an English-as-a-second-language class. About one-third of Quincy’s public school students are minorities, which reflects the growth of the city’s Asian population.

“They are so totally immersed in the (English) language, the improvement from September to June is astounding,” Lane said.

But Lane also questioned whether some of the students in Scituate’s English-as-a-second-language program have behavior or academic problems rather than a language deficiency.

Administrators say many of the students are hampered by a lack of English-speaking parents at home.

Norman Paley of Ely Avenue suggested that the schools encourage parents to take English courses. Jacquardt said the community liaison will be responsible for that type of outreach program.

Superintendent John Kulevich noted that the new approach was adopted this year after a review by a consultant from the Boston schools. After two years, Scituate can review whether the English-as-a-second-language classes are effective and make changes if necessary, he said.

The bilingual program was established in the 1960s.

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