Bilingual Ed Under Fire

N.J. audit critical of Paterson

PATERSON—The city’s multimillion-dollar bilingual-education program is poorly run, fiscally mismanaged, and does not serve all the students eligible to participate, a state audit has found.

A survey of the city’s bilingual and English as a Second Language program by the state Department of Education also found that staffing and supplies were inadequate to meet the needs of students.

In the 1985-86 school year, 2,634 students were enrolled in the program, which had a budget of more than $ 2.3 million. The funding is provided through a mixture of state, federal, and local taxes.

Bilingual instruction features full-day course work in both English and the native language of the children enrolled. Paterson provides the instruction for native speakers of Spanish and Arabic.

English as a Second Language (ESL) is a program that provides supplemental instruction in English grammar and composition for nonnative speakers. The program is in addition to regular course work and is taught in English.

In Paterson, bilingual and ESL instruction are grouped together for purposes of administration. Dr. Frank Napier Jr., the superintendent of schools, yesterday said all of the city’s 32 schools have either bilingual or ESL programs.

The state found that the district has an inconsistent process for identifying students who need the instruction. Of students identified as eligible, nearly 300 may not be receiving the instruction to which they are entitled, according to the report.

The findings were based on four months of monitoring and interviews conducted by state education officials. The resultant 44-page report was completed in June and released to the press this month.

The combined program was one of a number of problem areas cited by the state in denying the district’s certification in 1984.

Melindo A. Persi, the Passaic County superintendent of schools, earlier this month chided city officials for not developing a comprehensive plan to address the deficiencies. Beginning July 28, the district will undergo another state review that could lead to a state takeover of the district.

Napier yesterday said the district is awash in the paperwork required for the reevaluation. He said he hadn’t had time to read the entire report on the bilingual and ESL program, which he received early this month.

He said he has met with the program’s staff to discuss taking corrective action recommended by the state, but no definitive plans have been drawn.

Jay Doolen, education specialist from the state Office of Bilingual Education, yesterday said the information compiled on Paterson’s bilingual program defies comparison with similar cities because none has been monitored as comprehensively as Paterson.

Doolen characterized the Paterson program as in disarray.

Among the program’s deficiencies outlined by the state were:

Sloppy bookkeeping and monitoring of funds, including overexpenditures that were improperly charged against next year’s account.

A muddled chain of command within the program.

Inconsistent and incomplete record-keeping, including missing test scores and “gross discrepancies” between figures the schools give the district and those the district gives the state.

Inadequate assessment of students in the program.

Staffing problems, including a significant teacher turnover.

A class at School 15, for example, had five different bilingual teachers since November. The state also found that some ESL teachers were used as substitutes and others were not properly certified to teach in the program.

Failure to provide a bilingual special-education program.

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