Bilingual education report cites good test scores

TUSD is underfunding bilingual education and failing to carry it out consistently in schools, a district-commissioned report released yesterday states.

But limited-English students who stay in consistent bilingual education are performing as well as English-speaking students on Tucson Unified School District tests.

The Intercultural Development Research Association last night presented its yearlong, $60,000 audit of the Bilingual Education and Hispanic Studies Department at the TUSD Governing Board meeting. A community committee gave similar recommendations on the same topics.

Both studies stem from a federal lawsuit filed last year claiming TUSD discriminates against Hispanic students by failing to offer a full-fledged Hispanic studies department. The board refused to form the department, saying it needed to study existing offerings further.

Maria Robledo Montecel, the association’s director, said the findings make “a very important statement about your bilingual program.”

“The fact they are doing as well (as English-speaking students) is no small feat,” she said.

Board member Brenda Even, who opposed Hispanic studies in late 1996 and pushed for further study, said she was pleased the reports made similar conclusions.

“We had hoped to have two very independent reports that would come together,” Even said.

Board member Jim Christ asked for the issue to be brought up at a meeting soon. Board member Gloria Copeland, who opposed Hispanic studies, apologized and left the meeting before the reports were completed.

The association concluded that TUSD has an in-depth plan on bilingual education, which is used as a national model.

But teachers are failing to use researched instruction methods, such as hands-on projects. And TUSD lacks data, other than the test scores, to make a conclusion about the districtwide program’s effectiveness, the report stated.

“A lack of understanding and commitment to bilingual education on some campuses has resulted in ‘loose’ implementation characterized by indifference among some staff, and unfocused and weak instructional efforts,” the report states.

In the past two years, 11 elementary schools have complied fully with state and federal laws, while no middle and high schools have had 100 percent compliance. However, individual student compliance has increased from 51 percent to 71 percent in three years.

The report suggests TUSD develop a time line to fully comply with the law.

The findings are similar to those made in 1996 by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which has an agreement with TUSD.

The association blamed a lack of funding for some problems. TUSD allocates about 1 percent of its budget to bilingual education, the report states.

Fewer dollars go to bilingual education than to other special student services. For example, $180 extra is given for each limited- English student, while $532 extra goes toward each gifted student.

The association suggested that a Hispanic studies curriculum be placed in all schools, and its focus should stay separate from bilingual education.

Other report recommendations include increasing each campus’ accountability of student achievement and expanding teacher training.

In addition to the association report, the Bilingual Education/Hispanic Studies and Second Language Acquisition Review Committee committee presented proposals. The main recommendations are to form a Mexican-American studies department separate from bilingual education, boost TUSD accountability and increase multicultural studies.

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