Bilingual Instruction Survives

Board halts talk of ending classes in Carpentersville

A plan to end a program that allows Spanish- and English-speaking pupils to learn together and help each other become bilingual was postponed indefinitely Monday night to give the school board more time to study the program’s effectiveness.

The decision was met by applause from the 100 parents who attended the meeting to support the program.

District 300 officials had planned to phase out the dual-language programs at Golfview Elementary School and deLacey Family Education Center in Carpentersville because Hispanic students dominate the dual-language classes, said Stephen Berry, interim superintendent.

For the program to work as designed, half the students enrolled should be Spanish-speaking and the other half English-speaking, school officials said. But Spanish-speaking pupils make up 74 percent of the dual-language classes.

The administration’s recommendation had been to phase out the program after the 2001-02 school year. But the school board told the administration to assemble a panel to study the matter.

The program was started nearly seven years ago with a federal Title VII grant that has since dried up, but Berry said money is not the reason for considering cancellation. He said the 188 students in the program would have to be educated regardless.

The district’s concern has been whether the program can really succeed with such a large number of Spanish-speaking students.

In the program, pupils in lower grade levels spend most of the day being taught in Spanish, regardless of the subject. As they move up in grades, instruction in English grows until academic subjects are taught equally in Spanish and English.

“In a nutshell, the dual-language program is designed to help students become bilingual, biliterate and bicultural,” said James Tohme, principal at deLacey who taught dual language four years ago.

Although Tohme said he believes strongly in dual-language instruction, he acknowledged that there are no national- or state-recognized tests to determine whether fluency in Spanish and English is being achieved.

Also Monday, 2nd-grade classmates Drew Brown and Rogelio Realzola, 8-year-olds from deLacey, showed off their language skills for the school board.

Rogelio, who is Hispanic, read from an English script, and Drew, who is Anglo, read from a Spanish script.

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