District orders cultural training

EDUCATION: Santa Ana teachers could be fired if they don't obtain credentials to help limited-English students.

Santa Ana Unified told more than 700 teachers this week that they will be fired or reassigned if they don’t have special credentials to teach kids who speak limited English.

District officials say they are enforcing a 2-year-old board policy – and state mandate – that helps teachers understand how to interact with kids from different cultural backgrounds and gives them different theories on how language is learned. Spanish is the first language of more than 60 percent of the district’s students.

Teachers must provide proof of enrollment in a training class by Tuesday unless they plan to retire. Teachers who do not notify the district by March 29 may face reassignment.

Yet some of Santa Ana’s more than 2,000 teachers, many of whom are tenured, say the district’s policy is unfair and imposes bilingual teaching methods on them despite Proposition 227’s mandate ending most such programs in California.

“I have been teaching kids for 30 years. Most of them come to me knowing little English and I’ve been able to teach them to read and write,” said Jean Shelton, a first-grade teacher at Taft Elementary who received a letter Tuesday.

“I don’t see how this training has any bearing on my teaching.”

All teachers who have limited-English students must complete one of two credentials offered by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing: the Crosscultural, Language and Academic Development credential, or CLAD, or the Bilingual Crosscultural Language Academic Development credential, or BCLAD.

Many newer teachers – those who graduated in the past 10 years – received their crosscultural training in college. The state began issuing CLAD and BCLAD credentials in 1988. In some districts, the number of kids with language needs is so small that only a few teachers need the credentials.

Gloria Matta Tuchman, who co-authored Prop. 227, says Santa Ana’s policy goes against the law.

“What they teach in the CLAD is completely outdated,” said Tuchman, who is a first-grade teacher at Taft Elementary. “If teachers have to take the courses, they have to subcribe to bilingual indoctrination.”

Norm Gold, head of the state’s language proficiency and academic accountability unit, says Prop. 227 does not address the issue of teacher credentialing.

“There are federal and state laws that require teachers to be (CLAD and BCLAD) trained,” Gold said. “Prop. 227 has not changed those rules.”

Gold said the state is reviewing many other Orange County districts – including Anaheim City – which may not have enough language-credentialed teachers. He says districts with a majority of limited-English students, like Santa Ana, may have to fire teachers and replace them.

Some teachers said they will resist if they have to. Some middle- and high-school teachers said most of the kids they get already speak English. Others doubted they would be removed because of the dire need for veteran teachers.

Superintendent Al Mijares said the district’s overwhelming majority of limited-English students warrants the requirement.

“We have too many students who are limited English,” said Mijares. “Besides the state law, this is the right thing to do.”

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