District seeking language waiver

EDUCATION: Magnolia School District cites the shortage of bilingual teachers.

ANAHEIM, CA—The Magnolia School District is asking the state for permission to teach its foreign-language-speaking students in English only, becoming the second district in Orange County to join the backlash against native-language instruction.

“We feel the future success of these students is tied to learning English,” Superintendent Paul Mercier said Tuesday.

The district teaches mostly in English now; the waiver would allow it to continue to do so without requiring that teachers enroll in special courses to learn another language.

“Some teachers, no matter how hard they try, cannot learn a second language,” said Mary Ellen Storm, who coordinates the district’s programs for non-English speakers.

The state encourages districts to teach students who possess very limited English skills in their native language. To help ensure that, districts either must employ certified bilingual teachers in proportion to the non-English-speaking student population or enroll teachers in certification programs.

Almost half of Magnolia’s 5,800 students speak a language other than English; the majority of those speak Spanish. The district has only four teachers certified to teach in Spanish and cites the statewide shortage of 20,000 certified bilingual teachers as the reason.

Westminster School District, which was granted a similar waiver earlier this year, also cited the shortgage in seeking its exemption.

Silvina Rubinstein, executive director of the California Association for Bilingual Education, said she couldn’t comment specifically on Magnolia’s case but called native-language instruction a “critical component. “

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