The Oxnard Elementary School District should eliminate its bilingual classes at the fifth- and sixth-grade level, instead putting students who have limited or no knowledge of English in a special class for intensive language and cultural training, a committee told the district Board of Trustees.
The report, submitted to the school district Thursday, recommends that fifth- and sixth-graders with limited English skills attend the special class for about a year before entering regular classes.
Prepared by 22 teachers, parents, community leaders and school administrators, the report suggests that the incoming fifth- and sixth-graders be placed in a classroom of about 30 students, where they would be taught basic reading, writing and vocabulary, as well as the district’s regular academics.
“It’s very difficult for the teachers to meet the needs of a newcomer who is in a class with 30 other students who are already fluent in English,” said Stephanie Purdy, who headed the task force. “The teachers in the district are doing their best, but it would make more sense to place all newcomers together. It’s a question of logistics.”
The task force suggested the program for fifth- and sixth-graders because that is the first level in which students are expected to have a more sophisticated English vocabulary and in which basic English is no longer taught.
“We have no problems with our first- and second-graders,” said Purdy, who is also director of the district’s English Language Development program. “At the lower grades, we are teaching every student basic language skills, so it’s easier to keep students who are not English-speaking in these classes.”
Currently, the district has 175 fifth- and sixth-graders attending bilingual classes in the district’s 14 schools.
Whenever a class has five students with limited knowledge of English, it is required to be taught in English and Spanish, Purdy said.
“The newcomers program would maximize our resources,” Purdy said. “It would also be academically better for the students, because they would get full attention and intensive training.”
Evelyn Grosfield, who has taught bilingual classes for 17 years, believes the program would benefit both teachers and students.
“It’s an excellent idea for the kids who have limited knowledge of English,” Grosfield said, adding that she had only two students in her fifth- and sixth-grade bilingual class who could not read English last year.
“It’s very hard for the teacher and the students when the teacher takes time to teach basic English to one or two students, while the rest of the class does not need that,” Grosfield said.
Created in October, 1993, the task force met monthly from March, 1994, to February, 1995, to discuss the English Language Development program. Members visited several school districts in Ventura and Los Angeles counties to learn about bilingual education, Purdy said.
The trustees will review the 17-page report and consider within the next month whether to adopt the recommendations.
If approved, the program would be implemented as early as August. It is estimated that it would take about a year for a student to gain enough fluency in English to enter a regular class, Purdy said.
In addition to the special classes, the committee is recommending that the district have an orientation course for parents of incoming students from other countries.