English-immersion said to be working but grasp a concern

An early survey of teachers indicates the children are learning the language. Less certain is understanding of math.

RIVERSIDE—Riverside Unified children are learning English in the immersion programs required by Prop. 227, but teachers worry that children who speak little English may not be grasping lessons – especially in math.

The school board learned this Monday night when the findings of a teacher survey were presented.

Officials cautioned that the Riverside Unified School District’s post-Prop. 227 experience is only several months old and firm conclusions should not yet be drawn.

Betsy Sample, director of English Learner Services, shared results of the teacher survey with the board.??It asked open-ended questions about the successes and challenges of the district’s new program to teach its 5,500 students with limited English proficiency.

Teachers listed more use of English as a success.

“We hear much more English spoken everywhere on campus,” said Longfellow Elementary School Principal Margie Herrera.

But they cited more challenges.??In addition to being concerned about getting across math lessons, teachers worry about covering all their curriculum when they must move at a slower pace to be sure children understand.??Also, class participation has nosedived

“Children are not participating as much because they don’t have the fluency to do so,” Sample said.

Sample shared early information about the choices parents have made about a program for their children.??So far, 448 students are enrolled in English immersion, 172 have submitted waivers to stay in bilingual education, and 182 have chosen to be placed in regular, mainstream English classes.

Most of the waivers were turned in for the Poly High School “Newcomer Program,” which uses native language to teach recent immigrants as they learn English.

The district is still awaiting more data from schools, Sample said Kindergartners and first-graders in Riverside Unified’s English learners program receive 60 percent of instruction in English and 40 percent in Spanish.??That allows teachers to use the native language for language arts.??Ron Unz, author of Prop. 227, blasted the program as illegal when it was explained in July.

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