Flexibility Seen in Bilingual Program

Moorpark School District Says its Plan Conforms to State Law

The Moorpark Unified School District unveiled its implementation plan for Proposition 227 this week, a plan officials hope will keep intact their successful bilingual program while still complying with the law.

Under the new law approved by voters in June, Limited English Proficiency students, or English Language Learners, must be enrolled in a yearlong Structured English Immersion Program.

But officials said parents will be able to take advantage of a section of the law that allows parents to request a waiver to keep their children in a bilingual class.

“There was a lot of concern that we’d be taking a successful program and ruining it,” school board member Clint Harper said Wednesday. “I think it’s going to be fine. There is a lot more flexibility in the law than people originally understood. I don’t think students are going to be harmed.”

The Moorpark plan was first made public at a school board meeting Tuesday night. The board is expected to review it again Sept. 8, and with members’ approval the plan would go into effect when school starts Sept. 9.

Marilyn Green, the district’s coordinator of special projects, said there are 1,232 Limited English Proficiency students enrolled districtwide.

She said such students on average were mainstreamed into English- only classes after about four or five years in the bilingual program. It then took two or three years more for them to read at their grade level.

Unlike in a bilingual class, the instruction in the Structured English Immersion Program is overwhelmingly in English and the curriculum is designed to have students mainstreamed in one year.

But after a student is in the program for 30 days, parents may request that the child be transferred either to a bilingual class or even to an English-only class.

The law allows exemptions for children who already know English, who are 10 years old or older, or who have a special physical, emotional, psychological or educational need to be in an alternative classroom.

School board member Greg Barker said the district has had success with its bilingual program in the past, a result of individual attention teachers were able to give students with a variety of proficiency levels.

He said the district should have tried harder during the campaign this year to get the message out that bilingual education works – at least in Moorpark.

“That’s a critique not only of our district, but statewide,” said Barker, who also is a high school teacher in Thousand Oaks. “If the state of California had done that, maybe there would have been a different look at these programs.”

Green said the district’s teachers, most of whom were on the campaign trail fighting for bilingual education, will “do a good job with the kids, though it’s not the path that they would have liked.

“It’s hard for teachers when they are told what to do in a political way, rather than from an educational place.”



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