School board to review policy on Prop. 227

Teaching English: District defining its interpretation of complex initiative

Moorpark school officials will review a new policy outlining the best instructional programs for English-language learners at their next board meeting.

“The basic principle is that E we should expect the highest level of academic achievement, regardless of what a student’s native language is,” said school board member David Pollock.

School officials rejected the proposed policy when it was first presented at a school board meeting March 27. The problem with the policy as it was then written was that it was a reiteration of Proposition 227. The proposition requires English-language learners to be educated through a program of sheltered English immersion, with the goal that students learn English as rapidly and effectively as possible.

“The (first) policy was simply a restatement of the law,” Pollock explained. “We are looking for more of a statement of policy on how that law is to be implemented. Plus, Proposition 227 is being interpreted in different ways, and we wanted to go on record stating our way.”

Both the U.S. District Court and the State Board of Education have determined that local governing boards have broad discretion and flexibility in interpretation of Proposition 227, enacted in June 1998. However, much of the language in the initiative is complex, with terminology that is not clearly defined. School districts should proceed cautiously when implementing the new law because the terminology is expected to be the subject of legal debate, education officials have said.

Moorpark’s revised policy will ultimately outline the school board’s philosophy on bilingual education and the best way to implement it in the classroom, Pollock said.

The policy also will identify three program alternatives for English-language learners: structured English immersion; a bilingual program; and a mainstream program.

When it comes to children whose native language is not English, Moorpark school officials have dual goals — to guide English-language learners to academic proficiency in the English language and to make sure those students don’t fall behind academically in the process, officials said.

“The trick to this is those two goals are not always complementary,” Pollock said. “There are many opinions on what the best way is to go about teaching English-language learners. As far as I’m concerned, there is no one right way. It depends on each individual child.”

Moorpark school officials will review the proposed policy at the next school board meeting, 6 p.m. Tuesday at Moorpark City Hall, 799 Moorpark Ave.

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