School district gears up for post-Prop. 227 instruction

La Habra teachers say they are prepared; 3-step curriculum plan described

Se habla espanol?

Not in California schools this year.

The voter-approved Proposition 227, which limits public school instruction in a second language, will be in full effect this school year. School districts and teachers from all over the state have studied the law and made the necessary adjustments.

How is La Habra coping?

“We’re hoping we have everything in place,” said Gail Reed, director of bilingual education for the La Habra City School District.

Reed said criteria for immersion and transitional classes calls for a minimum of 80 percent English and 20 percent Spanish being used in the classroom, equal to about 10 minutes of lesson explanation in Spanish if needed.

Teachers will receive training in the form of staff development workshops and in-service workshops to learn how to deal with the new system. A preview/review system will be followed in the classroom. Focus of the lesson will be told in Spanish, but taught at a slower rate in English using lots of visuals. The review will be done in Spanish to see if the concepts were understood. The Cultural Language Academic Development certificate is avavilable from the state and teachers holding it will work with ESL students.

The CLAD certificate requires 45 hours of training, three levels of examination, and six semesters of a second language. Out of 200 teachers, La Habra has about 65 with the certificate. Reed said colleges are finally offering CLAD certification as a course. ESL students considered to have a high level of English proficiency are placed in the mainstream classes. All students considered beginners in English, are placed with a CLAD teacher. “We are putting students with the kind of teacher they need,” Reed said.

Reed said the first year will be like any other first-year-course implementation: To find out the successes and what changes need to be made. English immersion is the law and the district and teachers will be following it.

“We’ll certainly go about it with a positive attitude and meet the needs of the (students),” she said. One criticism of the law concerns students who don’t comprehend English and in a sense “drown.” Reed said additional support and help will be given to any children who seem to be overwhelmed. Before- and after-school sessions will be available for children falling behind.

The district has provided funds for an extra bilingual aid in every immersion and transitional class. ESL students go through a three-class process. The first is called an “immersion” class. After one year of immersion, testing is done to determine whether a child can continue on to a “transitional” class, where more English is used. Proposition 227 does allow for an second year of immersion or transition, but only if it is needed. “We would hope that is not the majority,” Reed said.

The third and final step for ESL students is the “mainstream” class. At this point, students understand English enough to be in regular classes with English-proficient students. “Our real emphasis is to meet the needs of ESL students in the immersion classes,” Reed said.

Back to school!

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