State cites bilingual program

District working to fix violations

About 300 Corona-Norco students who speak limited English were not taught by teachers with the proper credentials, state officials have reported.

A team of California Department of Education officials cited that and five other violations in programs to teach English learners. The report came after a routine compliance review last month of the Corona-Norco Unified School District.

Assistant Superintendent Sandy Johnson said at Tuesday’s school board meeting that the team found only six violations on its checklist of more than 300 items.

Johnson said district officials already have drawn plans to correct problems in the overall good review. State Department of Education officials have said they typically give districts time to fix violations.

School board members expressed frustration after recalling similar compliance problems in the district’s bilingual education program. In 1995, a four-year review of Corona-Norco schools programs for English learners ended in compliance. State officials had said that trained bilingual teachers were not matched with students who needed their help.

“I am very disappointed that we received this result after so many years,” board member Bill Hedrick said. “We have fought this battle over and over again. “

Hedrick asked administrators to report back in three months on their progress. He asked for school-by-school statistics “so if it’s not occurring at some sites, we will know. “

Board member Cathy Sciortino echoed Hedrick’s concerns, calling the violations “alarming” because they were concentrated in one area.

The review stated that about 300 students did not receive English language development instruction, classes required by state and federal officials to teach children how to speak the language. The problem resulted from students being placed in classrooms where the teacher does not carry the proper credential to teach the class, Johnson said. Also, some students were assigned to year-round tracks where the classes were not offered, Johnson said.

Superintendent Pedro Garcia said the district would fix the problem but it will mean shifting families and students to different tracks or moving children to different teachers. The district serves about 5,200 students who speak little or no English.

“The bottom line is we got to make every effort possible,” Garcia said Tuesday.

The team’s other findings, and the district’s plan to comply, follow:

o Many English learners were classified as fluent English speakers but did not do well enough in reading, writing and math to be designated as “fluent English proficient. ” Officials plan to move students to full proficiency in 18 months after they attain oral fluency.

o The district did not bus some students who had waivers to remain in bilingual education to sites that offered those classes.

The district will do so and may start more bilingual classes for those with waivers.

o English Learner Advisory Committees should have input into the way educational programs are run. The groups’ influence waned when schools combined them with school site councils. The district will work with schools to comply.

o English Learner Advisory Committees must be made of a majority of parents and must do certain tasks. The district will disband all committees and reconvene them properly.

o Some parents were not told they could apply for waivers to continue in bilingual education. Employees will follow a script to tell parents their options.

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